ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Dec. 5, 2007) - Key personnel responsible for the establishment of the Army's new Soldier and Family Assistance Centers on Installation Management Command garrisons gathered this week to train for the new mission and to discuss the way ahead for SFAC implementation.

The three-day conference covered a diverse array of topics ranging from legal issues to post-traumatic stress disorder, to casualty and mortuary affairs to Social Security and health insurance. Attendees included the new SFAC directors and Army Community Service directors from the installations where SFACs reside.

Brig. Gen. John Macdonald, IMCOM's deputy commanding general, told participants that, in standing up these SFACs on their installations, they will be taking a unique place in history.

"No one will have a greater impact on the culture of these SFACs than you - the people who are first on the ground, in setting up SFAC operations," Brig. Gen. Macdonald said. "We have the opportunity here to create a climate - a loving, warm, healthy, healing climate that makes our heroes, our wounded warriors, want to get better."

Earlier this year, the Army Medical Action Plan directed IMCOM to establish 29 SFACs located on installations in the continental United States that have military medical facilities and are home to Warriors in Transition Units. These WTUs and SFACs were established to provide critical support services to Soldiers who have sustained injuries or combat wounds while serving in defense of the nation.

Europe will also serve a widely-dispersed population of warriors in transition through garrison assets, officials said, operating under guidance from three SFAC directors at critical sites.

SFACs are a holistic approach to the needs of wounded warriors and their Families, officials said, because they consolidate the most frequently-needed services in one location to reduce the time required to access programs aimed at helping Soldiers heal. Those services include providing information and referral services to Soldiers and their Families; transition and employment assistance; social services; legal assistance; military personnel services; pastoral care; education services; invitation travel claims for Families; and numerous others.

"The SFAC will not be a place where broken people come for help," Brig. Gen. MacDonald said. "It will be a place where strong, brave, proud men and women come to rebuild and reclaim their lives. We will give them our sensitivity, not our pity. We will be partners in their progress, not their deterioration."

Installations are currently building or renovating structures that will become the SFAC hubs. The facilities, often referred to as campuses, are intended to provide a positive and user-friendly environment where officials said warriors in transition and their Families can devote all their energies to the mission of healing and transitioning - either back to their units or to new lives as productive citizens. Most of the SFACs report being on track to operate fully by January and IMCOM officials said any with challenges will get help as the command monitors and enables the process.

(Theresa Zahaczewsky serves with the IMCOM Public Affairs Office.)