Building Connections: FMWR helps Soldiers, Families ‘plug in’ to their communities
(Center) Joshua Gwinn, deputy director of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, U.S. Army Installation Management Command, participates in a panel discussion at the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2022 Annual Meeting Oct. 11, 2022, in Washington D.C. Gwinn explained how FMWR programs help Soldiers and Families plug in to new communities. (Photo Credit: Erinn Burgess) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – As Soldiers and Families move to states and countries far away from family members and friends, building social connections is a vital component to overall wellbeing.

During a panel discussion at the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2022 Annual Meeting, Joshua Gwinn of U.S. Army Installation Management Command explained how Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation – or FMWR – programs help Soldiers and Families plug in to new communities.

Gwinn, deputy director of IMCOM G-9 Family and MWR, said FMWR programs have something to offer for everyone – whether Soldier, spouse, child, or new parent.


Military youth showing up to a new community might only have 18 months to two years to build connections, Gwinn said, so it’s important to bond with others quickly.

“We have a youth ambassador program in the schools – so as you show up, they’ll assign a youth ambassador to the youth coming in, and that becomes the touchpoint to their community,” he explained. “Then you have youth programs, youth centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, 4-H, and those aren’t just on-post, we have partnerships so you can do those off-post, too.”

In large communities where installations have several different school districts to choose from, the School Liaison Office and the Child and Youth Services program are there to help connect youth. These services are available at each garrison, and “their job is to plug you in, support and be an advocate for you,” Gwinn said.


Adults can get connected through FMWR programs, too. The FMWR Sports and Fitness program allows adults to connect through joining sports teams, attending exercise classes, joining running groups, attending community 5K events, and more.

Additionally, Army Community Service has myriad offerings to help people connect and get the support they need.

The New Parent Support Program through ACS connects new parents and enables a support group to help one another through the challenges of becoming a first-time parent in a location they’ve never been before or raising a young child in a foreign country away from family. In addition, ACS offers an Employment Readiness program, a Financial Readiness program, an Exceptional Family Member program, and more.

“ACS has so many connections that they can get you into – they are your navigators that will plug you in with support groups. Those are the people who are there for you every day,” Gwinn said. “This allows you to meet people at your new garrison and create that social circle, which is where you get your strength from.”

Single service members

FMWR also offers programs that allow single Soldiers to build connections, such as the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program. The BOSS program allows Soldiers to meet other single Soldiers in their same unit or in other units, and “all of a sudden you have activities, and you can plug in to what’s happening at that garrison; and now you have something that’s constructive,” Gwinn said.

Digital Garrison

“There is an amazing amount of resources available but it’s not well known by all Soldiers and Families. If you don’t know where to go, Digital Garrison app is a great place to start,” he continued.

In 2020, Installation Management Command launched the Digital Garrison mobile app in partnership with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. The app provides members of the Army community an enterprise solution for accessing installation quality-of-life services at 67 Army installations.

Through real-time automatic integration of IMCOM, FMWR and AAFES information, Digital Garrison keeps Army Families connected to everything from fitness and recreation, retail and dining, gate hours and locations, installation news and announcements, newcomer information, local hotlines and more.

“It’s a great resource, lots of things in there – things that change based on your feedback,” Gwinn said.

Digital Garrison is available for free download from both Apple App and Google Play stores. Soldiers and Families may also find information about their local garrison offerings at their installation’s and websites.

“The Army is doing so many things for Soldiers and Families,” Gwinn said. “If you don’t know where to go, just start asking the question.”