FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Nov. 28, 2022) -- The Fort Drum Soldier and Family Readiness Division’s Enrichment Center has been a hub of family readiness activities since its opening in May 2021 – from weekly playgroups and stress management workshops to healthy cooking, infant CPR and home safety classes.
The new facility followed a consolidation of support services under the Directorate of Human Resources’ Soldier and Family Readiness Division. More than a dozen agencies are located between the Family Resource Center and the Soldier and Family Readiness Center, but the Enrichment Center serves a unique function as a learning environment for families.
Brenda Lee McCullough, U.S. Army Installation Management Command-Readiness director, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Oliver, IMCOM-Readiness senior enlisted adviser, discovered more about this new facility during a two-day visit to Fort Drum earlier this month.
“This should be the standard for the Army,” McCullough said. “What Fort Drum has done here with their Soldier and Family Readiness Division, it’s the right thing to do and I would love to replicate it at all of our garrisons.”
At the center, Nicole Wetzel, Family Advocacy Program educator, instructs Healthy Environments, an interactive workshop to help parents identify strategies to enhance their home environment and build resilient family units. Wetzel explained to the IMCOM team how attendees learn to identify potential hazards in the home – fire, tripping, choking hazards, to name a few. They also discuss the importance of keeping certain products out of children’s reach, especially if the items look like something they would eat or drink.
McCullough toured the safety room, where family members can look for home hazards, and then moved to the bathroom, which is also configured for a hazard search.
FAP educators also instruct a class for 10th Mountain Division (LI) leaders on how to conduct a health and wellness home visit.
“It’s really a hands-on, multi-faceted learning experience,” said Wetzel, about the Enrichment Center. “We’re very proud of this.”
Mandy Mason, Soldier and Family Readiness Division acting chief, said the success of this new division is partly due to the partnerships between the programs within, as well as collaborative efforts with installation directorates such Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; Fort Drum Fire and Emergency Services; and the 10th Mountain Division Band.
For example, members of the Army Substance Abuse Program team up with the Criminal Investigation Division for drug awareness education and the drug testing program for the 10th Mountain Division (LI). ASAP staff uses a simulated barracks room inside the Soldier and Family Readiness Center to train leaders how to conduct a thorough room inspection for contraband and what to do if they find illegal substances.
Under the SFRD, the Family Advocacy Program hosted community events like the annual Summer Safety Luau, Baby Palooza and ChillFest at LeRay Mansion. The SFRD staff develops community outreach plans to support national campaigns such as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month, Alcohol Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Suicide Prevention Month. The SFRD also recently brought the Army Family Team Building program and Army Family Action Plan back to Fort Drum.
During a previous visit to Fort Drum, McCullough toured the Family Resource Center, which is home to the Fort Drum Army Volunteer Corps, Financial Readiness Program, Employee Assistance Program and the American Red Cross, to name a few.
McCullough said that the FRC is ideally located, and it offers a variety of programs and services that Soldiers and family members need.
Mason credited the Relocation Readiness Program staff and volunteers who do a lot to integrate new families into the community. They are invited to attend the monthly Coffee Connections / Spouses Welcome, which is an informal introduction to life at Fort Drum and the North Country. The Relocation Readiness Program also manages the English as a Second Language program and hosts a weekly sewing group and a walking club.
“Between the previous visits and today, Ms. McCullough was able to see all the programs under SFRD – as well as the hard work and creativity the staff is able to present to the community every day,” Mason said. “It is exciting to show the IMCOM-Readiness team all that we are capable of doing and highlight the support we provide Soldiers and families, because that is our mission.”
McCullough also met with 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum senior leaders and directors, attended the installation planning board meeting, and visited the Directorate of Public Works headquarters and the Directorate of Emergency Services’ Law Enforcement Center.
In the latter stop, Lt. Col. Anthony Howell, DES director, and Mike Thomas, DES deputy director, briefed McCullough on the capabilities of the 911 Communications Center, access control point staffing, and mutual aid support with local agencies. They also discussed a plan to increase efficiencies in the DES facility to improve workflow management.
“Whenever I visit a garrison, it’s my opportunity to have a more-recent touchpoint with the garrison team and get a better sense of where they are in their support to the senior commander,” she said. “If there is anything I can bring back to my team, we then see what we can do to expedite the process they are working through to get support. Or, if it’s something completely new, we can explore different avenues where we can help them.”
McCullough said that her goal is to visit all IMCOM-R garrisons once a year to see and hear from installation leaders, and to see where support is needed for improving installation services.
“For me, and the reason why I have these garrison visits, when I see it, it’s easier for me to advocate for it,” she said. “Rather than seeing it on a spreadsheet or on a computer screen, when I am advocating for the renovation of the DES building I can say that I saw it and here is why we need to do it. Being here just has more power when you are advocating for resources.”