By Ms. Audra Calloway (AMC)June 24, 2008
As military members prepare to mobilize, regional military organizations are working together to offer support and assistance to them and the families they leave behind.
The Interservice Family Assistance Committee of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania is a family-assistance network of military organizations meant to increase family readiness and enhance unit cohesion by cultivating a partnership among support centers, families and volunteers.
The committee serves as a tool to exchange ideas on how committee members can best serve the population at their installations and an opportunity to network among the branches and the components, said Alecia Grady, regional ISFAC chairperson and Army Community Service Program Manager at Tobyhanna Army Depot.
"Even though we are all part of the big picture, individually there are certain services and programs that operate a little differently," she said. "It's good for us to meet with (National) Guard folks so we know programs and services they offer and vice versa, they know what (active-duty installations) offer, how we can support them and how they can support us."
The committee is comprised of approximately 15 active-duty, reserve and National Guard organizations from different branches of the military within the regional area of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and southern New York.
At the quarterly meetings, members discuss current issues, trends and concerns, as well as how to assist each other, service members and families.
Some of the meeting topics have ranged from expanding child and youth services to support National Guard and reserve communities, discussing how the most recent Base Realignment and Closures could affect service members in the area and helping military members find financial assistance when needed.
However, Grady said that post 9/11 many of the meetings are focused on deployment issues and taking care of military families.
Grady said the organizations also discuss partners they have developed in the communities and how they have assisted military families.
Community organizations can assist the military in a number of ways, said Tammy Mitchell, Picatinny Arsenal Army Community Service director and ISFAC member.
Mitchell said community businesses can help service members by offering them special services or discounts "from banking to simple things like car repairs or plumbing and heating."
For example, Mitchell said that some banks will offer reservists or National Guard members decreases on their mortgage rates during deployment.
Picatinny Army Community Service
In addition to the ISFAC, there are other resources for military members.
Family readiness groups, such as the ones supported by Picatinny, can help military families through the entire deployment process. The groups are open to all branches of service and include spouses, fiancees or friends of deployed or deploying service members.
Mitchell said assistance is also available for families of newly enlisted personnel, reservist or National Guard members who may not fully understand the benefits that come with their military identification card.
"We're here and ready to support them," she said. "We talk with them about everything from insurance to shopping at the commissary."
Picatinny Army Community Service staff members also offer classes on key issues to consider when preparing for deployment, such as understanding and planning for military separation, coping with separation and financial planning.
Family members or service members who have been or will soon be separated from their families due to deployments can also attend monthly meetings called Waiting Families.
Waiting Families, which is also called Heart's Apart, is a separation support group that meets at the Picatinny Community Center one Thursday a month.
Each month the meeting features a mini-presentation on topics such as dealing with separation, keeping in touch with children at home and communicating with spouses.
Meeting dates for the rest of the year are June 26, July 31, Aug. 28, Sept. 25, Oct. 23, Nov. 20 and Dec. 18.
The ACS staff has also referred schools to Operation Military Kids, an organization which will work with schools to help teachers and kids understand the signs of stress during deployments.