Joint Base Lewis-McChord has first AUSA traveling family forum

Friday, May 01, 2015

The Family Readiness Directorate has taken its popular military family forums on the road.

Working collaboratively with local AUSA Chapters and leaders from the installation Army Community Service (ACS) the first of three forums was held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on March 15.

The forum, titled "Education for the Entire Family," was focused on education issues facing servicemembers, military spouses and military children. The morning session was focused on local, district and state initiatives aimed at supporting the educational experience of military families.

Panelists included School Superintendents from Clover Park, Bethel, North Thurston, and Puyallup School Districts, as well as Mona Johnson, director, student support, Washington State Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction; Greg Lynch, Washington State Commissioner, Military Interstate Compact Commission; Marc San Souci, Northwest Regional liaison, DoD State Liaison Office; and Sharon Washington, college coordinator, David L. Stone Education Center.

The topics discussed were legislative bills passed by the state of Washington that benefit military families, such as the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, and the Military Spouse License portability that expedites procedures for regulatory department or board approval to provide opportunity for spouses to obtain an endorsed or temporary license.

Although the state of Washington is one of six states to include teachers, "I’ve been getting some feedback that it’s not necessarily working as smoothly as intended," Marc San Souci said, "but I can say that in the medical arena, there are 79 medical occupations that are covered by that legislation."

Following the morning session, participants attended a networking lunch which included a key note address from the deputy commanding general, I Corps, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, and access to an exhibit area featuring 24 local and national organizations aimed at providing support to military families.

Robbie Ferrell, Director of Family Programs for the AUSA Meriwether Lewis Chapter said, "AUSA couldn’t do this alone, and the professionals here at JBLM provide resources and reach out to their community so people know about the opportunities."

Ending the event was a panel designed to provide information for budgeting and finding resources to pay for schooling for family members.

Panel members included members of the Armed Forces Community Service, USAA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the JBLM Education Center.

Joseph "JJ" Montanaro, Certified Financial Planner, USAA, shared the grim news of the 1.3 trillion dollar student loan debt nationwide.

"Last year’s graduating class graduated with the most student loan debt ever at about $30,000 of student loan per student. 70 percent of graduates had some sort of debt" Montanaro said.

He also shared tips to preparing for the educational expenses incurred when pursuing a college education. "Start with the end in mind … education is a great thing but you have to really build into your equation how you’re going to go about it."

Mary Forbes, assistant director, veterans services, Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, added "In Washington there are lots and lots of programs that we have, but for spouses and for children the big thing is you have to know how to use the [post 9-11] GI Bill."

Adding, "You’ll see folks, after they get off active duty, ask: ‘How can I pass this on to my child?’ Well, you had to do that when you were on active duty. And even if you only pass on one month to them, your spouse or your children, then you can always add more months or take it back down to zero if you decide to use it. So it’s strategies like that, you have to study, you have to learn you have to read."

On April 15, there was a forum focused on translating volunteer skills into employment and career options at Fort Bliss, Texas, and June 3, there will be a forum at Fort Riley, Kan., discussing spouse employment and the transition process.

For more information on any of these forums or to view the video of the forum held at JBLM, go to www.ausa.org/family.