By Mrs. Karla A Seijas (FMWRC)May 3, 2011
The Joint Service Family Support Network, created by the Installation Management Command's Pacific Region Army Community Service staff, is a multi-agency network of military and civilian Family support providers that all service members can access, regardless of branch of service or duty location in the Pacific.
Thanks to the network, Families now receive Family support services either on the closest military installation or in the surrounding community. If a required service or support program isn't available within a reasonable distance, community support agencies partner with the network to step in and fill the service gap. The end result is a complete spectrum of support services for Families that is not service-specific.
The network started in Hawaii, and has since expanded across the Pacific to include Alaska North, Alaska South, Okinawa, Camp Zama, Guam, America Samoa and other small islands in the Pacific.
"Our service members deserve a quality of life commensurate with their service," said FMWRC Commander, MG Reuben D. Jones. "This makes access to services supporting quality of life easier in the Pacific Region."
The network is supported by members of each military branch and civilian support agencies. Participants in the network seek to work together and make things easier for everyone, while solving obstacles that arise for service members and their Families.
One recent success involved service members stationed in Japan who had difficulty with scheduling appointments for their children to obtain U.S. passports. The network has a relationship with the U.S. Embassy, so they scheduled a day where service members and their Families had full access to consular services.
Community Support Coordinators also identify local resources that are not available on installations and invite them to participate in the network. The Community Support Coordinators are located throughout the Pacific Region in all Army Community Service Centers and Army Reserve Centers, including American Samoa and Guam.
The network has an advisory council and regular network meetings. The advisory councils are comprised of Family program employees and representatives from community agencies which have signed partnership agreements with the network. The council makes site visits to specific communities that Community Support Coordinators have identified as having gaps in service for military Families, and seeks out ways to fill those service gaps.
Network meetings are structured to encourage representatives to intermingle and share information about services and programs provided, offer networking opportunities and introduce new partners. The partnerships then enable Army Community Service staff members to directly refer individuals to services outside their installations, providing faster solutions and creating a direct link to the local community where the service member and their Families reside.
"These partnerships establish the system of support visualized upon initial implementation of the pilot program in 2005," according to Debbie Wheeler, the IMCOM Pacific Program Manager.
During the network meetings, individuals work together and discuss different topics impacting service members and their Families, Wheeler explained. Since the majority of problems are not military branch specific or service member specific, collaboration can easily provide a solution.
One example of how the network meetings are having an impact, according to Wheeler, took place when "The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu Program Director attended a network meeting hoping to recruit service members as BBBS volunteers."
"A discussion point during the meeting was how children are being affected by deployments," Wheeler said. "The BBBS Program Director left the meeting and pursued grant funding for a new program specifically aimed to support children with a deployed parent."
Collaboration with outside agencies such as BBBS make it possible for the Joint Service Family Support Network to provide a better quality of life for service members, regardless of where the they live or serve.