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Fort Carson Supports Families of Deployed Soldiers

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2003 – When Bree Anderson's husband deployed to Iraq in April, much of her family assumed she would come home to Arizona to await his return.

But Anderson, wife of Army 1st Lt. Andrew Anderson from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, chose to remain at Fort Carson, Colo., with other spouses of deployed troops.

"It's much better for me to stay in the Army community with other people who are going through the same thing," she said. "This is where the information is, where the support is, and where I don't have to explain to everyone what it's like (to have him gone)."

Maj. Sue Sliman, mobilization and deployment officer at Fort Carson, said Anderson is among 75 to 80 percent of military spouses who chose to remain at the post after their husbands or wives deployed.

"We encourage families to stay at Fort Carson, because this is where they can be the best informed," Sliman said. "And experience shows that an informed family is a happy family."

Fort Carson, like other U.S. military posts worldwide, recognizes the importance of supporting families, particularly during deployments.

"A well-informed, taken-care-of and provided-for family has a direct impact on the mission," said Sliman. "When soldiers know that their families are getting the support they need back home, then they can go off and focus on their mission."

Fort Carson has a multi-tiered support network for the families of more than 11,500 active-duty soldiers and 6,200 Guardsmen and reservists who have processed through the post during the past year en route to Southwest Asia.

Before deployments, the Army Community Services staff offers briefings to prepare families for what's ahead. The staff ensures that every deploying soldier has taken care of personal business that affects the family - getting military identification cards, assigning power of attorney, drawing up a will and other matters - before leaving home. And perhaps most importantly, Sliman said, they explain to families what services are available to them, and how to tap into those resources.

For families who choose to leave Fort Carson during the deployment, Sliman said Army Community Services provides information about the closest post to their temporary home and contact numbers they might need. The staff then follows up by notifying that installation to ask that its staff contact the family during the deployment.

Sliman said younger spouses who are new to the military often have the most difficult time coping with a deployment. "So many of them don't know what's out there or what programs are in place," she said. "Some may be terribly overwhelmed by the deployment. They don't know where to turn."

Fort Carson's extensive support network ensures there's no question about where to turn for help. A full-service Army Community Service sponsors workshops, town hall meetings and even a deployment support group. In addition, each deployed unit leaves behind a rear detachment staff that keeps families informed about the unit and intervenes as necessary to help resolve family issues. Family readiness groups, run by family member volunteers who provide a vital link between unit families and the rear detachment staff, back up those resources.

"There are plenty of resources," said Anderson, who co-leads a family readiness group. "It's a question of whether or not you will speak up and use them when you need them."

Sliman said this network goes a long way in providing the support many spouses need during a deployment. "They can't call their husbands, so we're the next best thing if they have a question or need," she said. "When they call us, we're going to do whatever we can to help them."

But Anderson acknowledged that what some spouses need most is simply "having someone to talk to." For these people, she said the best way she can help is to lend a sympathetic ear "to let them know that there's someone they can turn to who understands what they're going through and cares about them."

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