The Department of Defense announced October 1 that families of deployed members of the National Guard and Reserve, active duty service members on independent duty and their families, and active duty service members and their families assigned to selected bases would be eligible for free family memberships at participating YMCAs in their local community.
The new program, which is effective immediately, was unveiled in a signing ceremony presided by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S.C. Chu. Also signing the document was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Thomas F. Hall and the Executive Director of the Armed Services YMCA, retired Navy Rear Adm. Frank Gallo.
“We know these programs are key to personal health and well-being, help build strong families, and reduce stress and feelings of isolation,” Chu said. “I am extremely pleased to announce our new partnership.”
The free YMCA memberships for Guard and Reserve families will be available while the service member is deployed for a minimum of six months. The deploying service member will also be eligible for three months pre- and post-deployment membership to help promote family participation.
Active duty families assigned to independent duty stations, such as recruiting and ROTC assignments and not currently receiving support from the service component will also be eligible for free memberships at participating YMCAs. Single service members are eligible for fitness center memberships up to $50 a month.
Active duty families at selected bases will also be eligible for free YMCA memberships as part of a pilot program. Memberships will be issued on a first come, first served basis with 300 to 450 family memberships available per joint base location.
The selected bases are: Lackland Air Force Base/Randolph AFB/Ft. Sam Houston, Texas; Langley AFB, Va.; McChord Air Force Base/Ft. Lewis, Wash.; Ft. Carson, Colo.; Pearl Harbor/Hickam AFB, Hawaii; Naval Weapons Station, Charleston S.C.; McGuire AFB/Ft. Dix/ Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station, N.J.; Anacostia Naval Air Station /Bolling AFB, Washington, D.C.; Ft. Myer/Henderson Hall, Va.; Elmendorf AFB/Ft. Richardson, Alaska; and Andrews AFB/Naval Air Facility D.C., Md.
Additionally, 32 hours a month of free respite child care will be available for families of deployed National Guard and Reserve and geographically dispersed active duty service members in 10 states with YMCA child care programs preapproved by DoD.
Respite Child Care is currently available at participating YMCAs in the following ten states: Indiana, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington. DoD is working with the Armed Services YMCA on ways to expand the number of YMCA child care programs eligible to offer respite care in order to meet this critical need.
Participating YMCAs have agreed to cap their monthly fees and waive all joining fees so there is no cost for service members and their families for membership. Some classes may have fees associated with them and if so, the service member will be responsible for those costs.
"Since the Civil War, the Armed Services YMCA has been committed to supporting our troops and improving their quality of life," said Gallo. "This new initiative will go a long way to help America's military families live healthy lives.”
Signing up for the program requires a YMCA/DoD eligibility form, a copy of deployment orders and military ID. The YMCA/DoD eligibility form is available at http://www.militaryonesource.com/ . A completed eligibility form, a copy of deployment orders (where applicable) and the military ID are all that are needed for the local YMCA to process memberships.