Seven outstanding Reserve Component family programs earn DoD award
Reserve Component family readiness programs across the country are employing novel approaches to support service members and families. From “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” to equine therapy and morale-building through outdoor activities, supporting military families going through uncertain times is an exercise in compassion, wisdom and creativity.
Creative support programs are what the Department of Defense’s Reserve Family Readiness Awards recognizes each year. A Pentagon ceremony March 23, 2018 honored the 2017 recipients and was hosted by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Robert Wilkie, and President and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) retired Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF.
Wilkie began his remarks at the ceremony paraphrasing Winston Churchill: “You, the reservists are twice the citizen,” he said. “There are no greater citizens and no greater families than those who man the ranks and carry on the traditions that go all the way back to Lexington and Concord.”
Established in 2000, the Reserve Family Readiness Awards recognize National Guard and Reserve units, one from each of the seven Reserve Components, that demonstrate outstanding programs supporting their military families. Representatives from each of the winning units were in attendance and received a commemorative plaque and framed certificate from Wilkie and Atkins.
Among the units recognized was the 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET), Ft. Benning, Georgia, which along with numerous other family readiness activities, hosted a Family Day at the Warrior Outreach Ranch in Fortson, Georgia. There, soldiers and family members interacted with horses and learned how equine therapy can help veterans with PTSD and other combat-related injuries.
“The Warrior Outreach Ranch put in a lot of hard work for our soldiers to have a memorable experience and really took the time to ensure the soldiers were enjoying themselves,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Chestnut of the 98th Training Division.
Some soldiers and families are now frequent visitors to the ranch, while a soldier and a staff civilian are now active volunteers there.
Likewise, the South Dakota National Guard’s 153rd Engineer Battalion took extraordinary steps to ensure families felt supported during a recent unit deployment. Among the 153rd Engineer Battalion’s activities were sending care packages to deployed unit members; keeping families connected with frequent phone, email, social media, and newsletter communications; and conducting a “Day of Adventure,” with fishing, canoeing, and other outdoor activities for the whole family.
“Every soldier that deploys needs to feel assured that their family is taken care of,” said Lt. Col. Dennis Bickett, 153rd commander. “This award demonstrates the fantastic job the Headquarters and Forward Support Company Family Readiness Group did while the 153rd was deployed to the Middle East.”
The concerns of military kids were not lost in the mix of family support, either. The Air Force Reserve’s 919th Special Operations Force Support Squadron out of Elgin Air Force Base, Florida, orchestrated a large-scale Operation Hero exercise, where more than 250 children participated in a mock deployment experiencing what it’s like to walk in the footsteps of their military parent(s) though the phases of deployment.
“We put a lot of heart and passion into what we do,” said Master Sgt. AnnJill Transfiguracion, Airman and Family Readiness member, and the 919th Wing’s Yellow Ribbon representative. “Our mission is to improve the well-being of our members and their families, that is a huge reward in itself. We’re trying to change lives one family at a time.”
Each unit also received a certificate of recognition and award from the Military Officers Association of America. For the 13th year MOAA presented the units with a monetary award intended to enhance family support programs.