New AUSA Family Programs director will be ‘your voice’

New AUSA Family Programs director will be ‘your voice’

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It is an honor to introduce myself as the new AUSA Director of Family Programs.As an Army spouse of 31 years and a longtime advocate for Army families, I have had the privilege of witnessing, first-hand, the strength and fortitude Army families have shown during very challenging times.I'm looking forward to this new role as an opportunity to contribute to your resilience and to be your voice in the Association.Like many of you, I have spent my adult life working on behalf of our soldiers and their families.I have volunteered with Family Readiness Groups, Army Family Team Building, Army Community Service, the Red Cross and many wives clubs and school organizations.I have also worked for the National Military Family Association as both a deputy director of government relations and as the director of youth initiatives where one of my primary responsibilities was the oversight of the Operation Purple® program.Recently, I was the director of outreach for military family projects at ZERO TO THREE, whose primary mission is the healthy development of infants and toddlers.All of these experiences have provided me with a solid education of what it means to serve our Army from many different perspectives.I am hopeful that this knowledge will allow me to speak knowingly and passionately about the needs and challenges facing our Army families today.Today’s Army is quite different from the one my husband and I entered in 1980. Ten years of war have taken its toll.You have been through multiple deployments and separations, perhaps your soldier has been injured or your family has made the ultimate sacrifice and has lost a loved one.All these situations have changed the way Army families do business.What hasn’t changed is the pride and commitment that many of us feel toward our soldiers, and being a part of the "Army Team."At its core, it’s the Army family that is an integral part of that team.Soldiers do best when their family supports them; families do best when they are listened to and respected. The Army has done a great job of providing programs and initiatives aimed at building resilience and knowledge.But a program has to do more than just exist.It must also work.Our leaders must continue to meet families where they are, and provide the right tools necessary for the successful navigation of the military lifecycle.It is often said our Army’s greatest strength is its people. I firmly believe that.We have a richness of diversity, experience and backgrounds. Our new families can learn from our more seasoned ones. We can share the difficulties of deployments, reintegration, relocation, spouse employment or lack thereof, but most importantly we can also share best practices, solutions, triumphs.And, we must not forget our children, especially the youngest among them. For every stage of development, the Army lifestyle presents unique challenges.Babies and toddlers cannot voice their concerns but through their behaviors they can alert you to when the stress is overwhelming. School aged children are continually uprooted and moved to new locations and schools; we must continue to fight to make this transition easier. And lastly adolescents have navigated through many pitfalls. They, too, have lessons to share and ideas that work.AUSA has long been the champion of every American soldier and his or her family.As your new director of family programs, I hope to continue the legacy that Sylvia Kidd leaves behind.In meeting, speaking and listening to you, I hope to carry your message back to all those within the AUSA organization who work so tirelessly on your behalf.I also look forward to working with our sister military and veteran service organizations so that we may at times speak with one voice on your behalf.Most importantly, I hope to educate all those who seek to support you who live "outside the gate" so to speak. It is imperative that they become familiar with the Army culture.Soldiers and their families must first be understood before they can be properly supported.We have all, in our own way, weathered the storms of the past 10 years, but the future will continue to challenge us.Budget cuts, force reductions, continued deployments are all on the horizon.However, you are not alone. AUSA will ensure that your best interests are represented.Consider my email ([email protected]) an open line of communication to let us know where our focus should be.I look forward to meeting you at upcoming events and forums. Until then we remain "Family Strong – Army Strong."