SUPPORT/CARE OF FAMILY
OBSERVATION: Family support programs were a basic necessity during deployment.
DISCUSSION: The cohesion provided by the groups opens lines of communication and relieves anxiety. Family support programs also provide a sense of unity and lift the morale of both family and unit members. These programs link together unit members and families and provide means of exchanging essential information.
LESSON(S): Family support programs are essential to unit readiness. These programs should be initiated and exercised at all AC and RC units. Command involvement in family support programs is vital to success. Spouses need to know benefits and services available to them and their families. JAG, chaplains, and other representatives provide valuable information. Some aspects of family support programs include:
- Establishing an 800 telephone number for family assistance calls.
- Providing discount ticket book with significant savings to family members on and off post.
- Providing liaison with the local community such as meeting with local mayors, identifying volunteers to adopt a family, coordinating USO activities.
- Coordinating with major food stores for donations of nonperishable food items, diapers, baby food, and formula. Arranging with the commissary and area stores to set up barrels and displays for patrons to contribute items.
- Obtaining donations of nonperishables for sundry packs to be forwarded to deployed soldiers.
- Developing a brochure for family members which provides information, encouragement, and on-post recreational opportunities.
- Offering free blocks of tickets to family support groups for current productions, sports and other entertainment.
OBSERVATlON: Numerous changes in deployment times added to family stress.
DISCUSSION: Deployment schedule changes were caused by many factors such as changing priorities or transportation shortfalls. The impact on the military community is that soldiers say goodbye to their families several times.
LESSON(S): Leaders should be aware of the emotional highs and lows that result from continual changes in deployment times. Family support groups help military dependents deal with the added stress by generating a common bond among waiting families.
OBSERVATION: At some installations the Directorate of Personnel and Community Activities (DPCA) and the Directorate of Engineering and Housing (DEH) conducted c1asses to assist spouses.
DISCUSSION: Free classes were offered to family members to help them deal with activities normally handled by the soldier. This gave spouses helpful information to deal with, or find assistance in resolving, problems.
LESSON(S): Installation commanders should consider providing classes to spouses in areas such as:
- Basic automotive maintenance
- Home maintenance and repair
- Ground maintenance
- Checkbook balancing and budgeting
OBSERVATION: Some financial institutions, including on-post banks, did not accept general powers of attorney.
DISCUSSION: Businesses are not legally bound to accept them.
LESSON(S): Emphasize Sure Pay to military sponsors before deployment.
Explain the benefits of joint accounts.
Ensure that deploying soldiers have a viable plan to care for their families.
OBSERVATION: DPCA drug and alcohol and mental health counselors provided assistance atthe Family Assistance Center.
DISCUSSION: There was an increased need for drug and alcohol and mental health counseling support to family members of deployed soldiers.
LESSON(S): Use drug and alcohol and mental health program coordinators to handle the increase in family member requirements.
OBSERVATION: Deployment increased lease and local commercial contract termination.
DISCUSSION: The wording of some contracts made it impossible for soldiers to cancel leases. As a result, they were responsible for long-term payment obligations.
LESSON(S): Army Community Service and JAG need to be aware that requests for assistance will increase.
Cooperation between the installation's leadership and vendors of the local community is helpful in facilitating the termination of soldier contract obligations.
OBSERVATION: Some family care plans may prove inadequate during an extended deployment.
DISCUSSION: The value of family care plans cannot be understated. Many plans are realistic and work very well for extended periods. Some plans are based on short-term field exercises. They may work initially, but as time passes, designated guardians may need assistance. Some service members needed short leaves to take children to guardians.
LESSON(S): Commanders must take a personal interest in family care plans and exercise good judgement in assessing their viability for extended deployments well before a soldier ships out. Family support groups and rear detachment commanders need to monitor family care plans.
OBSERVATION: During deployment, a significant increase in bad checks was experienced.
DISCUSSION: Several factors contributed to the problem: changes in pay and allowances such as loss of BAS, both sponsor and spouse writing checks, and checkbook balancing errors. Bad checks can result in suspension of check-cashing privileges on and off post.
LESSON(S): Educate soldiers regarding the split check-writing problem and changes in pay.
Rear detachment commanders must be prepared for the increase in returned checks, yet remain sensitive to the impact of withdrawing check-cashing privileges.
OBSERVATION: The strong perception by families that they will be assisted during the service member's deployment is very important to soldier and spouse.
DISCUSSION: Soldiers that fail to update, in detail, their family care plans and family support programs experience enormous difficulties during deployment. This results in added stress, morale problems, and can affect soldier readiness.
LESSON(S): Build databases on family members within parameters of the Freedom of Information Act. By capturing important information before deployment, units avoid problems that are difficult to resolve when the soldier is deployed. If soldiers are willing to provide helpful information, the database should include:
- Address and phone number of the family while the soldier is deployed.
- Work address and phone number of the spouse.
- Location of dependents' schools.
- Whether the spouse speaks English. If not, what language? Are there bilingual friends nearby?
- If spouse has access to savings/checking account. Does the soldier have Sure Pay?
- Whether there are any dependents enrolled in the exceptional family member program. Are there any special needs?
- If the soldier made a will. Does the spouse have any powers of attorney that are needed?
- If the family needs financial counseling.
- Whether the family needs assistance terminating a lease or contract.
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