Ensuring that all Army families receive services and programs wherever they are is the goal of a new program called the Army Integrated Family Support Network.
"It's needed because there are soldiers all over the world and not everyone (family member) is located next to an installation," said Kathryn Palmer, the mobilization and deployment manager for Army Community Service at Fort Gordon.
Palmer said the program is so new that she's had only initial training in it. Full training is scheduled for next month, with the goal to have the program implemented by Jan. 1.
The Family Support Network is designed to serve all Army families, including Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers. It will provide 14 baseline services that are easily available to those who live on a military post.
Families living on Fort Gordon can access numerous nearby programs. There are educational and recreational programs for children specifically designed to meet the needs of military families. Those who work with these programs understand the special circumstances of children whose parents are deployed to a war zone.
Families can get information on the health care provider Tricare. Also, there are financial services, counseling services and an array of other programs.
Through the support network, families of National Guardsmen and reservists who don't live on a base or even close to one can access information at home, she said.
On military bases, there are family readiness groups providing support to those with family members who are deployed. One unit at Fort Gordon, the 56th Signal Battalion, is spread across three different bases.
"They have a virtual FRG (family readiness group)," said Palmer. "It's the only way to do it."
The families of reservists and National Guardsmen from many states can unite through the program to provide support for one another.
Baseline services will include information and referral, money management, information for wounded soldiers, budget support, medical and legal information and managing deployment.
Palmer thinks the program will greatly affect the soldiers and families she serves.
"This will change the way we do business," she said. "We've got to be out there connecting the people to this."
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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