By Catherine Ross (Fort Carson)April 11, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- A handmade quilt hangs above the fireplace, drawing eyes up to a wood-beamed ceiling; there are plenty of couches and chairs, a nook for watching television and a full kitchen. The Soldier and Family Assistance Center feels like a retreat.
Stepping through the doors of the SFAC removes all thoughts of being on a military installation, and that is exactly the effect the staff would like the center to have on its customers.
Part of Army Community Service, SFAC human resources assistant Randy Hart said, "We provide all of the same services, but in a different environment and different perspective."
Any Soldier going through the medical board process can benefit from the SFAC, said Hart. Whether a Soldier is separating from the military or returning to duty, is in the Warrior Transition Battalion or falls under the Individual Disability Evaluation System, the SFAC has much to offer.
In order to take advantage of those services, eligible Soldiers must in-process with the SFAC. In-processing briefings are held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1 p.m. and last about one hour. Married Soldiers are encouraged to bring their spouses.
Hart said he'd like to see the number of attendees, currently averaging about six per briefing, increase so more eligible Soldiers could take advantage of the services offered.
"As soon as they start the med board process, the SFAC can start working with them on all of their military benefits," Hart said. "The opportunities are endless. We're a one-stop shop for all wounded warriors getting out of the military, and some of them do retrain and re-class."
"I'm already in the process of getting my resume done," said Sgt. Jacob Carbajal, 4th Squadron 10th Calvary Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, following an in-processing briefing April 4.
Wounded warriors in the process of separating can prepare financially for life after the military by meeting with a financial counselor who can pull credit reports, develop a household budget and provide salary negotiating advice.
The Army Wounded Warrior Program assigns Soldiers with a counselor who can advocate for them on a variety of issues.
"We don't focus on any one thing," said AW2 advocate Tony Barnes. "We know all the programs available and go to bat for (the Soldiers), for example, with the (Veterans Affairs)."
Bill Price, regional coordinator for The Wounded Warrior Education and Employment Initiative, explained how his program helps Soldiers prepare for the future.
"We sit down and look at where you are now, what your goals are and where you want to go," he said, adding that E2I "works to make the Soldier as marketable as possible."
Another program that helps prepare wounded warriors with future career possibilities is Operation Warfighter, which matches Soldiers with internships at participating federal agencies.
"It's not a job placement tool, but sometimes it turns out that way," Price said. "Regardless, you're picking up those needed skills that will help you transition to the outside world.
"And learning new skills equates to healthy healing," he said.
Other programs that prepare Soldiers for futures outside the Army include a version of Army Career and Alumni Program tailored to wounded warriors, federal resume writing classes and computer certification classes.
"I push a lot on my Soldiers in terms of education," said Carbajal. "Taking classes, taking the workshops they have here so they can learn more and educate themselves, because it's not just about exiting the Army, but what you're going to do when you get out."
Carbajal added that the SFAC staff knows "what's going to help the most, who's going to help you the most. They try to help everybody out."
That help includes assistance with opportunities that apply to wounded warriors whether or not they are separating from the military.
"Soldiers have the opportunity … (to) get Social Security while on active duty," said Hart, explaining that if a wounded warrior is unable to execute his military occupational specialty, he can apply for Social Security benefits.
The SFAC can also assist Soldiers with Army Traumatic Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, unemployment benefits, counseling services through the military and family life consultant program, religious services, and child care.
With extensive community involvement, the SFAC also offers wounded warriors and their Families unique chances for travel, outdoor recreational adventures and more, via donations.
"There are a lot of people out in the community who want to thank you for your service," said Yvette Allan, outreach and donations program manager.
A warrior support group provides occasions for Soldiers and their Families to socialize, and is not just for WTB Families, but for IDES Families as well, Hart said.
Noting the staff is comprised of many veterans and military spouses, Hart said, "We can relate to what they're going through, but we don't understand what they're going through. No one can understand but them."