Military and civilian leaders from Fort Bragg met with leaders from the school systems of several surrounding counties at the Educators Meeting April 19, at the Ardennes neighborhood center.

The educators meeting was meant to give local school authorities a chance to receive information from Fort Bragg officials and to address any concerns they were having about how to help the current and new military students they will be seeing in the next few years.

Col. David G. Fox, Fort Bragg garrison commander, opened the meeting by speaking about the concerns the command has about the effects of extending Soldier's tours from 12 to 15 months.

Families who were expecting their loved ones home at a certain time now have to extend their "countdown calendar" by 90 days. This will be stressful for both the Soldiers and the families, said Fox.

Karen Miller, the chief of Child and Youth Services at Fort Bragg, informed attendees about the Military Child Education Coalition, a program started at Fort Hood which focuses on supporting children of Soldiers who have been killed or severely injured.

"What we are seeing in our schools is that school performance is starting to drop," said Miller.

The Military Child Education Coalition incorporates community involvement to help military children with "Living in the New Normal". Military children must now deal with the deployment of loved ones more often, said Miller.

The local education leaders were updated about the increase expected in the number of military students in the area by Peter Van Borkulo, the modular force integrator at Fort Bragg, and Paul Dordal, the executive director of the Fort Bragg/ Pope Air Force Base Base Realignment and Closure Regional Task Force.

Van Borkulo spoke to the educators about how the Army's modularization process will affect the number of military students in the Fort Bragg area. He explained how the movement of units into, out of, and within Fort Bragg will occur over the next few years.

Dordal addressed the funding concerns many of the local school leaders have about the increase in students.

The U.S. Congress wants programs such as Impact Aid to help lessen the financial burden school districts affected by the influx of military families feel.

The area educators were given information about organizations on Fort Bragg that aid them in helping military children who might be having trouble coping with separation from a loved one.

Tom Hill, the Family Advocacy program manager on Fort Bragg, talked about the different problems separation might cause children and what educators can do to help.
"Kid's need structure and routine," said Hill.

Martha Brown, the Deployment Readiness program manager from Army Community Service, said that Fort Bragg has many programs to help families through the deployment of a loved one.

"It's about knowing about those resources that are available to them," said Brown.
Brown said she wants to work with the local school districts in order to get that information home to the families.

Soldiers who are coming straight from initial entry training are often deployed, and their families do not know about the different programs that the Army has to help them here, said Fox.

"If the school counselors know that a military child is coming in," he said, "they can watch them to see if they need information."