By Army Reserve Medical CommandJune 23, 2009
Thanks to the dedicated professionals of the Family Support Office (FPO), deploying Army Reserve Soldiers and their families get additional resources for information and assistance, regardless of where they call home.
Reserve Soldiers, who are mobilized for deployment, can come from many sources. Most come as part of the deploying unit, however, many can augment that unit from other sources as well. The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA), and Individual Augmentee (IA) programs add qualified Soldiers to the troop pool, aiding units in fulfilling their mission.
With Soldiers coming from multiple locations, challenges persist with how to form a coherent family support network.
The home unit is tasked with building and maintaining a Family Readiness Group (FRG) to support the deployed Soldiers families. The FPO, located at the general officer command level, was created to support each of these groups, especially those that are spread out over a wide geographic location.
The FPO helps unit commanders and their FRGs by assisting them, in training, to assure that they are properly established, equipped, and enhanced to support the Soldiers and Families.
At a recent IRR Muster event, the Family Program Office was able to deliver their message to Families personally, and answer questions regarding the program.
IRR Musters, or gatherings, are a new type of event hosted by the Human Resource Command. They are held at various locations around the country, where Soldiers assigned to the IRR report to a central location in order to maintain accountability and update their files.
"It (the Family Support Office) has a variety of programs, projects and services linked together to provide information and services to Soldiers and Family members. It is there to help with issues arising from a Soldiers deployment." said Leslie Bouwman, Family Programs Assistant with the Army Reserve Medical Command.
"The FPO can assist with issues such as financial, familial or social," she added. "The Muster in Tampa was an excellent opportunity for us to get in front of IRR Soldiers and let them know how the FPO can help them if they are called to deploy with a unit outside of their home area."
Like IRR Soldiers, IMA and IA Soldiers face different situations that arise because their homes and families are not generally located in the same geographic area as the deploying units. Though these Soldiers and families are able to participate and utilize the FRG the deploying units, distance and unfamiliarity makes this difficult, this is where the FPO steps in to help and fill the gap.
The FPO has a team in place to help these geographically challenged Soldiers and families. Once they are aware of the mobilization, a packet is sent to the Soldier's home with information on benefits, entitlements, staff contacts and other information to aid the Families left behind.
During the Soldiers mobilization, contact is maintained with the families to ensure their needs are being met. The FPO acts as a personal liaison with those family members who do not have a local FRG representative to deal with, making certain their questions are being answered.
With the Army Reserve part of today's operational Army, it will continue to need the expertise of Soldiers in the IRR, IMA and IA. When those Soldiers or family members need a place to turn, to get answers and help the Family Programs Office stands ready to aid them. They are a good source for assistance information and opportunities. If a Reserve Soldier's deployment is affecting you or someone you know the FPO can be contacted either online or by phone. 1(727)-563-3649 or www.arfp.org.