SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (July 19, 2013) -- For generations, Army spouses have operated lending closets and thrift shops, raised funds to help the needy, assisted in emergencies, taught and trained the inexperienced, provided care and comfort to the ill and bereaved, and, through a grassroots understanding of the Army community, contributed significantly to its stability.
An adverse effect of volunteer Army spouses running these social service programs had been that the programs often disappeared or stagnated when their originators transferred or were no longer associated with the service.
Now, celebrating a 48th birthday on July 25th, Army Community Service (ACS) has been designed to create continuity and provide a framework for the operation of a viable system of social services within the Army community.
An important resource for Soldiers and their families who were having financial difficulties began in the 1940s as the Army Emergency Relief (AER). Funded by donations of the American public and proceeds of the Irving Berlin Broadway hit "This is the Army," AER offices were located at Army posts throughout the United States. This organization, through an interesting coincidence, provided the framework for the development of ACS more than 20 years later.
Lt. Col. Emma M. Baird was assigned to AER and Personnel Affairs Offices as the allowance and allotment officer. This experience formed the insights she would use when planning the structure and organization of a "Family Services Program," which would eventually become ACS.
July 25, 1965, Gen. Harold K. Johnson, Army Chief of Staff, dispatched a letter to all commanders announcing the approval and establishment of ACS. By 1967, the majority of continental U.S. installations had initiated ACS centers, and by 1969, 155 ACS centers and points of contact were established Armywide.
From the initiation of ACS, and throughout its history, its volunteers (primarily Army spouses) have ensured the success and support of ACS programs. One Army spouse who made many notable contributions to ACS was Joanne Patton, wife of Gen. George S. Patton.
Joanne was appointed as ACS volunteer consultant to the Department of the Army in 1980. In this role, she helped to achieve meaningful assistance from ACS in order to meet the needs of exceptional family members.
In 1978, a revised regulation incorporated the Army Child Advocacy Program (ACAP) into ACS; established the Army Child Support Services Program; incorporated standards for child health and safety protection at military facilities offering temporary care for children; established criteria for financial support; and established program requirements, personnel functions and duties.
New programs that focused on areas, such as budget counseling and debt liquidation, relocation assistance and an information program were also introduced at many ACS centers.
In 1982, the Family Advocacy and the Family Member Employment Assistance programs were officially established, and in 1988, the Relocation Assistance Program was officially rooted.
A Memorial Award for Outstanding Volunteers was created to honor Baird. Since 1988, the award has been presented to volunteers who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication and service to ACS.
Today, ACS supports the Armed Forces Generation (ARFORGEN) cycle through Soldier and Family Assistance centers, Soldier Readiness Processing, Operation READY, mobilization and deployment support to family readiness groups and rear detachments, and Military and Family Life Consultants.
ACS continues to grow and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the global Army family.
Core programs and services have grown to include these:
•Army Family Action Plan,
•Army Family Team Building,
•Army Volunteer Corps,
•Exceptional Family Member,
•Information and Referral,
•New Parent Support,
•Sexual Assault and Response,
•Soldier and Family Assistance Center,
•Survivor Outreach Services,
•Transitional Compensation, and