VICENZA, Italy – This December, when Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston spoke to community members on AFN Vicenza, his focus was on resiliency and readiness amid COVID-19 constraints.
“If I’m not ready and my people aren’t ready, how are we doing to do our mission,” Grinston asked.
Listening Soldiers, civilians and family members at U.S. Army Garrison Italy were already hard at work, bolstering local readiness efforts, facing the pandemic by providing a total-resiliency approach through community services.
One garrison effort, spearheaded by the Commander’s Readiness and Resiliency Council, was a grand holiday celebration targeted toward quarantined individuals. Twenty volunteers from 12 organizations and agencies came together to provide delivering Christmas trees, cards, holiday meals, and stockings to Soldiers and Families in the community and individuals in-processing quarantined on Villaggio Army Family Housing.
“Our group has worked hard in hopes that these individuals feel welcomed to Vicenza, happy to be here to feel some holiday spirit despite the circumstances and in hopes that they know that their new community cares about them,” said Amy Cates, the garrison’s Community Readiness and Resiliency Integrator.
Garrison chaplains jumped into the resiliency effort by baking cookies for those in quarantine, providing “conversations of hope” videos online, and conducting open-air church services outside of the quarantine barracks.
“It's important to remember that disappointment is part of life, and that brighter days are ahead – literally and figuratively,” said Chaplain Lt. Col. John Hubbs elaborated on the importance of resiliency through trying times.
The chaplains also provided a total of $8,700 in commissary vouchers for lower enlisted military families through Operation Helping Hands. This is an annual tradition and the funds come directly from the chapels’ congregational offerings. The chaplains also provide resources such as a Family Life Chaplain, the 24/7 chaplain line (call 335-832-0372) and welcome individuals to stop by the chapel or spiritual life center to chat.
“It is always best to talk face to face,” Hubbs said. “I even promise to provide a cup of coffee to enjoy during the conversation.”
In January, Army Community Service will provide a winter wellbeing initiative focusing on community connection and education during the holiday and post-holiday season.
“Army Community Service wants to encourage you to make a connection and find a person every day to connect with. Check on them and when someone is checking on you,” said Tara Gardner, ACS Parent Child Educator. “It’s important to be honest with them and really let them know how you’re doing.”
ACS also provides community members with resources and connects them with the right people to provide the essential help they need.
“I’m convinced that through communications and presence we save lives,” said ACS Director Mariangiola Miller.
The winter wellbeing initiative will take place over eight weeks through various media on their Facebook page including topics like finance, nutrition, exercise, finding balance, parenting tips, and even resiliency advice from Soldiers.
On AFN, Grinston explained how physically distanced should not mean socially distanced and encouraged the community to maintain communication with loved ones.
“Any time we can hear the voice and see the reactions – are they in a safe place, can you look them in the eye – that’s the way to stay resilient with our family,” Grinston said. “It’s the way our kids stay resilient by connecting to us … but even with our Soldiers.”