Family forums focus on America’s families

Family forums focus on America’s families

Thursday, September 1, 2011

AUSA Family Programs is well on its way to finalizing the topics and presenters for the 2011 AUSA Military Family Forums at the Annual Meeting and Exposition.The Annual Meeting will be held from Oct. 10 through 12, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The overall Annual Meeting theme is "America’s Army: Strength of the Nation," ™ and the theme of the 2011 Military Family Forums is "America’s Families: Strength of the Army."Many Army commanders recognize the Military Family Forums as a professional development opportunity and support and fund the attendance of their Family Readiness Group (FRG) Leaders, Family Readiness Support Assistants (FRSA), volunteers and program managers.Our military has many leaders who share the common goal of maintaining the strength of our Army and caring for its soldiers and their families.Military Family Forum I on Monday, Oct. 10, is titled, "America’s Families: Our Leaders Speak" and will open with the recognition of the recipients of the AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award.This award recognizes an exceptional Army family whose dedicated volunteer service significantly contributes to improving the well-being of Army families and the local community. Nominees are submitted through AUSA chapters."Our Leaders Speak" will have presentations by invited Army leaders, including the secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh, and the Army chief of staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and Mrs. Dempsey.Following those presentations the director of the Army National Guard, Maj. Gen. Raymond W Carpenter and Mrs. Carpenter, and the chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz and Mrs. Stultz, will speak.This forum will give our leaders the opportunity to provide their perspective on the state of Army families and will include discussions about key issues being addressed within the active component, the National Guard and the Army Reserve. The audience will have the opportunity to pose questions and also comment on the issues they feel impact families.Although the number of troops deployed for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are being reduced, families are continuing to experience the effects of deployments and frequent separations.Military Family Forum II, titled "America’s Families: Ready and Resilient," will feature presentations on the efforts being made to keep our families feeling in control and remain strong and prepared not only to face unexpected challenges, but also to address on-going issues such as education and employment which often have such a huge impact on a family’s quality of life.Topics during these presentations will include updates on the Virtual Resiliency Campus, as well as the revised Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) and the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account program (MyCAA).The increasing numbers of incidents of domestic violence in military families is creating alarm for Army leaders and families alike. There will be a presentation on identifying, steps for prevention, as well as available resources if domestic violence occurs to help families address this concern and hopefully prevent volatile situations from escalating.Military children also feel the impact of family separations and turmoil, however, they often don’t know how to express their emotions and many feel isolated and confused.Backpack Journalist is a two-day workshop that not only teaches youth, ages 14-17, basic writing and reporting, broadcast and photojournalism skills, but also provides the opportunity to work through their emotions with other children experiencing the same issues by journaling about their feelings and reactions.This program, strongly supported by the National Guard and Army Reserve, has been lauded for its educational and mental health benefits for young people. Workshops have also recently been held at Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Bragg, N.C.During Military Family Forum II we will have a presentation from teen reporters from the Backpack Journalist program. The teens will be interviewing Annual Meeting and Military Family Forum participants and reporting about various events during the conference.They will also compile a video about the benefits they have received from the Backpack Journalist experience, and what they have learned and gained from attending the AUSA Annual Meeting.Sadly many military families have made the ultimate sacrifice and suffered the loss of a loved one in service to our country. These families must continue to be embraced and supported by the military community.Military Family Forum III will be held on the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 11, and is titled, "America’s Families: Honoring Our Survivors."This forum will address key issues raised by survivors and will include an update on legislative issues, as well as highlight lessons learned through Survivor Outreach Services.There will also be a presentation on the results of a National Study of Bereavement by the Uniformed Services University Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress. The forum will end with a short video which demonstrates the strength and resiliency of our surviving families.We have all been hearing about the need for budget reductions and the impact this may have on many of the programs currently supporting Army families. There have been repeated calls for communities to step up and help fill the void that a decrease in funding may cause.The family forum titled "America’s Families: The Community Embrace," will highlight the Army’s Community Covenant shift to emphasize the establishment of local Community Support Networks (CSN).There will also be presentations on how the National Guard and Army Reserve are inspiring their local communities to join in and support military families.This forum will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 12, from 8:30 am until noon. The forum will end with a video prepared by the Backpack Journalist teens.Debbie Fink, author of "It’s a Family Thanksgiving! A Celebration of an American Tradition for Children and Their Families" will be recognized, along with sponsors from BAE Systems and Raytheon for their continuing efforts supporting Operation Thanksgiving Eagle.Fink provides free copies of her book to express her gratitude to the military children for their daily sacrifices. This holiday workbook reminds us of why we hold strong to our history, our heritage and our family traditions and how we draw strength and inspiration from our heroes and our heroines.Later this year she will be performing with the USO to provide copies of the book, and entertain and thank military children in Europe.We thank Operation Thanksgiving Eagle sponsors BAE Systems, an electronics and global defense, security and aerospace company and Raytheon, a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world.Our AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year Award sponsors include TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the TRICARE contractor for the West Region; Express Scripts, the provider for the military mail order pharmacy benefit, and K12 Inc. (NYSE:  LRN), a technology-based education company and the nation’s largest provider of proprietary curriculum and online education programs to students in kindergarten through high school.Without their support, AUSA would not be able to recognize military families for their many contributions nor provide these informational sessions to help them be better prepared to meet the many challenges of military life.The president and CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance, David J. McIntyre Jr., recently said "We are honored to support AUSA in its recognition of military families, as far too often, they are America’s unsung heroes."Adding, "TriWest enthusiastically supports and honors the AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year as an example and representative for the many Army families who serve our nation."AUSA Family Programs is grateful for the partnership and support of our sponsors as we work together on behalf of military families. These corporate sponsors are true examples of how communities embrace and sustain our families.The Military Family Forums are open to all AUSA Annual Meeting participants. Registration for the forums is now available, as well as additional details concerning the Annual Meeting.Visit our Web site as soon as possible at www.udreg.com/ausa/family/ to register for the forums and to obtain additional information about the program. You may call us at (800) 336-4570, Ext. 150, or e-mail [email protected] with any questions or concerns.