Personal attention defines post's support for spouses
September 6, 2012
Fort Huachuca, AZ. - If managing a year-long deployment as a new spouse was not enough, she also gave birth while her husband was deployed. Despite these challenges, Annette Quiroz, an Army spouse, advises other spouses, "If you want to know information, the way to do it is either to get involved [in a unit] or to get out there and find out." Quiroz has been a military spouse for three years, and she has resided solely at Fort Huachuca during that time.
Understandably, for some, getting "out there" can be daunting. Surrounded by a defense of mountains, the remoteness of the post can be challenging for even the heartiest transplant. However, as Quiroz learned, those who need assistance are often pleasantly surprised. They find a comprehensive network of organizations and programs functioning with the same mission -- to help Fort Huachuca's military spouses.
While it was the Indian Wars of the 1870s and 1880s that created the post, it is the wars of the present day that define its approach to military Families assigned here. The past decade of war in Iraq and ongoing conflict in Afghanistan have highlighted the importance of assisting not just the Solider, but the military Family as a whole. Recognizing this need, in January 2011 President Obama presented a government-wide approach to military Family support. This new plan, which was outlined in a White House report, "Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment," is aimed at creating new resources and programs for military Families worldwide.
Similar to the president's large-scale approach, Fort Huachuca, too, has expanded the scope and access to information for military Families. Particular attention is being paid to spouses who are new to post. Therefore, more folding chairs have been added to welcome them to a traditionally Soldier-only program: the in-processing briefing.
According to Col. Jeffrey Jennings, deputy commander for Training, United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, "Maj. Gen. Gregg Potter and Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Holiday strongly encourage spouses to attend the in-processing brief with their Soldiers. They believe it is an excellent way for spouses to learn about all the services available at Fort Huachuca shortly after arriving here." During in-processing, information is provided about post medical, dental and legal services, Army education programs, Army Community Service programs and services, and other garrison resources.
Army Community Service can help
For spouses unable to attend an in-processing briefing Jennifer Rickert is in their corner. Helping military spouses find the assistance they need is Rickert's mission.
Rickert, a special events coordinator who volunteers with ACS, moved here from Fort Riley in 2010. She was part of a team that created the Resilient Spouse Academy concept at that post. "There is so much training for Soldiers about master resiliency topics, and we [spouses] don't always adapt well because we don't have that training. So, the whole point of the training for spouses was to get them geared up so that when our Soldiers are gone they are resilient, and they know there's ACS and other resources on post," said Rickert.
The five-day academy is offered four times a year by ACS. It is open to military spouses from all branches, National Guard, Reserves, foreign nationals and retirees. The academy gives spouses a blueprint for how to become more resilient and how to strengthen the resiliency of their Family.
Supporting not only spouses, but Families as well is the goal of Fort Huachuca's ACS office. "We are the '411' (number for local directory assistance) for Fort Huachuca. We take that seriously," said Evelyn Uncel, ACS financial readiness counselor and outreach coordinator.
Mihaela McReynolds, an Army spouse of two years, knows first-hand that ACS is indeed committed to helping spouses succeed. "I went to ACS and they helped me get my resume together and gave me a list of employers in the area," said McReynolds. Through ACS she found two jobs.
ACS also has an extensive reference library that is accessible without an appointment, which is not solely for job-seekers. It has materials for the Exceptional Family Member Program, Survivor Outreach Services and relocation as well.
As evidenced by McReynold's experience, "With Fort Huachuca being smaller [than major installations] it becomes more intimate," said Uncel. "Once you walk in the door we are going to help you, or at least we will point you in the direction of someone who can," she stated.
That "someone" may be a Military Family Life Consultant or MFLC.
All MFLCs are licensed professional counselors or psychologists. They provide short-term, completely confidential counseling, education, and information free of charge to all military, government civilian employees and dependent family members. Issues that MFLCs may assist with include stress, marital, deployment cycle, communication or change.
Although moving to a new installation is often challenging, families in the Exceptional Family Member Program or EFMP may have unique adjustments.
This Army worldwide program is designed to, "provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, medical, educational, and personnel services to families with special needs," according to an EFMP fact sheet. Some conditions commonly covered by the EFMP include diabetes, developmental delays, Attention Deficit Disorder, depression and cancer.
"The benefit of enrollment in the EFMP is to ensure a Soldier is stationed at a location where services are available to the family," stated EFMP manager Audrey Peterson-Hosto. "A lot of service members and family members aren't aware that it is a mandatory enrollment program because it has to do with Army readiness," said Peterson-Hosto. When service members not enrolled in EFMP arrive at a duty station which does not have the care their family member requires, they will often request a compassionate reassignment to another location.
