Sandra Barnes, right, a coordinator for Fort Jackson's Employee Assistance Program, was recently named IMCOM's Employee Assistance Program Coordinator of the Year. Barnes has been working for Fort Jackson's Army Substance Abuse Program since 2005.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- This year's IMCOM Employee Assistance Program Coordinator of the Year started her career as a school district secretary.

It was while working at the front lines of the Department of Defense school system that Sandra Barnes, today a coordinator for Fort Jackson's Employee Assistance Program, was inspired to help people in need.

"I went to school and got my master's in counseling, and started working for the Army Substance Abuse Program, where I saw how I could use that tool there," she said. "When I started there, I was a secretary. I was seeing different clients who would come in, but someone else was the EAP. I loved how he taught classes and how he got feedback."

In her early days with EAP, she spent a lot of time following other coordinators and learning from their examples.

"I'd follow everyone around and try to find out how they did it," she said. "When the position came open, I applied for it, and they thought I was a good fit."

Last month, Barnes received the 2013 Director's Army Substance Abuse Program's (ASAP) Employee Assistance Program Coordinator of the Year award.

The scope of the Employee Assistance Program varies from installation to installation, but the program is designed to bring together a variety of personal services under a single roof. At Fort Jackson, EAP is a worksite-based program designed to help with personal problems that impair work performance, and offers assessment, short-term counseling and referral services.

The program is designed for family members of active duty military personnel, retirees and their family members, and Department of the Army civilians and their family members. The service is free and confidential.

"Mrs. Barnes' significant achievement is in line with HQ IMCOM continuing customer service excellence," said Wanda Kuehr, acting chief of the Army Substance Abuse Program. "(Her) dedication to the mission and selfless service to the organization are valuable contributions we greatly appreciate."

Barnes has been with Fort Jackson since 2003, working for Moncrief Army Community Hospital for two years before moving to ASAP in 2005.

"I previously worked for ASAP at Fort Irwin, (Calif.), so when I got here I was ready to get back to the ASAP office," Barnes said.

EAP offers short-term counseling, and provides classes on post concerning topics such as grief, substance abuse and counter-productive wok behavior. Barnes said her job is less about conflict management and more about helping people to leverage differences in productive positive ways.

"I go out and meet with different agencies and talk about those behaviors at work that can cause civilian employees morale to go down," she said. "People may have a problem dealing with their supervisor or dealing with other co-workers. We've all got different personalities, so sometimes that can be a struggle." She also counsels people on family issues, as well as drug and alcohol problems.

"Every day, I don't know what I'm going to get," she said. "You have to help people work through their issues, and our classes are geared toward things on a personal level. The Fort Jackson community has been incredibly supportive, and understands how important our role is for helping our civilians. Supervisors deal with performance; my job is to deal with the personal stuff, so we civilians can be productive and do what we need to do at work."

Page last updated Thu November 7th, 2013 at 09:45