Enlist Soldier, Retain Family
August 1, 2013
ATLANTA, Ga.. -- ""You enlist a Soldier, but you retain a family," said James Cousar, Family Programs Coordinator, 200th Military Police Command, at the Army Reserve Family Readiness Education for Deployment event held July 19-21 in Atlanta, Ga. "When the families feel they are a part of the team, a part of the process, that Soldier has a better enlistment, a better tour. Soldier readiness plus family readiness equals mission readiness."
The AR-FRED event focused on helping Soldiers and their Families get ready, as presenters gave the information and tools unit and family readiness group leadership need to get to their Soldiers and family members so they can prepare for deployment.
"We show them the different agencies and services that are available to their families pre-, during, and post-mobilization," Cousar added. "This prepares them so they can get their families ready for deployment. As we all know, if you wait until the last minute, it's tough. Doing this so far out gives Soldiers some reaction time and some adjustment time to make sure certain things happen, like taking care of DEERs enrollment for their family members, and making sure that their family care plans are taken care of. It helps make them aware of agencies such as Tutor.com and CYSS, stuff that is available to them. If you wait until the last minute, thirty days prior to deployment, it's a shambles."
One way to ensure preparation isn't put off to the last minute is to emphasize Family programs throughout the Army Force Generation cycle. Making that happen requires leader involvement.
"None of these programs work without command emphasis," said Cousar. "(Maj. Gen. Sanford Holman, 200th MPCOM Commander) is very family orientated. So are the brigade commanders. By them putting emphasis on family programs for their brigade, it trickles down to the battalion level, company level and detachment levels. If leadership buys into it and supports the program, that will determine if the program is successful."
Illustrating that emphasis were Col. Ed Jacobsen, 11th Military Police Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Capps, the senior enlisted Soldier for the 11th MP BDE, who both attended the AR-FRED event.
"The training is great," said Jacobsen. "I have six units deployed, and three units that have been notified. We have a lot of Soldiers out there, and so a lot of Soldiers that are here today with their spouse. You have to use that ARFORGEN cycle, and you have to pay attention as a commander as to where you should be and what should be happening to your families all across the board. If you're trying to start it up as you're getting on the bus, it's too late."
Jacobsen stressed that the key to building the program is establishing a strong network of volunteers. "Find some great volunteers and reward them and recognize them all the time," he said. "They'll just do tremendous things for you. Soldiers have to know where to get the resources, and they have to share it with their families, and commanders have to make sure that that whole chain of events is happening."
Figuring out information and programs available to help family members while deployed is a key part of a successful deployment. Soldiers and spouses need to communicate and work together to plan how to deal with the deployment. Charlotte Gadsby attended the training as a family readiness group volunteer from the 491st Military Police Company, March, Calif. Her husband has deployed three times, and each time she had a different experience.
"The first time my Soldier deployed (as an Air Force Reservist), I didn't receive any help from family readiness," Gadsby said. "The second time I received a little bit. As a wife, it's how much you're willing to allow people in. I'm a little more able to let people in now than I was the first time. Now I know what I need, and I know what my kids need."
Having that knowledge and deployment experience helps her better prepare for her spouse's deployments, as well as help other FRG members. "I have seven kids, and my husband keeps getting deployed," Gadsby said. "It's a lot to figure out. I've taken advantage of the counseling, obviously the Yellow Ribbon events, and FRG stuff."
Her message to other spouses? "We're here if you need us. A military spouse first needs to figure out what she needs, and sometimes that's the hardest thing. But we're here no matter what, support's available 24-7."
Help is also available to new FRG leaders and volunteers if they come across something they haven't experienced before. The 200th MPCOM Family Support program has a one-of-a-kind Command Volunteer Coordinator Program designed to take advantage of the extensive experience many of the volunteers in the 200th's award-winning Family Support Program have. Patti Elliott, CVC for the 290th Military Police Brigade, was one of the volunteers helping present the AR-FRED training. She also provides that training and experience to 290th MP BDE FRG volunteers throughout the year.
"The CVCs reach out via conference calls with FRG leaders so that we can help train them and answer the questions that they have on a day-to-day basis," Elliott said.
Elliott, whose son Spc. Daniel Lucas Elliott was killed in action in Iraq in July, 2011, began volunteering in 2008, and chose to continue after her son's death. "This is my way of continuing to honor my son's memory and his service," Elliott said. "He was very passionate about being a part of the military, and so am I."
Her experience gives her insight that helps her helps families. "I'm the poster child for the worst case scenario," said Elliott. "I think of things that they may not necessarily think of. I'm able to give them the heads up for things that might be coming down the line so they can prepare themselves and their families."
Between the CVCs and the training, the information is out there for FRG volunteers. Plan ahead, however, for the training.
"One thing about 200th MPCOM Family Readiness training -- there's always a waiting list," said Wilda Tierney, Family Support Director, 200th MPCOM. "They fill up. We even have a brigade commander here who saw how important the program is. He's pushing his commanders to get this training right now. Work with your Family Readiness Support Assistant to identify and sign up for training, or call myself or Mr. Cousar up and we'll help you out."
Wilda Tierney 301-677-1221; James Cousar 301-677-1865