Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Guard and Reserve Family Support

New Flash - update

I wrote this article based largely on the experience of my familiy support group - it seems there are resources out there - though not well or universally publicized that do exactly what I was asking for with my article - I am happy to note that I recieved a response from a former Family Support Coordinator that provided the DoD one source location - it can be found at Military one source I stand unofficially educated and corrected - thanks to Chuck for setting me straight.

News Flash - update

All told, more than 417,000 National Guard and Reservists, or about 80 percent of the members of the Guard and Reserve, have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, with an average of 18 months per mobilization. Of these, more than 84,200, or 20 percent, have been deployed more than once. Army National Guard and Reserve families are subjected to the greatest stress concerning the length of deployment due to remote location relative to military installations. The Army has moved to a 12 month deployment model which will partially address the duration of stress but there remains a glaring inadequacy in addressing support for families. The Guard and Reserve remain inadequately staffed to provide assistance on a consistent basis for deployed unit member families.

What is needed is round the clock access to resources – readily available –for the Reserve and Guard family member to one stop shop for support while their loved ones are deployed? Presently the Family Support program falls far short of this requirement. At most units, Family support is provided by volunteers (often the Cdr’s spouse) to members. The effort carried out by these volunteers is heroic but there is a morale responsibility on the Military to provide something more substantive than an adhoc volunteer group to aid family members that are located great distances from military installations and services.

One method we may harness is providing Family support services via the Internet. Most people have some form of access to the internet and deployed soldiers families could use this mode as a portal to aid and assistance when needed. Using a secure AKO platform and a live response element could enable the military to provide a place to turn when a Tricare issue, power of attorney problem, household question or other issue turns up. Imagine what a single site, oriented towards helping deployed soldiers families with all questions would do to reinforce the notion that the military establishment believes in the Army Family.

Internet search for relevant Family Support sites for Guard and Reserve offers a lot of PR to the effort but few hard stops (action agencies or officials) for real needs that families can experience. Don’t interpret sentence above to reflect that there is no value in the links out there – but they are not Army or DoD action sites that can step forward with assistance for remote families…. In reality, families in need must get themselves to an installation for any chance at assistance - not always possible.

Presently, the military provides ample staff for public affairs activities to talk and interact with the press, but nothing near equivalent to work with Reserve and Guard families – what does that say about us?

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