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FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Department of Defense certified Fort Rucker Army Community Service during a recent inspection of its family support programs.

The certification means that the Soldiers and family members who call Fort Rucker home are in good hands, according to Kent Thompson, chief of ACS.

“This used to be known as accreditation, but we’ve recently moved into a pilot program where we’ve gone from having to meet Army standards to having to meet DOD standards,” he said, adding that under this pilot program some old standards dropped away while others are even more stringent than before.

Fort Rucker ACS came through with flying colors, which was no surprise to its chief.

“Of the 64 major standards they review, we were identified as having strengths (highest level) in 24 of them,” Thompson said. “The team said that is better than anyone else they’ve looked at so far.”

That team was made up of Installation Management Command ACS leaders who spent more than 45 days poring over more than 400 pieces of evidence of compliance that local ACS staff had uploaded onto IMCOM’s system, and interviewing about half of Fort Rucker’s family support staff via phone or Microsoft Teams.

Strengths the team cited were strong leadership, a resilient and passionate team, a well-versed staff with a high level of expertise in family readiness, a high level of communication skills, valued recognition programs, successful implementation of virtual services delivery, the Fort Rucker Rocks! Program and more, according to the team’s out-brief slides.

Being named the best the team had seen came as no surprise to Thompson, who heaped praise on his staff for earning the certification and for all of the work they do to take care of Soldiers and family members.

“I’ve been working in ACS for over 20 years and this is a really, really good staff,” he said, adding that they have achieved so much despite cuts to manning that put programs at risk.

“Initially, it seemed those cuts were really going to cause ACS to go downhill,” Thompson said. “But what happened was the people who remained on staff stepped up and took over those positions that other people used to do – they took on those tasks and became experts on those topics. People went from becoming program managers of one program to becoming an ACS specialist over several programs. I couldn’t ask for a better staff.”

Although the ACS staff is happy about earning certification, and not having to worry about it for another four years, many are already working to get even better, the chief said.

“Whatever little things that we did notice that we maybe could do a little better, they’re already working on it,” he said. “They’re already changing some things that even though we passed and passed with flying colors, they’re saying, ‘You know, I noticed something that I think we can do better.’ They’re already acting on it.”

All in the name of taking the best possible care of Soldiers and family members, Thompson said.

“We are here to help Soldiers and their family members accomplish their mission,” he said. “We want to do everything we can to make sure Soldiers can go out and accomplish their mission without having to worry about all of the other problems that may come up in their lives.

“We have the family advocacy program to help with relationship problems, or anger or stress management; financial readiness; relocation readiness, helping people PCS in or out – borrowing Lending Hangar items – and finding out about what their next duty station is going to look and feel like; and the Exceptional Family Member Program that offers support groups for exceptional family members,” Thompson added. “All of these things are designed to help Soldiers not have to worry about the things on the home front – whether they’re a single Soldier or a married Soldier, it doesn’t matter.

“If I were going to say I was disappointed about anything, it would be that I don’t think a lot of Soldiers come to see us when they probably should,” he added. “They need to be proactive rather than reactive. If they see something starting to become a problem, they should come see ACS before they go anywhere else -- think ACS first.”

There’s also a bit of a use-it-or-lost-it element, he added.

“We’re like any place else in the Army – if people don’t use the services, a decision maker may determine that because the service isn’t used very much, maybe people don’t need it,” Thompson said. “That would be a shame and that’s what happened when we did lose some of our positions. I think people know about ACS, but they don’t really know exactly what we do because they don’t come to see us very often. Those who do are usually very happy – we have a 99%-positive ICE comment rate.”

For more information on Fort Rucker ACS and all it offers, visit https://rucker.armymwr.com/programs/army-community-service.