I have a new post up at Military Spouse. It’s about an experience I had the other day at a Guard base.
As reserve/Guard spouses, how often do we feel out of the loop on things? I mean, unless you’re either the FRG leader or you live right by an active military installation, chances are you are missing something. Or you just don’t know that you are.
This week I have been working on Weekend Warrior No More. Mostly organizing the two years plus worth of information I’ve accumulated while researching for this book. I’ve read through more congressional hearing testimony and DoD reports this week than I probably have in my lifetime.
Something bothers me though, as I do. I keep running across information I had no idea about. Things that would have been helpful – like specific programs related to jobs that my husband was “supposed” to go through after getting back from Iraq but never has heard of. Resources and websites that are at our disposal that I knew nothing about. It irks me a little that these folks are sitting in Washington, patting themselves on the backs for all of the wonderful tools and resources they’re putting together for Guard and Reserve when so very few of the very people they’re trying to help even know about those programs and services.
Then I ran across this little ditty. A transcript from a congressional hearing that was held in April of last year (2007). They were discussing family support programs for the military, and the committee meeting was led by Senators Ben Nelson and Daniel Akaka, Democrats from Nebraska and Hawaii, respectively.
Toward the end of the meeting, Sen. Akaka raises this question.
AKAKA: My final question, Mr. Chairman. I understand that the services do provide some family assistance to the National Guard and Reserves. However, what I have noticed is that this support tends to be in the form of brochures, pamphlets, or Web sites. What method or methods are being used by the department and services to ensure that active-duty personnel, National Guard and Reserves know about this information?
For instance, it’s my understanding that some families are unaware that
there were programs and organizations that may be of assistance to them, as
their servicemember is deployed, even though there are these informational
documents and Web sites available.
I would say many families are unaware of these programs and organizations. But here is what John McLaurin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army in Human Resources, had to say:
MCLAURIN: Sir, I can answer it for the Army, and I’m sure my colleagues here can answer of the other services. We make a very concerted effort to ensure that the Reserve components are included in our planning. The integrated, multi-component family support network that is being put together now has representatives from both the Reserve and the Guard on it, to ensure, in fact, that not only are they part of the planning process, but the goodness that they offer, because they have very good, robust programs themselves out there, and they can actually reach out to the various states who have individualized programs and find the best practices out there, and hopefully we can incorporated them into the overall Army support, because, after all, sir, we are one Army.
HUH? What kind of answer was that? Not a very good one, if you ask me. More like, “I don’t know, and it’s really up to the Guard and Reserve to get that info out to their people.” Except it doesn’t always happen that way.
When my husband got ready to deploy, we got two armfuls of information to go through. But much of it didn’t apply to us – it was written for sea-going Navy seamen. My husband is a Seabee and has never stepped foot on a ship. All I can say is how grateful I am for Google because that’s how I found much of my info of what we needed. I had to wade through all of it to find just a few materials that really applied. And then I went and searched on my own for what I needed to know – an interesting challenge when you don’t always know what you’re looking for.
I do believe that we are in for changes, though, and that the time is nearing where we are going to start seeing improvements within the Reserve/Guard culture and communicating that information to the families. One thing I wish we could explain to these commanders and folks in charge: Info that’s sent home doesn’t always make it home, and it would be better suited I think to mail it so at least the wife has a chance to see it. When I think of all the times I’ve found info in my husband’s car that he was given to bring home from a drill weekend – and that info is now months old, if not older – well, I would be a very rich woman if I got paid every time it happened. Or, when I hear about something and ask my husband about it and he says, nah, I didn’t think it was important. (I’ve heard this one from other women as well, so I know it’s not just my husband blowing stuff off to tell his wife. It’s just men in general.)
So, I’d like to hear from you. If you’re a reservist or National Guard wife, how confident do you feel that you know or are aware of all the resources and programs available to you when it comes to deployment? Please comment and share your experience and let us know what branch you’re in because I do think that some branches are doing a better job than others. How do you connect with what’s going on? How do you stay “on top of things?”