SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Deployments are a fact of life for most everyone in the military today.

Army families in Hawaii have the added stress of being geographically separated, not only from their deployed spouse, but also from friends and family on the mainland.

This unique situation spurred senior spouses in 25th Infantry Division units to create the Family Strong series, a distinctive program that can be tailored to fit the needs of any unit.

The Family Strong series is a new way of looking at the issues and concerns that occur at each stage of a deployment, involving each of the family members.

"(This series) gave us an opportunity to involve the children in the deployment and reintegration process," said Lisa McCaffrey, senior spouse and wife of Col. Todd McCaffrey, former commander, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT). "It was something that our unit was asking for and one of our main goals throughout the deployment: to keep an eye on the kids and make sure to help them through."

A special component of the Family Strong series are the workshops for children. The "Super Kids" and "Preparing Children for Deployment" classes use activities to help military youth explore their reactions to the deployment and learn strategies to work through their feelings.

According to 8-year-old Nicholas Hawley, son of Lt. Col. Ken Hawley, commander, 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, the children's classes were a great way to learn coping skills.

"I liked it because it was fun," Nicholas said. "We played games, and I learned how to handle my dad being gone."

Nicholas' mom, Grace, said the activities focused on effective communication.

"They made a journal where (Nicholas) wrote down things he likes to do with his dad," Grace said. "(They then talked about the class) and activities they like to do together on the phone."

The Family Strong series is made up of a menu of workshops that address family concerns at every stage of deployment. This aspect of the program is an especially useful tool, allowing units to pick and choose workshops that deal with specific topics facing the individual needs of their families.

"These are not cookie-cutter classes; there's a lot more attendee participation," said Cynthia Piatt, senior spouse and wife of Col. Walter Piatt, commander, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT). "Whether you are a spouse who is experiencing deployment for the first time or the thirtieth time, the instructors are really good at figuring out what the group dynamics are and getting everyone involved."

The workshops are a collaborative effort including everyone from unit senior spouses and family readiness support assistants (FRSAs) to garrison organizations such as Army Community Service (ACS); Military Family Life Consultants; installation chaplains; Child, Youth and School Services; Tripler Army Medical Center; the Schofield Barracks Health Clinic; and many more.

As the program has grown, classes are no longer offered only during a deployment or immediately following a redeployment. Units can request courses at any time.

The Family Strong series is a component of "Pohai Pulama," Hawaiian for "the caring circle," with an overall goal of bringing everyone together to enhance the coping, emotional, relational, spiritual and financial strengths of the whole Army family.

<i>(Editor's Note: This article ran in the Hawaii Army Weekly's redeployment insert, which was published Nov. 20. To see the entire insert, click <a href="">here</a>. The insert starts on page 14.)</i>

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16