Family Programs connects with soldiers, families

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) was established in 1950 with the mission to assist America’s Army and support our soldiers in their commitment to protecting our nation’s freedom and security.

The AUSA Family Programs Directorate was established in 1999 with the mission: Focus on the needs of the Army family by providing information, resources and assistance and representation.

The Family Programs staff is dedicated to helping our families become better prepared to cope with and manage the many challenges of military life and to support them as needed.

"Supporting" our soldiers and their families means many things and involves many people.

It means consideration for soldiers’ needs, both in the field and at home. It means understanding their lives as warriors who are fighting for our nation while their husbands or wives, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters remain at home often caring for the soldiers’ sons and daughters.

And last but certainly not least, it also means helping to sustain soldiers’ families, especially if they are struggling or overwhelmed.

It has been said the strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other. AUSA Family Programs recognizes the strength, and loyalty in our Army families, and strives to uphold and enhance these attributes.

Our military families must stay strong and resilient while their loved ones serve as members of the world’s leading Army. They must feel empowered and encouraged.

We at AUSA Family Programs have an obligation to make every effort to help families feel this way by arming them with knowledge, about the many resources and forms of assistance available to them and their soldiers.

We strongly believe that knowledgeable families are better able to handle the challenges and stresses of military life.

We reach out to families and help them remain informed on current issues and policy changes that affect their pay, their medical care and benefits through our weekly e-mail "Family Programs Update."

Family Programs also develops partnerships with other groups and organizations that support and promote the Army family. We conduct educational forums featuring prominent Army and civilian leaders or community organizations who offer pertinent information about studies, programs, legislation and benefits.

Most AUSA staff members have either served in the military or lived as a military family member so we understand the challenges. However, to ensure that AUSA Family Programs truly represents Army families, it is very important that we visit installations and meet with family members regularly so that we fully comprehend the concerns that impact today’s Army families.

Schedules permitting, Family Programs staff members often travel on request to family-related events and provide special presentations dealing with current issues.

AUSA Family Programs also informs families through our Web site: http://www.ausa.org/family.

We have an abundance of information and resources for the military family such as news about Family Programs’ activities, AUSA chapter news, reading lists and book reviews, available publications, and Internet resources.

Our weekly newsletter for military families, "The Family Programs Update," is also posted on our Web site for those who have not subscribed to receive it via e-mail.

AUSA members receive the "Update" without having to subscribe, however non- members may also receive it by sending an e-mail to [email protected], and typing "subscribe" in the subject line.

AUSA’s Family Programs Directorate works closely with AUSA’s Government Affairs Directorate to address Army family issues through our legislative efforts. We provide resolutions we have gathered during discussions and focus groups with family members, and identify issues and concerns affecting military families which may require legislative attention.

The proposed resolutions are then forwarded for consideration by the AUSA National Resolutions Committee.

Our Association’s annual legislative goals booklet is published and provided to members in January. It is also online at www.ausa.gov.

AUSA is a member of The Military Coalition and joins with 32 other member organizations to strengthen our advocacy efforts on legislation that affects our military and their families.

We are major sponsors of the Army Family Action Plan – a program that brings delegates from all over the Army and gives them the opportunity to participate in providing recommendations to solve issues that have come up to Department of the Army level from installations and units.

We support the Military Child Education Coalition, another non-profit organizations, that specializes in working on education issues affecting military children.

In addition to the organizations mentioned here, we support or participate in numerous other family readiness activities that serve active duty, National Guard and Army Reserve families, retirees and Department of the Army civilians.

We also provide a voice for Army families through representation on a number of Department of Defense and Department of the Army working groups, councils and advisory boards for education, employment, healthcare, quality of life and readiness.

By providing professional development events for spouses from all components of the Army at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition, we are able to reach out to many family readiness leaders, volunteers, family program managers and others who work on behalf of military families.

The Annual Meeting is held in Washington in October, and it encompasses many different events and exhibits that provide opportunities to meet Army and civilian leaders, gather information and network with others who help sustain the Army family.

We encourage and bolster AUSA chapter efforts that support our Army families. AUSA chapters provide local support and assistance to our deployed soldiers – and the families left behind.

There are currently 125 AUSA chapters worldwide that have many dedicated volunteers working to address the problems soldiers and families in their locales are experiencing. Find the chapter near you and see what they are doing to support the families in your unit or community.

Our chapters are vital in our support network for soldiers and their families and often provide assistance in case of emergencies, as well as recreational and educational opportunities.

AUSA chapters have contributed over two million dollars in awards, scholarships and support not only to Army families in their communities, but also to other service families as well.

We work with others to support or sponsor programs to recognize the dedication and sacrifice of our military spouses and children.

Through one program, titled "Operation Thanksgiving Eagle," and with the sponsorship of author Debbie Fink, as well as corporate sponsors BAE Systems and Raytheon, we have distributed free of charge to military children in the past three years approximately 18,000 books.

"Operation Home Cooking" was another event to recognize military spouses. Through this program, hundreds of military spouses had the opportunity to enjoy a carefree day hosted by The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show where they met celebrity chefs and enjoy special prizes.

We recently joined The Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN) to host a Free Virtual Training program for military spouses seeking jobs. We will be hosting others in the future.

The quality of life for our soldiers and their families has long been a high priority for us. Army families are experiencing higher levels of stress than ever before as a result of almost 10 years of war, more frequent deployments and recurring separations between the soldier and his or her family.

Many families are feeling disconnected and overburdened. By connecting with organizations such as AUSA we can help lessen that burden and provide a link to available programs and resources. Join with us as we work to address the needs of the Army family.

If you, your family or someone you know needs our assistance, AUSA Family Programs is always ready to help.

We want you to remain Army Strong.