By Michael NorrisJune 21, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Moving to a new installation through a permanent change of station move can be a little unnerving as you learn to navigate the ins and outs of a new duty station. You may be wondering: What's the cost of living like there? What employment opportunities does the region offer my spouse? Are the schools up to snuff? And, where's the best place to get great Greek food?
Newcomer orientations offered by the Army's Start Right program and the Marine Corps' Welcome Aboard classes on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall help answer these essential questions and many more.
Representatives from TRICARE, the base legal and housing offices, the Army Substance Abuse Program and the education center are just a few of the nearly two dozen organizations that brief Soldiers at regular Start Right briefings held every Thursday from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. in Bldg. 230, off Forrest Circle on the Fort Myer portion of JBM-HH. Marine Corps Welcome Aboard sessions are similarly diverse, including presentations by the school liaison officer, a Navy Federal Credit Union representative, the USO and other organizations. Welcome Aboard is held monthly from 8-10:30 a.m. at the Marine Club, Bldg. 21, on Henderson Hall.
Michael Richardson, the team lead for personnel information in the Directorate of Human Resources' Military Personnel Division, helps facilitate Start Right briefings. He said bringing all the organizations an in-processing Soldier would normally have to visit on his own under one roof is unique to the National Capital Region.
It's one-stop shopping, he said, "bringing all these agencies together for you on a given day."
If people have questions, Richardson said agency representative typically stick around on the sidelines for five to 10 minutes to talk with Soldiers about issues they may not want to bring up in the larger forum.
Kelly Weidner, a relocation assistant with Army Community Service, is one of several staffers from ACS who address incoming Soldiers at Start Right briefings, filling them in on various ACS programs, from financial readiness which helps military Families with budgeting issues to the ACS lending closet which provides newcomers with essential household goods while Families wait for belongings to arrive from their last duty station.
Weidner's contact information is usually listed on paperwork accompanying PCS moves so she is often able to help Soldiers and Families before they arrive at a new duty station. "We try to help them pre-move and post-move," she explained.
Welcome Aboard briefings usually include 20 speakers spanning across two hours, said Willie Acevedo, who runs the Relocation Assistance Program at Henderson Hall. That might seem like a lot of information in a short period of time, he said, but "it's important for Marines to know what programs are available to them."
Acevedo said the monthly briefings attract five to 10 Marines at a time. He said the short presentations provide an introduction to programs Marines can take advantage of, and that while there isn't a lot of time for question and answer sessions, incoming personnel can follow-up later by contacting the organizations through information provided on distributed hand-outs.
After a lunch break, Acevedo said there is an optional hour-and-a-half "window tour" of the Washington, D.C., area, where newcomers are driven through Arlington National Cemetery, past the White House, Washington Monument and Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to show them what the nation's capital has to offer.
About 75 percent of the Marines attending Welcome Aboard take advantage of the tour, he said.
Liz Barnes, school liaison for Henderson Hall Marines, said one of the things she tells audiences about in Welcome Aboard briefings is the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children, highlighting the program's streamlining of student records transfers and easing of placement in honors programs, where military Families sometimes get shortchanged because of frequent moves.
She said she encourages Marines and their Families to always be looking ahead to the next move, so that parents and children can anticipate the changes and opportunities in store for them at a new duty station. Jim Murphy, of Henderson Hall's Personal Financial Management Program, said he talks about debt, credit and the importance of tracking daily expenditures at Marine briefings.
Because there are some 20 people talking in succession, he said the idea is for presenters to plant a seed in Marines' minds about where they can go to get help when they need it. Military members may only get exposed to three things they didn't know before attending a briefing, he added, "but that may be information they might not get anywhere else."
The next Start Right briefing will be held June 27. For more information call 703-696-3510. The next Marine Welcome Aboard orientation is scheduled for Aug. 13. For more information call 703-614-7202.