By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellFebruary 2, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. - Ensuring the Army Reserve families' youngest members are not forgotten is the mission of the 81ST Regional Support Command's Child, Youth and School Services team here.
From locating scholarships to assisting families in pinpointing childcare services, Amanda Hammond and Jennifer Stevens are the newest members of the "Wildcat" Family Programs team.
Hammond, the Army Reserve School Support Specialist, said the enormous amount of resources available to the Army Reserve family are mind-boggling, but unless the Soldier or spouse reaches out, the programs go nearly unnoticed to thousands of families that could need assistance.
"We need to get the word out that the Army Reserve does have programs in place to take care of its own," Hammond said. "One of our biggest battles we face is educating our families outside military installations and located in our communities across the country."
As both Hammond and Stevens attend the monthly Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshops in Orlando for Soldiers who have recently returned from overseas deployments, they admit there is a misconception about CYSS.
She said the CYSS team is more than childcare and more about the Army Reserve family as a whole.
"People come up to us and ask where the childcare is in the building," Hammond said. "It's only when we explain to them what some of the resources available to them are, do they get it."
Working side-by-side Hammond is her teammate, Stevens, who is a Community Outreach Services Specialist for the Army Reserve.
With a large briefcase loaded with brochures and informational flyers, Stevens said the goal of the Army Reserve's newest venture for Family Programs is to reduce unwanted stress on its families.
"Our number one mission is to assist families before, during and after deployments," Stevens said. "We want to make sure we are able to reduce as much stress on the Soldier and the spouse left behind to care for the children."
Stevens, whose husband is retired after spending more than 20 years in the Army, currently has a son serving overseas in a combat zone.
"I know the stress that comes from being a military spouse," she said. "When my husband was in the Army, there were no programs available to my family to help us."
In fast forwarding a couple dozen or so years of military family hardships, Stevens has simple advice for young military families.
"Families must realize they are not alone," she said. "They must understand there are others in the same situation and possibly in the same communities. Reach to them for advice and support."
Stevens said there are so many programs in place throughout Army Reserve Family Programs, which assist families with things as simple as finding the right day camp to more in-depth decisions like choosing between home-schooling, private or public education.
"Our Soldiers and their spouses must seek support and not wait until it is too late," she said. "Families don't have to wait until the Soldier is deployed to ask the right questions."
Both agreed that Army Reserve CYSS serves a population greater than simply the younger generation.
Hammond said the military spouse's education is just as important and must not be put on the back shelf.
"We have to take care of the entire family unit," she said. "There are too many scholarships and grants out there to go unused. The Army Reserve takes education for the entire family very seriously."
Hammond said one of the common unknowns about the new program is that Army Reserve families without children can also take advantage of resources.
"It's important to remember that everyone can benefit from CYSS," she said.
As the new program sprouts roots and gains momentum, both Hammond and Stevens have big plans for Soldiers in the southeastern portion of the country.
Science and adventure camps are close on the horizon for the 81st RSC.
"We come here to Fort Jackson thinking big," Stevens said laughing. "We have so many ideas, and just trying to figure out which one goes first is the most difficult."
As their ideas are vented and approved, the CYSS team here works on their makeshift calendar with potential dates and locations to hosts some of the first school-aged programs for Army Reserve families in the area.
"Who wouldn't want to be at the ground level," Stevens said. "This is an exciting time to be in Family Programs, as we move forward with some exciting ideas to make the Army Reserve a great place to call home."
For more information about the Army Reserve CYYS program, visit the web at: www.arfp.org/cyss.