'First Lady' of XVIII Airborne Corps leaves Fort Bragg with legacy of support for Soldiers
August 17, 2009
As Charlene Austin prepares for her next move, she paused to think about all the people and experiences at Fort Bragg that helped shape and mold her.
She started by saying that it is taking everyone at Fort Bragg and within our community, everyday, helping as volunteers, commands, individuals and civilians to care for Soldiers and Families who call Fort Bragg home. Together, they have been doing an "Army Strong ... Family Strong" job. In December 2006, she returned to serve as the First Lady of the XVIII Airborne Corps and a Forces Command Senior Spouse Family Readiness advisor. Over the years, she has been committed to supporting Soldiers and their Families.
"Through various incidents, I learned the importance of being there for Families," she said. "And as a senior spouse leader, and part of the Big Army Family Readiness Team, listening to Families to understand and address their concerns and needs of the moment."
Austin served as an advocate for Families with several community projects during her time here at Fort Bragg.
She served as a board member for the United Way and was able to see first hand some of the assistance military Families receive from the local community. It was very heartwarming to see the community in action.
"In some cases, I got to visit organizations," she said, "and talk to people who were directing programs to see the depth of support they are providing our Families."
In addition to the United Way, Austin has kept a full schedule working with the Base Realignment and Closure local education initiative, "Living In the New Normal" along with the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, Military Child Education Coalition, Camp Victory Junction-Survivor Outreach Program and Army Community Service, as well as many other projects and organizations on post and within the community.
Austin said First Lady Michelle Obama's visit to Fort Bragg to meet and hear from our Soldiers and Families first hand will be one of her fondest, lasting memories. "I know Mrs. Obama truly is concerned about military families. She joins the ranks of top Army Senior Leadership in Washington in their daily efforts for us," said Austin.
Another memory that she will carry with her will be Families celebrating the return of the Corps from its recent 15-month rotation to Iraq.
"Knowing the contributions the Corps had made and the sacrifices and spirit I see on the homefront along with everyone reuniting, was just a time I will never forget.
Austin also has advice for the incoming First Lady of the Corps.
"Be yourself, enjoy command," she said. "I think we all bring our own vision and personality to commands. The experiences will be so rewarding, and they will be experiences that will leave an imprint on her life forever. There is no map, so the direction is yours. She is coming to a corps that has long enjoyed the best community and installation support ever," said Austin.
She also has a message for the Families of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.
"I have considered my time at Fort Bragg an honor and another opportunity the Army provided to serve Families.
The command journey is never one you take alone or one about you. Much is owed to the Families and others who have given me guidance and were there supporting the effort. We know the repeated deployments and situations that have impacted your lives in ways you could never have imagined.
"If you try to carry all of the various life situations that impact us as a result of the multiple deployments, pretty soon your load will get real heavy," she said.
"Know that the Army, Fort Bragg, the community and America will help. We need your voices, we hear your voices, and are working hard to provide the highest levels of programs and services.
"No matter where you live, work or play you are part of the Army Family, "stay connected," Austin said. "Reach out, call, because there are those that stand ready to help us each and every day. Continue to encourage our schools, churches and places where we gather to continue to be connected and continue learning more about us."
Austin said she will miss Fort Bragg but she has faith the installation will continue it's fine history of care for Army Families.