By Sheryl Nix, Fort Wainwright PAODecember 9, 2010
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - It's that time of year again. Twinkle lights are twinkling. Christmas favorites by Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis fill the air and tales of yuletide joy and merry ever after are the norm on television's primetime lineup. This is often called the most wonderful time of the year; the season of joy, peace and giving. Gift-giving is a big topic on the minds of Soldiers and families during the holidays, but one of the biggest gifts Soldiers and families at Fort Wainwright have received in recent years is the Army Family Covenant.
Originally signed in 2007, the AFC put in writing what Army leaders have said for years now - Soldiers and families matter. It also helped them put funding behind their sentiments in terms of standardizing family programs and services, increasing accessibility to health care, improving Soldier and family housing, ensuring excellence in child, youth and school services and expanding education and employment opportunities for family members.
Army Community Service programs and resources offer some of the best ways to see the intent behind the AFC lived out in the Army community. Just like the Christmas classic, "The 12 Days of Christmas," ACS offers gifts for the Wainwright community wrapped up in 12 programs.
Although there are no partridges in pear trees in Fairbanks, the first gift from ACS for many newcomers is the Relocation Readiness program which offers everything from sponsorship training and newcomer orientations to a lending closet and computer lab to aid those transitioning in and out of Fort Wainwright.
A second gift of ACS is the Exceptional Family Member program which provides invaluable support and assistance with services for therapy, education and counseling for Soldiers who have family members with special needs.
ACS also runs the Army Family Team Building program which offers classes and resources to bridge the gap between the Army and family members and gives the gift of knowledge to families.
The Mobilization and Deployment Readiness program gives the gifts of resiliency and readiness to Soldiers, families and family readiness groups. Through deployment briefings, FRG support and training, rear detachment support and a wealth of resources, this program works to ease deployment stress and support Soldiers and families.
On the fifth day of Christmas, the recipient in the song received five golden rings. Perhaps a budget is in order for this gift-giver. ACS has a program for that, too. The Financial Readiness program gives the tools and understanding necessary for Soldiers and family members to be financially responsible. So whether the issue is overspending during the holidays, preparing for extra deployment income or just general financial advice and counseling, the FRP staff hopes Soldiers and families will give themselves the gift of a visit to their office this year.
Army Emergency Relief provides emergency financial assistance and food vouchers and its stated mission is to help the Army take care of its own. So this program not only provides the gift of help when needed, but also allows Soldiers and families to be part of the giving, which also gives them the gifts of being kind and generous.
Another way ACS helps Soldiers and families give back to their community is through the Army Volunteer Corps program. Volunteering not only benefits the community but also the individual through developing job and rAfAsumAfA skills, meaningful work and personal satisfaction.
The eighth gift of ACS might be just what those eight maids-a-milking were looking for during the cold winter months - the Employment Readiness program. The ERP offers classes on rAfAsumAfA preparation, career planning, federal application assistance and interview skills for Soldiers and family members seeking employment opportunities.
The gifts of help and resources when you need them most are available to Soldiers and family members through the ACS Family Advocacy Program. In addition to intervention services and domestic violence and sexual- assault prevention campaigns, this program provides information on healthy life skills, parent education, child-rearing, stress management and relationships. They also have a wide variety of books, activities and games Soldiers and families can check out throughout the year.
A special gift from ACS, the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, provides a one-stop shop for Warriors in Transition and their families, allowing them to focus on healing. The SFAC ensures Soldiers and families receive the information and referrals they need as soon as possible.
The Survivor Outreach Services program offers the gift of commitment and support to the families of fallen service members - those who have given all. Demonstrating the Army's commitment to survivors, SOS provides a network of agencies and resources to assist them and ensure they have access to all their benefits and are able to maintain a bridge to the military for as long as they choose.
The 12th gift from ACS is the Army Family Action Plan and while AFAP participants may not see drummers drumming like the 12th gift in the Christmas song, initiatives and issues addressed in recent AFAP conferences have often beaten the drums of change and ushered in upgrades and changes in benefits and services for Soldiers, families and retirees throughout the Army community. AFAP, an Army-wide initiative to identify and prioritize issues important to Soldiers and families, allows Soldiers and families from the total Army family to have their voices heard and make lasting contributions to Army communities around the world.
Even after the joy, excitement and wonder of this season has transitioned into a new year of activity, deployment preparations and day-to-day life, ACS will still be giving gifts to Wainwright Soldiers and families. After all, those are the best gifts - the ones that endure long after the toys, clothes and gadgets typically found in Santa's bag of goodies are broken, out-of-style or obsolete. ACS will continue to give Soldiers and families gifts that last and keep on giving.