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AUSA’s Family Forums Go on the Road

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

On March 11, I had the exciting opportunity to go on the road with the AUSA Family Readiness Directorate’s popular military family forums to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Working with the local AUSA chapter and leaders from the installation’s Army Community Service, the forum—called Education for the Entire Family—focused on education issues facing service members, military spouses and military children.

The morning session focused on local, district and state initiatives aimed at supporting the educational experience of military families. Among the topics discussed was legislation passed by the state that benefits military families.

A networking lunch followed. It included a keynote address from Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, deputy commanding general of I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), and an exhibit area featuring 24 local and national organizations that support military families.

 “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,” said Robbie Ferrell, Director of Family Programs for the AUSA Meriwether Lewis Chapter.

We ended the day with a panel designed to provide information for budgeting and finding resources to pay for schooling for family members.

 “Last year’s graduating class graduated with the most student loan debt ever, at about $30,000 of student loan per student. Seventy percent of graduates had some sort of debt,” said Joseph “JJ” Montanaro, certified financial planner with USAA. He went on to share tips to prepare 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.”

 “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,” said Mary Forbes, assistant director of veterans’ services for the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

“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.”

Next, we are headed to Fort Bliss, Texas, on April 15 to provide a forum focused on translating volunteer skills into employment and career options, then to Fort Riley, Kansas, on June 3 to discuss spouse employment and the transition process.

If you are close to either of these locations, I hope to see you there!