Program aimed at Army dads
Sgt. William Cox, an occupational therapist assistant at Moncrief Army Community Hospital, hoists son Elijah, 4, outside the Scales Avenue Child Development Center, which Elijah attends. A new Army Community Services Program, the Family Advocacy Fatherhood Initiative, is aimed at military-affiliated fathers like Cox.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Sixteen-hour days, multiple deployments and lengthy temporary duty assignments pose a strain on any Soldier. But for fathers, this time away from home can stack up, affecting their children and spouses.

However, a new on-post program aims to help fathers balance their lives as Soldiers and fathers. The Family Advocacy Fatherhood Initiative is a program designed to promote and recognize responsible fatherhood in the Fort Jackson community.

"Military fathers, by the nature of what our Soldiers do, face far more difficult and demanding challenges in their efforts to balance successful careers, stable marriages and strong family bonds," said Greg Lewis, a Family Advocacy Program specialist who is spearheading the program.

The program, which is sponsored by Army Community Services, will begin 10 a.m., Nov. 9 at the Dozier Hall Conference Room with a Focus on Fathers Workshop.

"Enhancing and promoting fatherhood throughout the Fort Jackson community is our ultimate goal," said Lewis, who has previous experience working with the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition. "During the first meeting we want to introduce the program to the community and solicit ideas."

Some tentative events include social events, workshops, education seminars and a large event for Father's Day.

Staff Sgt. Tavares Josey, a drill sergeant leader at the Reserve Drill Sergeant School, begins his day in the wee hours of the morning and drops two of his three children off at 4:30 a.m. at the Scales Avenue Child Development Center.

"I have a very hectic schedule," Josey said. "When the day ends, you think you are off but you still have to help the children with homework or take them to football practice and games."

For Sgt. Jamie Toro, a supply sergeant for Company A, 187 Ordnance Battalion, the biggest challenge has been leaving his three children during two 15-month deployments to Iraq.

"My wife had to take over, and it was hard for her to deal with all three of our children," he said. "When you deploy you realize how much you miss them because you don't know what will happen next. When I came back, all I wanted to do was spend time with them."

Lengthy and multiple temporary duty assignments have proved to be the most difficult challenge for Maj. Jeff Shearin, executive officer of 2nd Bn., 345th Inf. Reg.

"Our mission is to train Soldiers for deployment, and we go on lengthy TDYs to other installations," said Shearin, whose spouse is a stay-at-home mom. "When I am here at Fort Jackson my schedule isn't as crazy. It is not the lengthy days of a drill sergeant or a company commander, but five months out of the year, though, I am gone. You aren't deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, but you are gone. That is the difficult part of our job."

Even so, Shearin said he tries to make it up to his children when he returns home.
"We try to take a weekend trip and do something together. I try to get back involved as soon as possible," he said. "They understand what I do and that I am training Soldiers that are going overseas. They understand that is important."

Lewis said he hopes Soldiers will be open to the program and not have a closed attitude about working on their fatherhood skills.

"You can be present in the home and absent at the same time," Lewis said. "Yes, you have been downrange and (been) shot at, but have you taught your son to tie a tie'"

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