Army Reserve’s ‘Fort Family’ provides rallying point for soldiers
Being a U.S. Army Reserve soldier can be financially, emotionally and logistically challenging for both the citizen-soldier and his or her family.
More than 254,000 family members are significantly impacted by a loved one’s decision to serve in the U.S. Army Reserve. Each family situation is unique – and so are the issues with which they contend.
That’s where the Army Reserve Family Programs’ (ARFP) Fort Family comes in.
Fort Family is the rallying point for Army Reserve Family Programs because it addresses any and every family question or need on a 24/7/365 basis.
"The Army Reserve is a family," said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief, Army Reserve and commanding general, U.S. Army Reserve Command, "and Fort Family wants to help you."
Its outreach and support specialists and staff, always available at its operations center located at Fort Bragg, N.C., are thoroughly trained and well versed in ARFP’s variety of programs and services.
They provide courteous, prompt and professional information and program referrals to soldiers, family members and Army Reserve civilians looking for answers or assistance.
One of Talley’s major initiatives is for Fort Family outreach specialists to partner with the Army Reserve Private Public Partnership (P3) team for employment resources and opportunities with partner organizations in local communities.
On a daily basis, they connect families with childcare referrals, local school resources, youth activities and community organizations.
They also help find temporary shelter and permanent housing, provide information on financial and benefits assistance, and support families in time of loss or crisis to include suicide prevention, sexual harassment, and assault and response prevention (SHARP).
Fort Family is often the go-to place to find help when other resources are unavailable or difficult to access.
In one instance, a deployed female reserve soldier who experienced the tragic death of a close family member within 60 days of mobilizing.
Bernard Goss, director, U.S. Army Reserve Medical Command Family Programs, put her in touch with Fort Family and Survivor Outreach Services (SOS).
These specialists immediately provided her with the assistance, information and support she needed to effectively cope.
At a Yellow Ribbon reintegration program post-deployment event months later, the soldier thanked Goss for the referral.
"She told me that if it weren’t for the referral, she wouldn’t have known about the resources, especially Fort Family and SOS, and she wouldn’t have been able to take care of her family," Goss said.
Adding, "It was gratifying and humbling for her to take the time to come back and say: ‘Thank you.’"
Maj. Lisa Yanity, program manager for the Fort Family Outreach and Support Center, said, "Fort Family is extremely effective in addressing the distinctive challenges that come with the Army Reserve lifestyle and recognizing that family life in the reserve has changed considerably over the years."
She added, "Many Army Reserve soldiers still have a traditional, nuclear family with a spouse and children, but many others are single parents or are taking care of aging parents, adult children, younger siblings or a much-loved pet."
"Every family is a little bit different and there are so many pressures and worries that people are dealing with today, whether it’s finding safe after-school activities for their children, dealing with financial troubles or making sure that their dog is going to be cared for while they are deployed," Yanity said.
Adding, "That’s why we tailor every single solution to each soldier or family member who needs our assistance. We are all on call 24x7x365 so our soldiers and families know they are not alone. Help and support is just a phone call away."
Fort Family is proactive with its assistance.
For example, over the last year, outreach specialists made thousands of calls and contacts to check in with reserve soldiers and families who may have been affected by Hurricane Patricia, the Paris Terror Attacks or the mass shooting at the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs where a veteran and his spouse were killed.
Fort Family outreach specialists also routinely initiate wellness checks with soldiers and family members – not just during disasters or other tragedies.
And, sometimes, Fort Family reaches out at the request of others. Recently, a reserve commander called the Fort Family hotline and requested help for one of his soldiers who was having a difficult time dealing with the end of his marriage and couldn’t find a local counselor who would accept his insurance.
Fort Family facilitated a counseling referral to Give an Hour, a non-profit organization that provides mental health services to U.S. military service members, and identified and directed him to a local divorce support group.
The soldier took advantage of this service and soon reported back that he was doing much better.
"He was thankful that we were there to help and felt Fort Family went above and beyond by also finding the divorce support group," Yanity noted.
Adding, "The commander also said that if Fort Family had not been available, he would not have been sure who to call. That commander is now recommending Fort Family to all of his fellow commanders to ensure that all his soldiers are aware that we are available for them."
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For more information on ARFP and its Fort Family programs and services, call (866) 345-8248 or visit www.arfp.org.
Army Reserve Family Programs