For some families, even those who may not need the services of EFMP, the demands of military service may at times be overwhelming.
Health center here offers programs.
As Lt. Col. Susanna Steggles, chief, Behavioral Health Services at Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center aptly noted, behavioral health issues have no geographic limits. "We have the same issues [as a large installation] and maybe even more so because it's an isolated post. So there are still the same stressors."
To help alleviate this anxiety, Behavioral Health Services is developing a Tele-Health program aimed at psychology and psychiatry support.
Steggles explained that at this point the Tele-Health program "is specifically for children and adolescents because we get a lot of requests from Family members." She continued, "The behavioral health resources in Sierra Vista are limited and that forces Families to travel to Tucson for care, and sometimes if a severe case, as far as Phoenix. And that's just too far and that's part of the reason why we are starting this. Tripler [Army Medical Center] conducted the initial site visit to RWBAHC in mid-August, and we plan to establish the program shortly."
When asked if Behavioral Health Services had benefitted from the White House plan unveiled last year to support military families Steggles stated, "That's the reason we are getting two new social workers; one will treat family members in the Family Care Clinic. That [the White House plan] was really helpful for us."
Alcohol, substance abuse treatment
This common thread of personal attention for military spouses also runs strong through the post's Army Substance Abuse Program or ASAP.
"If you are affiliated with this post, I'm not turning you away," said ASAP manager Kevin Mills. "If you come through the door I will get one of our staff members to sit with you, and if we can't provide that service then I don't want you walking out the door. If I can refer you to someone else, then I want to do that," said Mills.
The Fort Huachuca ASAP office employs four licensed counselors for short-term counseling. This service and ASAP's referrals for treatment and rehabilitation is not limited to Soldiers. "They are available to Family members as well," said Mills. "The difference is that for Family members all services are confidential. We can't violate a person's privacy just because you are married to a military member."
"You may read in the paper about new drugs on the street," said Leta Myers, ASAP suicide prevention program manager. "We have a [reference] library. If spouses have children in school and they wonder: How will I know if my child is experimenting? Come and talk to us," Myers stated.
Chapel also offers programs
For spouses dealing with a loved one's substance abuse or other problems, they may feel more comfortable starting on a spiritual path.
"I have no separation at all between green-suiter and the Family member. Family members are just as welcome," said Fort Huachuca Family Life Chaplain (Maj.) David Schlichter. Noting that he provides complete confidentiality, Schlichter stated that when people "come in here and I close these doors this becomes a sacred place."
Schlichter, like other post support providers, makes the people he serves his primary focus. "Some of these larger installations, as much as they try sometimes you just get the idea that you're just a number. But here on a smaller installation you can be more personal, as a matter of fact it's almost forced to be more personal because we don't get the resources that the larger install do," said Schlichter.
Military OneSource helps anonymously
Despite an abundance of post resources, some may hesitate to take the first step. Thus, Military OneSource is a Department of Defense resource, available 24-hours a day, for service members and their Families, which should be considered. The areas of assistance it offers range from money management to parenting, and more complex issues like stress and grief.
Military housing reaches out
Fort Huachuca's Mountain Vista Communities understands that spouses may prefer to find support closer to home.
"It's really all about the Family; it's Family housing," explained Jolene Cooper, marketing outreach coordinator for Mountain Vista Communities or MVC. "Last year, we had three spouses working here," said Cooper. During a deployment, MVC tries to "do whatever we can to help them. We mow their yard, connect new appliances. There's no job too small," Cooper remarked. In addition, the Michaels Organization Educational Foundation, MVC's parent organization, offers educational scholarships.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan recognized the importance of spouses' commitment to their military member with the creation of Military Spouse Day. Ashley Isenhour, a military spouse of one year, embodies this dedication.
"I have friends back home who are marrying people in the Army, the Navy, etc," said Isenhour. "They ask me how I do it. I tell them to keep your head up. I tell them I have to be strong because I have a kid and I have a husband. So, you just have to keep your head up no matter what."
It is the positive attitude of Isenhour and the hundreds of spouses who pass through Fort Huachuca's Main Gate every year that inspires post organizations. Their tradition of strong support would certainly make one of the post's most famous spouses, Caroline Whitside, very proud. She was the wife of Capt. Samuel Whitside, who established Fort Huachuca in 1877 and was among the earliest Army spouses who settled here.