Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Family Readiness

Yesterday in Stand to there was an article on the Army’s Family Readiness Group Deployment Assistant Program

This is a program that assists families with the inevitable events that occur during unit deployments. Unfortunately in the Reserve environment it is in reality a contractor assigned to a Division Headquarters that presses family members to complete volunteer agreements and track time spend in a self justification cycle.

The Army has talked about the program for over 6 years and has never really applied any significant resource to the issue. Active duty units family members have at least the convenience of co-location with rear detachments and installation support, however Reserve unit families are spread across several states and there is no round the clock presence at the Reserve unit to call upon.

In Both the Active and Reserve units it is clear that as stated in the article
“the Army’s current deployment posture overwhelmed the resources of Rear Detachments (RD) and Family Readiness Group (FRG) leaders. Operating a FRG can be a challenge for volunteers and unit leadership. The significance of a properly operated FRG allows deployed Soldiers to remain mission focused while sustaining their families’ well-being.”

The Army has come up with Family Readiness Group Deployment Assistants (FRGDA) but states the funding is not clearly delineated (Read not adequately planned or likely). Adding a contracted assistance or unreliable resource to provide assistance is not a well thought out plan…. So what else could we do to remedy?
Well never short for ideas good or bad - let me throw these out -

1. Recently returned soldiers including especially those injured and not re-deployable could be assigned fulltime duty as Family Support NCOs/ Officers – the soldier is given a real mission and has the experience to aid the families. This would allow time to address follow-on medical care while still serving. Use Reserve injured soldiers for Reserve community and Active soldiers for Active community aligns experience with type of unit.

2. Assign non-deployable IRR soldiers to the mission in lieu of discharge on a voluntary basis. Not as preferred as #1, but makes use of an otherwise lost resource.

3. Address shortage of administrative personnel within Guard and Reaerve Units – overworked fulltime personnel are not able to address administrative tasks necessary to insure soldier insurance, wills, legal documents are in a ready state.

4. Unravel the Tricare bureaucracy – complicated and ever changing eligibility and rules and preferred providers, especially for Reserve Soldiers, results in many issues for Reserve families. Can a constant shared network with civilian providers be considered – i.e. always registered with xxxcare and use civilian provider and network peacetime (to include getting Reserve Physicals and readiness care) and move seamlessly to XXXcare deployed when away on Active duty.

We have to do a better job planning for supporting the entire military community. Our Families share a disproportionate burden for wading through support activities while we are deployed.(in fact we saddle the Families with volunteering for FRG) The answer is not asking the Commander’s or CSM's wife to assume a part time unpaid job as FRG leader – but rests with the Army Leadership to provide real and effective capability to assist families. Apply a few dollars to the issue to get dividends in the long run as familes remain in the military longer.

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