WIESBADEN, Germany – Army Community Services help Soldiers, families and civilians adapt to their community through a variety of resources and support. Available at every U.S. military installation, multiple programs within ACS offer a range of classes, trainings and special events that empower Army communities.
ACS is a primary resource agency that delivers services tailored to the needs of the extended U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden community. The goal is to maintain community readiness and resiliency through our wide range of proactive educational opportunities, as well as individualized counseling and coaching services.
USAG Wiesbaden’s School Liaison Officer, Chris Dickson plays a major role in advising the Garrison Command in education support for military students and families. Some of the core support services include Transition and Deployment, Command-School-Community Communication, Partnerships in Education, Post-Secondary, and Special Education.
“The Youth Sponsorship Program is a Child and Youth Services initiative, ‘for youth, by youth.’ Seeing as they face similar situations with constant moves, it is only natural to have youth sponsors welcoming newcomers their age, as they can relate to one another. Youth sponsors help new youth focus less on what they are losing when they leave their previous homes behind, and more on what they are gaining when they arrive,” Dickson explained.
The program offers youth sponsorship trainings as well, which gives them the opportunity to become sponsors. Youth sponsors can be found at on-base DoDEA schools, Child and Youth Services Teen centers, as well as School Age Centers. Although the initiative began with sponsors for students in grades 6 to 12, children in grades four and five can also connect with sponsors their age.
Adolescents arriving to Wiesbaden tend to be matched to sponsors of their age, grade, gender and interests. The sponsors are given the responsibility of getting in touch with the incoming children, through email or message, and welcome them prior to their move. Both the incoming youth and the sponsor have a chance to then meet at school, allowing a smooth transition to their new surroundings.
Spouse Sponsorship is one of the several conveniences offered by the Relocation Readiness Program. It is a peer-to-peer spouse program, which helps spouses relocating to Wiesbaden receive insight into moves outside of the United States, life in Germany, and to meet new spouses before their arrival here.
In order for families to prepare for their transfers, “Plan my Move” is an online tool created to provide custom checklists that provides information about the tasks that need to be completed and how to do them. The checklist created is unique to the needs of each family.
“This tool is somewhat old school now, because with newer technology, you are able to connect through WhatsApp, for example. People prefer to have the first-hand contact, or they use Google to find answers to their questions,” said Geraldine Wilson, Relocation Readiness Program Manager.
Compared to what ACS offered in the past, the program has become increasingly digital. Despite the challenges that employees faced during the COVID pandemic, ACS did not shut down its services, but continued to provide services by making adjustments. Instead of in- person appointments, calls and emails were the primary way of continuing to be present for Soldiers and their families.
“ACS is the center of resources. If community members need something, we need to ensure that we are there to fulfill their needs,” Wilson further explained.
Another event spouses can benefit from is the monthly spouse orientation, held on the third Wednesday of every month. New spouses in Wiesbaden are invited to learn about all the resources available to them here. As Soldiers receive their mandatory in-processing training to help them settle, the spouse orientation provides information received from a spouse’s perspective, rather than relying on what the Soldiers bring home after their trainings. It can further help ease the transition for families by understanding the different outlets they can reach out to for their different needs. Spouses also have the opportunity to become sponsors themselves at these orientations, with a one-hour training.
“We encourage people to become sponsors so that they are able to network with others, and maybe build long-lasting relationships. For others, it’s a way to give back to the community and be a helping hand to those who are facing a situation they faced themselves, not too long ago,” said Wilson.
Wilson discussed how the ACS team continuously looks for way to improve their services. With the wide breadth of information, it can be difficult to discern what information is most valuable for families, as each newcomer has varying needs and expectations. Though it requires Spouses to be proactive in understanding the information, ACS does their best to make the material as accessible as possible – the latest method being QR codes leading to appropriate websites.
Staying open-minded to new processes is another important aspect for Wilson and her team. Continuing to adjust with the times and not staying set in longstanding procedures is how ACS can ensure successful customer service experiences.
“You have to have the heart to provide services, otherwise it’s not effective. It is about the dedication and desire we have to make sure that we provide the best services possible. If we don’t have the answer, we will refer you to the agency that does.”
For more information about youth sponsorship, contact the School Liaison Officer at: Christopher.email@example.com.
For more information about ACS, contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.