The wife of the chief of the Army Reserve sees the “virtual installations,” like the one being formally dedicated in mid-May in Brevard, N.C., as “a meeting place between the military and the community.”
The centers “are not just for Army Reserve soldiers’ families but for Gold Star mothers, families of active duty soldiers and guardsmen and soldiers back home wounded in the war,” Laura Stultz said. “They also give a chance to the community to volunteer and for businesses to tell others about discounts or special services.”
The plan now is to have four pilot centers in metropolitan areas and four in rural areas. The first center opened in Rochester, N.Y.; Brevard is the second.
A native North Carolinian, she said that there are 1,200 Army Reserve soldiers within 50 miles of the center in addition to National Guard soldiers, airmen and their families and families of active duty soldiers who have deployed.
When her husband, now Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, deployed for the first Gulf War, she said, “I felt alone” and felt others had the same feeling. Being an Army Reserve spouse for 35 years, she wanted to help other families through those deployments. “What can we do to help them? Most are not near [Army Community Services] on an installation.”
Laura Stultz said the difference between her situation with four children at home and now is that even more spouses are working. “That makes a difference” in the time they have available to get to an installation. Also now, many Army Reserve soldiers are not assigned even to units in driving distance to their homes.
“We lived in the same home in Florida for 18 years” and when “he was traveling [for Proctor & Gamble], he was never gone for more than two weeks.” During the Gulf War, “I had to wear two hats,” and she saw the impact of the deployment and return home on her children.
“These Army Strong Community Centers [the official title for the virtual installations] are the link they need to get services. They don’t know how to go about using an installation and who to see.”
Laura Stultz recalled her first time going to Fort Campbell, Ky., shortly after she was married. “It was intimidating,” and most reserve component families were like her then -- no experience with an active duty installation. They unlike her then had an immediate need -- where to go when they have a TRICARE question.
Even before her husband became chief, she said, “I always thought families should have some place to go” for answers in a face-to-face meeting
“When he became chief, everyone thought it was an interesting idea. But many thought it wouldn’t happen. Everything moves slowly in the military.”
The pilot programs will provide the data on how to proceed in the future. “We want bang for the buck.”
Jack Stultz said that he hopes in the future these centers find a home in the Department of Defense with the expertise and the funding to help families from all the services.