Fort Sam Houston opens Soldier and Family Assistance Center
July 2, 2012
SAN ANTONIO - - The latest of the Army's one-stop resource centers for service members and Families in transition celebrated its grand opening June 29 near the San Antonio Military Medical Center on Fort Sam Houston.
The 15,000-square-foot SFAC offers support and services, respite care and activities for healing and wholeness for Soldiers and their Families as they return to the force or move into the civilian community.
The center offers direct access to 16 programs, from the Defense Financial and Accounting Service to Child, Youth and School Services.
"This facility is the culmination of a journey that started in 2008," said Frank Blakely II, manager of the Army Support Activity for Joint Base San Antonio. "Our work is in response to the need to integrate and tailor resources to support our wounded warriors.
"We have over 740 military members right now, including Navy, Marines and Air Force," said Blakely. "That's about 1,500 visitors a week, all part of the Army Family Covenant, our promise to deployed Soldiers and Wounded Warriors."
"The SFAC was a critical station for me," said retired MSG Todd M. Nelson, guest speaker at the grand opening. "I was injured in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan and arrived in a town I never heard of with needs I never imagined."
Nelson was an Army mechanic from Evergreen, Colo., when he lost his right eye and ear to the car bomb. He has received over 40 surgeries to repair his injuries, including glass and silicone prosthetics to help him face his new world.
"The warriors who come through this door are unprepared for the future," said Nelson. "Think about what your life would be like if you had to do what they are doing. Moving ahead without the SFAC is unthinkable. These are a good and honorable population who deserve these services. We deserve the chance to give everything back to them."
The SFAC is an adjunct to SAMMC, formerly the Brooke Army Medical Center, one of the world's premier medical treatment centers.
"Thanks to the outstanding medical team at BAMC, I am here to tell you that I am here for many others," said Nelson. "Without the people that work here, it would only be a beautiful building."
In the hot San Antonio summer, SFAC offers a cool destination for warriors in transition from nearby facilities on the BAMC complex. It is adjacent to the Warrior Family Support Center. "To the warrior, this facility is the one-stop-shop for all of their transition needs," said Nelson. "It is a more comfortable atmosphere than I had, for the laundry list of support I received."
The SFAC provides education counselors and CYSS childcare, and has plenty of room for DFAS, Office of Personnel Management and the Army Continuing Education System, among others.
"With this new building, we now have more space to do our job," said Jerome Studivant, Jr., outreach program coordinator at the SFAC. "I am retired Air Force, but this is the most rewarding job I've ever had, helping out the veterans and transitioning warriors."
The SFAC is important to many inside and outside the active duty Army, particularly veterans. "This facility will help us in our vision to uphold America's promise to help our veterans and their families," said Hector Villareal, Chairman and CEO of the San Antonio Coalition for Veterans. "It's a person-to-person friendliness and a feeling that he or she is not alone that will get them the help they need."
Chunta Bonds, Kayla Mitchell and Leslie Green, program assistants, were on hand giving tours of the child and youth facilities within the new building.
"We make sure the kids are taken care of while the Soldiers are making their appointments," said Brenda Rippy, lead child and youth program assistant. "We've got a real great crew and we give the best we can. A happy kid means a happy family."
James Abney, director of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (G9) for the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, joined SFAC Director Gabriele Dias, Assistant SFAC Director Ron Collins, Nelson and Blakeley for the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon.
The SFAC is now officially open to serve our military. "We've got 23 staff members," said Gabriele Dias, director of the SFAC. "We are open for business."