New group offers survivors hope
March 2, 2010
FORT CARSON, Colo.-Fort Carson held its first-ever survivor outreach services meeting Feb. 16 at McMahon Auditorium, offering survivors of fallen Soldiers a chance to have a voice in how the Army responds to their concerns.
The meeting, under the direction of Commanding General of the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins and Garrison Commander Col. Robert F. McLaughlin, was a chance to bring together survivors and supporting agencies from around the community and the five-state Fort Carson region of responsibility. Its task was to synchronize efforts and to discuss the direction and initiative of the new program.
McLaughlin said the mission has several key components as he sees it. They are to implement a program that provides a necessary service, to provide that service in a timely manner and to provide services for the long term. McLaughlin said it was the Army's responsibility "to meet (the survivors') needs, whatever they may be, with regards to having a connection to the military, having a number to call when they need something."
He said one of the lessons he has learned from talking to those who provide support, is there are so many organizations and groups that care about Soldiers' Families, survivors must make sure they are tapping into all available services. The Army can bring everyone together - survivors and support services ensure the best support possible is provided to those who lost their loved ones.
This meeting was also an opportunity for survivors to have a say in how things will work, regarding the Survivor Outreach Services. Patricia Randle, director of Fort Carson Army Community Service, said the meeting was a chance for everyone involved to have a voice.
"It's our attempt to bring in our survivors to find out if the programs and services that we have ... fit their
needs," said Randle. She said it is important to find out "what gaps there are in services and resources, and
try to identify community resources available that we don't know about."
Throughout the meeting there was a great deal of give and take between survivors, support staff and Army representatives, allowing for many opinions and ideas for the new SOS staff to hear, and possibly implement in the future.
Randle said the hope was also that the meeting would assist the ACS and Fort Carson in identifying available
resources, gaps in services, and will aid in ensuring that the Army is providing world-class support to surviving Families.
"I think the overall goal for survivor outreach services is just as the name indicates - outreach to survivors," said Randle. "That we don't wait for them to come to us; that we outreach to them and they know when we do reach out that ... they still have a place within our Army Family, and I think that is important for our survivors to know."
Perkins noted that for survivors, the whole process is something they have never been through before, and
understood the need for the Army to understand that.
"Maybe the Army's been dealing with (fallen Soldiers) for eight years, but it is that Family's first time, so it's
always a first time for somebody," said Perkins. "Our goal is ... to honor their memory. Your Soldier paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation ... we don't want that to go away."
Fort Carson has already implemented an SOS council. The group is a mix of survivors, current members of the SOS team and members of the community. The next meeting is scheduled for April. The group also announced the renovation and conversion of building 6215 on Mekong Street into the new center for the SOS. The building will feature a wall of remembrance dedicated to Soldiers who have lost their lives, a children's room, an exercise
facility, a kitchen and centralized office space for survivor-oriented service providers.
Although several members of the SOS team will begin occupying the building later this month, a fully operational SOS staff will not be available for survivors until renovations are completed in early summer. Until that time, survivors are encouraged to go to the ACS, located next to the commissary in building 1526.