By Mr. Patrick Buffett (IMCOM)January 9, 2009
FORT MONROE, Va. - If the transition to Army life is challenging for a new recruit, imagine what it's like for the young military spouse who dives into that world without the benefit of initial entry training or easy access to a cadre of subject matter experts.
Frequently, the fledgling family member's first experience with the military is arrival at the initial duty station and the start of a crash course in Army acronyms, pay procedures, housing regulations, support agencies and so forth.
"Now imagine what it's like for them when their Soldiers deploy just months after initial entry training, which is typical these days," noted Jean Mills, Soldier and Family Program Manager for U.S. Army Accessions Command at Fort Monroe. "It means our new spouses are facing more challenges than ever before, and we need to do everything we can to arm them with information that makes that transition easier."
Enter the New Spouse Orientation DVD that is scheduled for release this month. It includes an overview of administrative, family and community support programs provided by the Army and listings of available resources that are accessible via the internet. Copies will be distributed by Army recruiting offices and ROTC battalions across the nation.
"The DVD complements a booklet titled 'Welcome to the Army Family' that our recruiters have been handing out for the past year," said Mills. "The DVD is 35 minutes in length, and it incorporates state-of-the-art features that will appeal to today's Internet generation. For instance, the information is divided into subject matter areas - like Army Community Services, education and Child, Youth and School Services - so the spouse or family member can pick and choose the topics that are of interest to them."
Other subjects addressed in the video include TRICARE, housing, legal services, Army Emergency Relief, the Exceptional Family Member Program and more. While the information won't make the viewer a subject matter expert in any particular area of Army life, the USAAC team is hoping it will increase the "comfort factor" to a point where the family member never feels abandoned or isolated from the military community.
"As a result of the DVD," Mills noted, "new spouses will feel empowered to walk into any agency and know what is offered and the services to which they are entitled."
"That's really the heart of the matter ... doing everything we can to show the support network that's available to these young spouses, even if they're still at home awaiting the move to their first duty station," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, USAAC's Commanding General. "It's important to the Soldier as well. You can't stay focused on training if you're constantly worried about family problems at home. The awareness of being able to reach out to support agencies like Army Community Services or important online tools like Military OneSource will mitigate a lot of stress."
Helping spouses realize their importance to the Army team is another huge plus for the DVD, the lieutenant general added. Service leaders have gone to great lengths to acknowledge the contributions of families during the ongoing fight against global terrorism. That effort is evidenced by the Army Family Covenant in 2007 and the Army Community Covenant in 2008. Both measures guarantee the nation's commitment to "providing the best quality of life in the world to the best Soldiers and Families in the world."
"This DVD will help us show the support network available in Army life in ways a new Army spouse will understand," Freakley said. "Why is this important' ... Because the spouse is a huge factor in the decision-making process on whether to join the Army. Spouse support also is very important to retention. We like to say we enlist Soldiers, but we re-enlist families."
Mills offered a final note of thanks to the Army Training Support Center at Fort Eustis for their production work on the New Spouse Orientation DVD.