Network Supports Families of Marines in Fallujah
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2004 With offensive operations under way in Fallujah, Iraq, the families of the Marines involved in the effort are relying on their base's extensive family-support network and each other as they watch news events unfold thousands of miles away.
At Camp Pendleton, Calif., home of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Maj. Scott Macfarlane, director of the base's Marine Corps Family Team Building program, reports no big spike in requests for support in the past weeks.
This was the time period during which news reports provided heavy coverage of the Marines' movement toward Fallujah to prepare for an offensive against insurgent strongholds.
Macfarlane attributes this phenomenon to a comprehensive family-support program that successfully prepares families for upcoming deployments, and then provides services, activities and information throughout and even after the deployment.
The program begins in the operational units, where commanders are responsible for family readiness and deployment support, Macfarlane explained. Helping the commanders carry out this mission -- and supporting families directly as well - - is the wide range of programs and services offered through the branches of Marine and Family Services programs.
The Marine Family Team Building program is the deployment readiness part of this effort.
A key part of the family-support effort is a network of hundreds of volunteers throughout the base who help ensure that families know what resources are available to them if they need help. But just as importantly, Macfarlane said, these volunteers quickly circulate unit-related information through phone trees and emails, while providing a vital support network of other family members in the same situation.
Multiple deployments by Camp Pendleton Marines during the past three years have given the base's family-services staff and volunteers an opportunity to refine their program and better target families' needs, Macfarlane said.
"Camp Pendleton has always deployed a lot, but combat deployments are different," he said. "And we've come a long way in fine-tuning our programs since that initial deployment (in 2002)."
At the same time, many of the affected families have become "combat veterans" in their own right, girded for the rigors of family separation due to combat deployments, he acknowledged.
"This isn't new for them. These families have been living with this for two years," he said.
But while most of the affected families may now be more capable of enduring combat deployments than they once were, Macfarlane was quick to point out that they never get easy.
"Deployments are always hard on families," he said. "But by giving families the tools and support they need to help them through this difficult time, we can at least help make the deployments bearable for them."