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Spc. Jeremiah Feathers of the 56th Stryker Brigade greets his wife and son at Fort Dix, N.J., after a yearlong deployment in Iraq. Feathers is one of 4,000 Pennsylvania Army National Guardsmen who returned home in September. When high volumes of Soldiers are deploying or returning home, the number of Military Family Life Consultants on installations are boosted to help Soldiers and Families through the stressful transition. U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown, FORSCOM Public Affairs

FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. (Dec. 17, 2009)-Soldiers and Family members at brigades within U.S. Army Forces Command now have more access to mental and emotional help.

During a six-month trial period which began in September, about 96 additional Military Family Life Consultants (MFLC) were embedded in FORSCOM units and are on-hand to assist troops.

"They go where the families are," said Phoebe Wright-Thomas, a FORSCOM Well-Being program specialist. "I think this sends a clear message to our Soldiers and Families that the Army hears them and that they truly care."

The Military Family Life Consultant program began in 2004 as a way to augment existing services. Licensed clinical counselors are recruited to leave their practice for a short period of time and contracted to assist Servicemembers and their families with issues they may face through deployment cycles. MFLC provide support for Servicemembers including relationships, crisis intervention, stress management, grief, occupational and other individual and family issues.

MFLC are different from traditional military health care providers as their appointments are kept strictly confidential and no files are retained on patients. Their approach is also unconventional; Nicknamed 'walk-about counselors,' MFLC approach Soldiers and Families in hallways, hospitals, cafeterias and bowling alleys.

"If you see someone and they are eating in the dining hall with you, you'd be more likely to talk with them about personal issues," said Gigi Linder, the FORSCOM Well-Being program manager, of the MFLC method. "It's a unique approach, and it appears to be working."

MFLC currently provide services at the installation level as well as Child, Youth and School Services, Army Community Service, Victim Advocacy and the Joint Family Support Assistance Program.

Linder explained that Soldiers' feedback about the program has been very positive. She said Soldiers are more comfortable speaking with an MFLC, because they don't fear their personal information will be released to their units.

"It's a safe place for people to talk," she said.

Linder said she believes the influx of MFLC will be a positive addition to FORSCOM units.

"That's the key ... any opportunity to maintain a level of stability during a deployment is important."

Page last updated Wed December 16th, 2009 at 18:00