By SGT Mary KatzenbergerJuly 27, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - When Vicki L. Hamlin thinks about the history of the Army Community Service program she is amazed how far the organization has come in the past five decades.
The director of the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield ACS program said that what began as a fledgling volunteer outfit has become an officially recognized, essential program that has positively impacted Soldiers and their Families across the Army in immeasurable ways.
On July 25, ACS employees celebrated the organization’s 46th year in operation with birthday cakes and the set-up of informational booths at both Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield Exchanges. Even on a day of celebration, the ACS employees worked to let the military population know that assistance is always available.
“Everything we do comes back to ... readiness [and] making sure the Soldiers are self-reliant, resilient and stable,” Hamlin said. “If the Soldier is worried about the [Family] or there are issues going on ... those things ... can build to make that Soldier not prepared and focused.”
Hamlin, who spoke in her office full of file folders and tidy stacks of papers, said the ACS of today is quite different from the organization she joined more than 20 years ago. The director said the program has " and will always continue to " evolve to ensure that the needs of each generation of Soldiers and their Family Members are met.
In the beginning, Hamlin said, ACS typically provided its services at one building, and the services offered were limited to counseling sessions and classroom instruction. The director said that in the past 10 years the program has evolved to include the provision of services in a variety of areas, including at the Soldier’s military units and in their homes.
An example of a critical change ACS has undergone has been the incorporation of the Military and Family Life Consultant program, Hamlin said. The program, which is funded by the Department of Defense to supplement the ACS mission, has embedded 34 professionals into military units, post schools and at Child, Youth and School Services. The director said the mission of the consultants is to provide a constant presence to advertise that assistance is always available. They do this by touching base with Soldiers in unit motor pools, parking lots and in company areas throughout the Stewart and HAAF footprints.
“I use the term sidewalk social work,” Hamlin said of the work MFLCs perform. “They really break down those barriers.”
Hamlin said that once barriers have crumbled and Soldiers or their Family Members have committed to seeking assistance, ACS is prepared to offer its services. The way in which this assistance is provided has also changed over the past 46 years, the director said.
Hamlin said that today’s ACS employees provide a more thorough treatment approach than was offered in the past. She said the professionals now not only work to identify and help mitigate the core problem the individual is experiencing, but also work to mitigate the supplemental problems that may be hovering in the peripheral and adding to the individual’s challenges.
“It’s gotten to the point that we simply need to use our instinct when somebody comes in,” Hamlin said. “We want to treat them as a whole person and not send them off to 18 different places to get help if we can find a way to help them.”
Hamlin said that many challenges Soldiers and their Family Members face are multi-faceted, and it takes skilled professionals to tease out the finer details. She said the transition to the “whole person” treatment model has been difficult, but that her staff have proven themselves to be up to the challenge.
The director said the military leadership on Stewart and Hunter committed to continuing to facilitate the new directions in which ACS is moving, but that consumer feedback on which ACS services are seen as most vital is needed.
Hamlin said that all members of the military community are invited to complete a brief online survey by July 31, which can be found at www.myarmyonesource.com/Family/ProgramsSurvey.
Hamlin said the results of the survey will allow her and the command to help steer the installations’ ACS programs in the right direction so that the needs of today’s generation of Soldiers and their Families are met.
Hamlin said she quotes Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, Installation Management Command commanding general, when people ask her what ACS’s mission is by stating that the goal is to provide the right service at the right time, the first time.