Helping hands - Fort Rucker resources help Families during PCS
Alfred Alexander browses The Lending Hangar July 8 to borrow household supplies. Located in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 193, the hangar temporarily lends kitchen, bedding and other home items to Soldiers and Families moving to or from Fort Rucker and awaiting their household goods shipments.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The summer moving season is in full swing, and whether Families are making permanent changes of station to or departing from Fort Rucker, they should take advantage of the free, helpful services offered here, officials said.

"Being prepared helps reduce stress," said Ruth Gonzalez, Army Community Service Relocation Readiness Program manager. "The more you know, the more prepared you are. It's important to learn, research and ask questions, but to keep an open mind."

Soldiers and Families can explore the following services to make their transitions smoother, she said.

<b>Newcomers' Welcome</b>

Newcomers' welcomes are conducted monthly on the third Friday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at The Landing. Attendees can browse various booths where representatives showcase Fort Rucker's resources and programs.

Sessions are mandatory for permanent-party Soldiers, but Gonzalez encouraged Soldiers here for training and all spouses to attend.

"It's a great opportunity for them to get information about programs available on and off the installation," Gonzalez said.

Breakfast is provided and free child care is available. Parents should call Gonzalez at 255-3735 to register children 24 hours in advance.

<b>Welcome packets</b>

Soldiers receive welcome packets upon their arrival here, either through their units or during ACS in-processing procedures, Gonzalez said.

Information includes Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation magazines, ACS program brochures, Army Flier, state and installation guides and more. She recommended servicemembers browse this information to familiarize themselves with the area.

<b>The Lending Hangar</b>

Families awaiting the arrival of household goods shipments may need some basic home items to make the wait easier, Gonzalez said. This is where The Lending Hangar staff, located in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 193, helps.

Facility staff lends Soldiers and Families card tables, chairs, baby items, kitchen utensils, coffee pots, crock pots and more.

The Lending Hangar saves people money by providing supplies to cook at home and prevents them from buying extra necessities before the moving van arrives.

Patrons must present ID cards and Soldiers' orders in order to utilize the service, Gonzalez said.

<b>Army Sponsorship Program</b>

Soldiers can request to be linked with sponsors upon arrival to new duty stations. Those wishing to do so should visit http://apps.mhf.dod.mil/esat. This places new Families with more experienced ones to ease transitions.

<b>Hitting the books</b>

Parents should research area education resources and register their youngsters in school as early as possible, said John Jennings, school liaison officer here.

Families moving to Fort Rucker may contact him at 255-9812 to obtain school calendars, enrollment information for on- and off-post facilities, contact numbers, school system information, bus schedules and other resources.

Those leaving the Wiregrass area should also talk to Jennings so they can contact school liaison officers at their next duty stations.

"If you can take your Family (to an installation), there's a school liaison officer who will help you," he said.

The first days of school are Aug. 6 or 9 for Fort Rucker and most area schools, Jennings said. The exception is Enterprise, which opens schools Aug. 23.

<b>Relocation readiness</b>

Soldiers preparing to PCS should begin researching their next duty stations as soon as they receive orders, Gonzalez said.

The government Web site, <a href="http://www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil" target="_blank">www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil</a>, provides people timelines on what moving arrangements should be completed when. The site also offers information regarding transporting children, pets, vehicles and more.

ACS staff hosts briefings for Soldiers moving outside the continental U.S., to locations including Alaska, Hawaii, Germany and Korea. Appointments are available Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call ACS at 255-3161 to schedule briefings.

<b>Financial Readiness</b>

Most moves don't happen without some out-of-pocket expenses, such as fuel, hotel rooms and eating out, Gonzales said. Families should create budgets before moving to avoid running short on cash or putting large amounts of money on credit cards before military reimbursements come through.

People should anticipate additional expenses upon arriving to their new homes, too, said Gonzalez. These may include utility connection fees and rental deposits. Some utility providers waive deposits if people provide proof of three consecutive months of bills paid on time from previous providers.

People should carry old bills with them, she advised, since moving shipments often arrive after Families move into their new houses and require services to be turned on.

Budgeting assistance is available by calling Financial Readiness Program staff at 255-9639.

<b>Army Family Team Building</b>

Free Army Family Team Building courses are offered to military spouses of all experience levels. The classes equip Families with knowledge and information to thrive in the military community, said Barbara Throckmorton, AFTB program manager.

The next Level I course is Aug. 2-5 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 371F.

"Level I is designed for spouses who are new (to the military) or some who aren't aware of all their benefits and entitlements. It's good information on resources that are available to them," Throckmorton said.

For more information or to register, call AFTB staff at 255-2382.

<b>Home sweet home</b>

People seeking advice on finding on- and off-post housing options can visit <a href="http://www.ahrn.com" target="_blank">www.ahrn.com </a> or <a href="http://www.militaryonesource.com" target="_blank">www.militaryonesource.com</a>, Gonzalez said. This provides individuals with a plethora of home options.

She also advises parents and spouses visit www.watchdog.us, to research area safety statistics to further assist them in choosing their ideal neighborhoods.

<b>Passports</b>

Upon receiving orders for overseas locations, Soldiers and Families should obtain official government "no fee" passports, according to Lee Ann Motley, Department of Logistics travel clerk.

Soldiers and Family members must have PCS orders, copies of their sponsors' ID cards and original birth documents, tourist passports or expired official passports to obtain the government passports. Applications are available at <a href="http://travel.state.gov" target="_blank">http://travel.state.gov</a>.

Those moving overseas should also consider tourist passports for travel to neighboring countries. The application process is similar and initiated through the same Web site, Motley said. Fees for this type of passport are listed online.

Appointments are available Mondays or Wednesdays by calling DOL at 255-9016. Motley's office is located in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 270.

Page last updated Thu July 15th, 2010 at 10:36