FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Many people see New Year's as a fresh start and resolve to implement positive practices or forgo bad habits in order to improve their lives.

Luckily for the Fort Rucker community, officials here offer plans, support systems and tips for helping New Year's resolutions last long past January.

Drop unhealthy habits

Some people use New Year's Day as a time to drop unhealthy habits such as smoking, drugs and drinking.

To aid in those efforts, Army Substance Abuse Program Prevention Coordinator Jesse Hunt suggests people who aim to quit those habits seek counseling or support groups.

People who join support groups or seek counseling often have more determination to achieve their goals. Support groups allow people to share their stories, which "feeds others' motivation," Hunt said.

About 75 percent of those counseled or members of support groups succeed in dropping their habits, a number that decreases for those who don't, Hunt noted.

ASAP provides drug and alcohol counseling services for Soldiers, Families, military retirees and Department of the Army civilians. For more information, call 255-7509.

The Wellness Center offers Tobacco Use Cessation classes every Thursday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Classes, held in Rm. J-100 at Lyster Army Health Clinic, are free to Soldiers, retirees, Family members, Department of the Army civilians. Members of the latter group are required to pay for any necessary medications, including nicotine patches or gum. Soldiers, retirees and Families receive these products free. Call 255-9915 for more information.

Obtain higher education

Some strive to obtain higher education with the start of a new semester. Expanding one's skills advances Army and civilian job success, officials said.

"Education is paramount," said Education Service Officer Jeff Pouncy. "The whole idea behind education is to better oneself."

Various Army programs offer tuition assistance for Soldiers and spouses at and, respectively. Education counselors can also discuss financial aid during appointments at Bldg. 5700, Rm. 240 or by calling 255-2378.

Enlisted Soldiers receive promotion points for college credit hours taken, Pouncy added, noting education not only helps them become better individuals, but also aids them professionally.

For those with mobile military lifestyles, Pouncy recommends researching online programs. He said many colleges and universities offer Internet-based degrees and prospective students should search school Web sites for such opportunities.

Education Center staff offer their free services to Soldiers, Family members and Department of the Army civilians. For more information, call Pouncy at 255-1072.

Establish financial goals

Establishing realistic goals becomes critical to year-round financial success, said Beth Gunter, Army Community Service financial counselor.

"When establishing goals, it is productive to put them in black and white," she said. "They need to be specific. Include if it is a short-, medium- or long-term goal, what date you would like to complete it and the financial component to the goal."

Gunter said people's budgets should include basic expenses as well as allotments for emergencies or infrequent costs like car repairs and gifts. Those budgeting should earmark every dollar for spending or saving to ensure proper use.

Attending free on-post workshops and classes also aid people in organizing their finances.
Soldiers and Families may attend a Banking Account Maintenance class Jan. 21 from 8 to 10 a.m. in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 390. Attendees will learn money management using checking accounts.

An Understanding Credit Reports workshop is conducted Feb. 18 from noon to 1 p.m. in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 371A, and covers what makes someone credit worthy, using credit wisely, and understanding credit reports and scores.

A Debt Reduction workshop is held Feb 23. Attendees gather in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 371G from noon to 1 p.m. to learn about spending plans and credit counseling.

To register for classes or personal financial counseling, call ACS at 255-2594 or 255-9631.

Volunteer time, talent

People can help themselves by helping others, said Army Volunteer Corps Program Manager Karen Hayes. Vowing to make a difference by sharing one's time is an ideal way to begin 2010.

Post organizations such as chapels, Boy and Girl Scouts, youth sports, spouses clubs and the Thrift Shop all need helping hands.

"What could be more worthwhile than giving of your time or talent'" Hayes asked. "Most volunteer opportunities ... are not 'skilled' positions. They only require a little time and an open heart."

Volunteering also leads to self-fulfillment and feelings of productivity, Hayes said. It allows people to learn new skill sets and explore different careers. It's an opportunity for those who can't work full-time to keep their resumAfAs and experience current for when they reenter the workforce, she noted.

Those of all ages wishing to give back or looking for a list of volunteer positions, may contact ACS staff in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 390, or call 255-3643.

Focus on spiritual well-being

While some people resolve to improve their external appearance and health after the New Year, some focus on their internal, or spiritual, wellness.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Claude Crisp, deputy installation chaplain, said many people seek to improve their spiritual well-being because of the "uncertainty of the future."

He recommends a few tips for people seeking to improve their spiritual health, noting people should find a church family.

"It surrounds them with people of faith. It gives them additional support mechanisms for challenges they may face during the year," he said.

Crisp also encourages people to read more of God's word and to seek spiritual counseling from installation chaplains or ministers. People can learn about programs available through Fort Rucker by calling 255-2989.