AUSA Family Programs
I hope our headline got your attention.
AUSA has always prided itself as being "The Voice for the Army – Support for the Soldier."
The always understood but still unofficial ending to this motto is – "and their families."
At AUSA, "Support for the Soldier" means support for all aspects of a soldier’s life to include, most importantly, their families.
We value our Army families deeply.
Since the creation of the Family Programs Directorate in 1999, AUSA has made a diligent effort to provide education and support aimed at increasing the quality of life of Army family members.
But in 2013, we are at a crossroads.
We realize that the voices of family members can never really be heard unless that voice is all encompassing in the form of a full-fledged membership in AUSA for spouses.
In January, AUSA Family Programs Directorate conducted a focus group made up of Army spouses to determine if there was interest in an "AUSA Spouse" membership category.
Prior to the meeting, several of the focus group participants reached out to their spouse networks and asked about their knowledge of AUSA.
Many spouses they connected with –of all ranks and in all components – had a number of misconceptions about the Association.
They had not heard of AUSA; they confused us with USAA; they thought we were an "officers only" group and, when discussing local AUSA chapters, they thought our chapters were geared for "businesses to join," not families.
They received comments such as:
"I think that spouses identify with each other. It is my experience that they currently have no idea that they can join [AUSA] and what joining does for them, or what AUSA’s mission is."
"In speaking to other spouses, I don’t think they understand that AUSA has a strong focus on Army families and that the insight of dependents is important to them to assure that here is accurate representation of the spouse/family perspective."
Families had no idea of the type of work AUSA was doing on their behalf.
For instance many were not aware that in 2012 AUSA Family Programs:
Participated and co-sponsored the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) Conference
Helped sponsor various organizational events to include Americans Working Around the Globe (AWAG), a Backpack Journalist, Military Children’s Conference hosted by Partnership for Children, Stronger Families Trainings
Supported legislative efforts focused on military spouse employment, military children’s educational issues, opposed TRICARE changes for families with disabilities
Launched an AUSA Family Programs Facebook page.
Reached out to 2,000-plus Military Family Forums virtual delegates during AUSA’s Annual Meeting and Exposition and provided a venue for real time questions and answer periods
Attended and spoke at various conferences and gatherings
Joined the Military Spouse Employment Partnership and have been selected to participate on the MSEP Spouse Ambassador Network
When we asked our focus group what could be done to change that perception they stated loud and clear: Give us a vote!
They agreed that it was important to increase understanding of the AUSA mission and how it pertains to Army families, gain potential members’ trust through transparency and good communication, and highlight advocacy campaigns and results that pertain specifically to military families.
But, most importantly, spouses wanted their own category of AUSA membership in our Association.
"I would love to get more involved because I really feel if I could be heard I could provide good feedback as to the many things I have encountered the past few years as a military spouse. Plus, I love what AUSA stands for. They are really trying to make a difference."
"… making a difference and being an active participant in the process. We don’t want "people" making decisions about us in a vacuum. AUSA is a way to give my voice a platform."
We have heard you loud and clear.
Beginning in October, AUSA will offer a spouse membership category for all interested Army and Department of the Army civilian spouses.
This membership will enable a spouse to benefit from all that AUSA has to offer and, in addition, participate in ways spouses have not done before.
In addition, the first 100 members will receive a free spouse AUSA Member Pin designed exclusively by Ann Hand of Washington, D.C., fame.
We want to hear your voices in our conversations. We want to tap into the knowledge, pride and passion that you feel as a member of the Army family, and we want you to know that as an AUSA spouse member, your opinion shapes the work we do.
Please join us.
Specific information on the spouse membership will be found in October on our website, so please visit often at www.ausa.org.
In the meantime please feel free to email me with any questions or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family Strong – Army Strong!