By Ms. Maureen Rose (IMCOM)February 22, 2011
Employees from the Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate attended a training program this week.
Often, training is scheduled after events indicate that some corrective action or additional information is needed to prevent employees from repeating mistakes. However, this training was proactive, to help prepare employees for an event that has not happened.
The training was about how to help a client or co-worker whose spouse has been killed or wounded in action. Since the recent deployment of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division to Afghanistan, FMWR Director Randy Moore determined it might be a good idea to prepare for the worst.
The training was a condensed version of that given to those who volunteer for Care teams. Care teams provide a presence and assistance when a family is in crisis, regardless if the critical event resulted in a Soldier injury in combat or a traffic accident on the local freeway.
According to Mobilization Specialist Anna Hoop, Fort Knox has 68 current volunteers who have been trained for the Care teams. None have been called upon to assist family members, although five Knox service members have been killed in action since the War on Terrorism began.
Michelle Buzzard, a spouse whose husband was killed in action in 2006, shared her story with the employees. Because she was on vacation at the time she was notified of her husband's death, Ms. Buzzard was not able to take advantage of a Care team. But she explained that it would have been very helpful to have someone else make all the painful telephone calls to notify other friends and family.
She also tried to describe the "fog" that envelopes many people upon receiving such heartbreaking news. Her advice to the employees was primarily to be patient with co-workers experiencing loss and to refrain from talking to surviving spouses as if they were stupid. The fog that may be a protection for them also keeps them from being fully alert to situations around them.
In addition to Ms. Hoop's description of the Care teams, Chaplain (Maj.) Rick Brunson added some informational training that he often shares when he trains new Care volunteers.
To help volunteers understand the frustration that family members often feel after a devastating event, he described an exercise he uses in training. He gives teams jigsaw puzzles to assemble, although most teams do not receive the correct pieces that match the puzzle illustration. Some don't even receive one set of puzzle pieces, but pieces from three different puzzles. He hears cries of "This isn't fair!" and "Hey, this doesn't match!"
After insisting the teams persevere for at least 30 minutes trying to assemble their mismatched puzzles, Chaplain Brunson said that frustration and missing fairness accurately captures what many people feel as they try to recover from a crisis.
"When life hands us pieces that don't fit the puzzle we wanted, we may be overwhelmed by the unfairness," he explained.
He also led the employees through a discussion of crises, the different types of crisis, ways to cope with crisis, and what the result of failure to cope may be.
Theresa Donahoe, wife of Col. Patrick Donahoe, the commander of the 4th Cavalry Brigade, received her training as a Care team volunteer in 2005 at Fort Hood, Texas. She shared some of her experiences and training with the employees.
"Being a Care team member is a life-changing experience," she said. "But the more people understand the Care teams, the more willing families will be to allow a Care team to help them and the more acceptance we'll receive."
Ms. Donahoe said she has cleaned homes, answered phones, kept logs of visitors, and numerous other basic functions to assist surviving spouses. Perhaps one of the most important functions, she said, is to act as the memory for spouses who may not be able to retain details like travel arrangements, which children need to be fed or picked up from school, and what resources had been offered.
Effective Care team volunteers exhibit maturity, life experience, discretion, stability, as well as good listening skills, and the ability to keep a family's situation private.
Care team training is offered every month and those who are interested should contact Ms. Hoop at Army Community Service, 624-3773.