By Jo Anita MileyOctober 30, 2019
Thousands of military retirees and their families throughout North Alabama receive retirement and transition services from the Garrison Military Personnel Division's Retirement Services Office. Marcus Ufeanyui welcomes the opportunity to interact with them all.
Ufeanyui, the new retirement services officer, is no stranger to the retiree community. He retired in 2016 after 21 years as a Soldier.
Before arriving at Redstone in April, Ufeanyui worked as the retirement services officer and casualty officer at Garrison Ansbach from 2016-19. He said the work he does at Redstone is similar to what he did overseas, except he doesn't perform the duties of a casualty officer here.
The Retirement Services Office, located at the One Stop, provides a range of services to both active duty Soldiers and military retirees and their family members across the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserve and National Guard. The office acts as a liaison between the retirees and the agencies that provide military retiree benefits.
"We serve the retiree both pre- and post-retirement," Ufeanyui said. Services include pre-retirement counseling, retirement application, and assistance with a retired pay account, retiree benefits and entitlements, the Survivor Benefit Plan, Veterans Affairs benefits, CSB/Redux information, Combat Related Special Compensation, Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments, and the annual Soldier for Life Retiree Appreciation Day.
Ufeanyui also works closely with the Redstone Military Retiree Council to coordinate the Retiree Appreciation Day, held annually for retirees from all branches of military service who served on active duty for 20 or more years, their dependents and annuitant widows. He said the council plays a huge role in organizing the RAD.
"I appreciate the sacrificial service and continuous dedication and involvement from the retirees who volunteer to serve as active members of the MRC," he said. "This is a very important event because individuals can get updates on the resources, entitlements and benefits they have. We serve approximately 43,000 to 50,000 retirees, family members and annuitant widows in the Atlantic region. Any military retiree within a 500 mile radius can come here for our services."
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Julia Kelly is the enlisted co-chair supporting the council on Redstone. She said it takes a concerted effort to support retirees within their region. There are 130 members from 11 different cities in Alabama on their roster.
"The MRC on Redstone Arsenal is chartered through the installation commander," Kelly said. "We don't function as a nonprofit, but are an arm of the active duty commander, who sets the agenda for the council. We are a vehicle to provide the installation commander's feedback on military retiree issues and concerns. Our goal is to communicate with the military retirees and update them regarding the decisions, policies and laws that affect them. We want to ensure the retirees have a platform on which they can voice their concerns."
Although the council works to resolve problems at the local level, they also forward those issues that cannot be resolved locally to the chief of staff of the Army. Kelly said it provides Army leaders with insight into retirees' needs and concerns and provides retirees with a channel of communication with the active Army.
The council works closely with the retirement services officer to identify and eliminate any barriers that may prevent them from reaching the military retiree population. The team relies heavily on the retirement services officer to provide them retiree contact information. This task can be a challenge due to the large number of retirees served by the retirement services officer.
"According to the 2017 U.S. census, there are 17,209 veterans living in Huntsville," Kelly said. "We want to reach this population to make sure they get the necessary information about their benefits. Some retirees who are supposed to be served by other military installations end up coming to Redstone for services. The numbers continue to grow so we must find new ways to communicate with them."
Ufeanyui agrees with Kelly. He knows the Retirement Services Office on Redstone is popular with military retirees and thinks patrons keep returning to their location because of the level of customer service their team provides on a daily basis.To date, he has served retirees from Lincoln, Fayetteville and Cleburne counties; and from states as far away as Texas, Maine and Alaska. He makes sure retirees get the service they deserve no matter where they reside.
"It is our desire to provide exceptional and professional service to all our customers," Ufeanyui said. "Everyone's concerns are important. People should always be treated with dignity and respect. Whether I am talking to a military retiree who failed to get a copy of the latest RAD Bulletin or an annuitant widow who has issues with her survivor benefits, I try to help anyway that I can."
Taking care of military retirees and their families is personal for Ufeanyui. He said his past experiences as a Soldier allows him to connect with patrons. He said he will always be a Soldier at heart. It's something that's been engrained within him.
"One of the most important aspects of my job as the RSO is the opportunity to assist active duty Soldiers transition out of the military as well as helping retired Soldiers resolve their benefit problems," he said. "We act as the liaison between the retirees and the state and federal agencies that provide retiree services. I appreciate those who helped me with my transition from military service. I like that my job allows me to pay it forward and continue serving veterans and their families. It's a perfect fit for me."
The Retirement Services Office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Retirees must have an appointment for all retirement visits. For appointments, call Ufeanyui at 256-876-2022.