By Pfc. Phillip Adam Turner, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsJuly 3, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas -- During the Vietnam era, the Army and its families noticed a big need for an outreach program within their tight knit community, specifically designed to provide Army families with the tools and services needed to transition in and out of deployment.
In 1965, the Army would answer this call with the establishment of the Army Community Service Program (ACS). Just as the Army has changed over the past 40 years, so has ACS, which has put itself in the foreground of giving Soldiers and their families all the information needed to be a 'self sufficient Family unit.'
With an extensive list of informational programs and events, ranging from Employment readiness, relocation readiness, to financial readiness, ACS is providing 'Real Solutions for Successful Army Living.' Using this as their slogan ACS has assisted many single and married Soldiers to prepare for deployment during times of war.
"We understand the stresses that come with a pending deployment, regardless of rank, accompanied or non accompanied, essentially Soldiers all face the same pre-deployment burdens," said Dave Gretsch, ACS mobilization and deployment coordinator.
The transition for an accompanied Soldier comes with its own set of secondary concerns than just those of the deploying Soldier. With all the common questions and issues they might face, the most prolific is the emotional toll that the deployment will put on their wife and children. There are six stages of deployment for the military family, which ACS labels as 'emotional challenges.' Shock, denial, anger, panic, grief, and acceptance, all of these are common and to be expected. ACS wants Families to remember they are not alone in these stressful times.
"Fort Hood is an asset to this community and we (ACS) are their partners. We are the helpers," said Grestch. "We have a pool of different resources like 'Family Readiness Groups' to help spouses and their children cope with any situation during their loved one's call to duty."
Not only does ACS offer programs and services to help families cope during separation, they also have many volunteer programs for them to get directly involved in the deployment process, and relieve some of the stress that the waiting game of deployment can cause.
According to Gretsch, ACS has noticed that when the family becomes more involved during the deployment process they have a bigger since of 'collective accomplishment,' feeling they had a hand in accomplishing the mission.
One such program is a new venture ACS is getting Soldiers and their spouses involved in, 'Battlemind for Couples.' Through interactive classes and briefings, 'Battlemind for couples' helps Soldiers and their spouses' transition through deployments and reunions to strengthen their relationship.
"We want to build resilient strong families, and that's what Battlemind is all about," said Gretsch.
Single Soldiers deploying for the first time may have questions concerning their finances, beneficiaries, typing up a will and steady communication with loved ones while they are overseas. Essentially these questions and more are answered during pre-deployment briefings at the unit level. However, extra guidance and answers are provided by ACS.
ACS offers a pre-deployment checklist for single Soldiers that will tell them the steps they need to take, to make sure all of their information is up to date, and they are set-up financially for a deployment. As well as making sure their automobile continues to be cared for in their absence, and any legal concerns are handled with the use of a power of attorney.
One of the biggest assets to a deploying Soldier could be ACS' pre-deployment symposium. ACS Pre-deployment Symposium is a monthly deployment briefing that provides information from subject-matter experts from the American Red Cross, Defense Military Pay Office, III Corps Legal offices and Army Community Service. This is the best chance for a Soldier to have all of his or her questions addressed by the right people with the right answers, Gretsch said.
Pre-deployment can be tough for Soldiers and their Families however they don't have to go through it alone. ACS has seven locations around Fort Hood so they're always in the neighborhood. No matter what your specific needs are, ACS has a program for you and all the answers to your pre and post deployment needs.
For more information, call 254-4ACS.