DoD Honors Best Reserve Component Family Readiness Programs
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2002 The top seven reserve component family readiness and mission support programs recently received Defense Department awards here during a large Pentagon ceremony.
Presenting the awards Feb. 15 was Craig W. Duehring, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.
"How can our people serve our country, how can they go into battle constantly looking over their shoulders wondering about their families," Duehring asked. "How are they going to be taken care of?"
"We need family," he said emphatically. "We've always turned to family. In the military, we don't have the luxury of having the biological family close by all the time. So we reach out to people who have something in common with us."
Units with winning programs were selected from a pool of noteworthy units throughout the United States, Guam and Puerto Rico. Nominees were sent to Duehring's office for final approval.
This year's winners are:
- The 49th Military Police Battalion, California Army National Guard. The battalion was recognized for having a history of integrating its family readiness goals within its total training management philosophy. "The battalion has been deployed several times since 1989 and has sustained at least 95 percent rate of updated family readiness plans," said Marine Corps Maj. Ian Ferguson, master of ceremonies.
- Charlie Company, 411th Engineer Battalion, Army Reserve, Guam. The family readiness group was cited for being instrumental in improving many facets of unit readiness, including a 99 percent retention rate and 90 percent attendance rate for drill.
- The Naval Reserve Center Orange, Texas. The center was honored for its ombudsman program and for focusing attention on the financial concerns of Reserve families. "Furthermore, the joint effort of the command and ombudsmen has greatly increased the awareness of families on the availability and scope of Reserve programs and benefits," Ferguson said.
- The 4th Battalion, 14th Marines, Marine Corps Reserve, Bessemer, Ala. The family readiness team includes numerous key volunteers, a family readiness officer and battalion chaplain. "As a combat arms unit, the battalion strives for continual mobilization readiness and has developed a systematic method of keeping families informed," Ferguson said.
- The 184th Bomb Wing, Kansas Air National Guard. The unit "prides itself on taking care of its members and their families, for without them, there would be no 'Flying Jayhawks,'" Ferguson said. "This is exemplified by the 184th providing information and assistance to over 500 unit families in support of operations and training during 2001."
- The 913th Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve, Willow Grove, Pa. The unit was honored for gearing efforts to inform families on the challenges of the military lifestyle. "A guiding principle is that if families are given an opportunity to learn about the Air Force Reserve, and understand the role their member plays in mission success, they will have an increased sense of belonging to the unit," Ferguson noted.
- Port Security Unit 307, Coast Guard Reserve, St. Petersburg, Fla. The unit was recognized for establishing an aggressive program to educate family members regarding the unit mission and their rights, benefits, privileges and responsibilities. "This has been impressively accomplished through a variety of initiatives including 'Sharkbites,' their monthly unit publication and the unit's own Web page," Ferguson noted.
The DoD Reserve Family Readiness Awards program was established in 2000 to recognize the unit in each reserve component that best demonstrates family readiness while maintaining superior mission readiness.
Family readiness groups use a variety of activities to help keep morale high and families and service members informed. Sometimes it's just a matter of talking to young family members, said Angela Martin, a volunteer coordinator for the winning Marine Corps Reserve unit.
"The Marines can come to me if they have a problem. A lot of them are newlyweds," Martin said. The group publishes a quarterly newsletter packed with valuable information, she noted. "I think they pick spouses to do this because we have a softer touch. Marines are wonderful, but we come from a softer side. We just trained some mothers and aunts. So if we're deployed, we'll have the moms and aunts to help."
The family readiness group of the Guam-based Army Reserve winner is known as "Charlie's Angels," according to Lauriel Manibusan, group president. "Our group has only been together for a year," she said. "We do a lot of community activities, such as donations, 'Run for Your Life' for the American Cancer Society, 'Sugar Plum Tree' donations for those in need.
"We have a function for our soldiers and their families every month, whether it be birthdays or just getting together," Manibusan said. "If they're just getting married, or if someone passes on, we're there to support the soldier."