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Deploying servicemembers leave families in good hands

24 Jan 2006 | Sgt. Enrique S. Diaz

Spouses and family members of Marines and Sailors preparing for Iraq are a better prepared after receiving a pre-deployment brief specially tailored to their needs January 24 at Camp Pendleton’s Abby Reinke Community Center.

Hosted by Brigade Service Support Group 1, the headquarters element of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Logistics Group, the event focused on giving loved ones the information and resources they may need while their servicemember is deployed.

The brief featured various speakers from the unit and from around the base who work in family-oriented capacities that informed those in attendance of the help and education available for emergencies and deployments.

Representatives from both the Red Cross and the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society informed the audience of several programs offered through their organizations to prepare them for the deployment.

As part of the support it offers, the Red Cross notifies servicemembers in the event of a family emergency and coordinates with the military to send the Marine or Sailor home on emergency leave, said Aurora Sanks, a senior field liaison for the Red Cross.

Likewise, Red Cross can also contact a servicemember’s unit to ensure his or her well being if their family has not heard from them in an unusually long time, said Sanks.

Although it offers many services, the Red Cross does not notify family members if a servicemember has been wounded or killed in combat. Such calls could be scams to steal social security numbers, said Sanks.

Complimenting the Red Cross, the NMCRS can help families on the home front when unexpected problems arise, said Marjorie Gooch, a Red Cross volunteer.

Such problems may include sudden, unexpected dilemmas such as a car breakdown. All a spouse would have to do is go to a NMCRS office and request an interest-free loan, provided the servicemember has already given the spouse a power of attorney for NMCRS, or filled out a consent form available at the NMCRS office, said Gooch.

Additionally, the NMCRS can also help with other necessities such as rent, food, medical expenses and can even provide a bridge loan to get a family by from one pay period to the next in the event of a pay problem that cannot be easily corrected, said Gooch.

Yet another service the NMCRS can provide is educating a family on a wide variety of subjects to help maintain the family’s welfare.

One such class, Budget for Baby, prepares a family for the added expenses of having children and is one of more than forty classes available to military families, said Gooch.

If a family member is unaware where they must go for assistance, Base Resources can direct families to the appropriate service they need and can also recommend other programs to improve the family’s quality of life, said Freddie Darnell, an information referral specialist.

Some of the services available include a spiritual enrichment getaways for couples, new parent support program, budgeting and family readiness classes, and can even help find phone numbers for base facilities.

Aside from the various assistance programs available, precautions servicemembers can take to prepare their families were also discussed by various representatives throughout the night.

According to Tricare, the military health insurance organization, servicemembers should renew their family members’ military identification cards if they will expire while the servicemember is still deployed and ensure all family members are enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System to receive medical and dental benefits.

As the servicemembers continue operations in Iraq, the Key Volunteer Network is a means for spouses of deployed servicemembers to get accurate information about what their loved ones are doing while simultaneously dispelling any rumors that may have been heard in the community.

Another information tool families will have is an electronic newsletter from the regimental chaplain for BSSG 1, Lt. Cmdr. John M. Thomas.

The newsletter will provide spouses information on family programs and base events such as food, clothing, and toy giveaways as well as other special events aboard the base and surrounding community.

Aside from the education the brief provided, some commanders feel it had a psychological benefit as well.

Predeployment briefs help set deploying servicemembers’ minds at ease knowing there is somebody here back at home taking care of their families, said Col. David M. Richtsmeier, commanding officer of BSSG 1.

With deployment preparation in the final stages, information given in these briefs is information you need to help you prepare, said Felicia Harrell, whose husband, Gunnery Sgt. Lance E. Harrell, a military policeman, will deploy in February.

Approximately 500 Marines from BSSG 1, composed of approximately whose ranks include drivers, cooks, lawyers and military policemen among many other specialties, will be deploying in the coming weeks to Iraq’s Al Anbar Province and will be part of the force that supports the nearly 25,000 Marines and Sailors slated to deploy as the I Marine Expeditionary Force’s forward element.

For more information or assistance, please contact the organizations in this article at the following numbers:

Red Cross 1-800- RED-CROSS.
Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (760) 725-5337.
Base Readiness 1-800-253-1624.
Laurie Curtin is the senior Key Volunteer for BSSG1 and can be reached at (760) 385-1382.
Regimental Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. John M. Thomas at (760) 725-6180

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