News: Support programs consolidate for families, troops, employers
Story by 1st Lt. Christian Venhuizen
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The goal of establishing the Service Member, Family, and Employer Readiness Support Team was to consolidate duplicated efforts, request forms of varying degrees of difficulty and multiple points of contact, said the team’s deputy director William Breckenridge.
He said the prior level of bureaucracy turned good programs into unused programs. During the course of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, programs like Yellow Ribbon and Child and Youth Programs have come to light. Currently, there are 15 separate programs operating under S-FERST, which formerly had their own offices, program managers, and contact information.
“All of those layers were placed in a variety of locations throughout a number of organizations,” Breckenridge said. “This (S-FERST) concept unifies these organizations and these services in a way that will create greater synergy and more efficiencies and, hopefully, greater outcomes for our customers: our commanders, their service members and their families.”
S-FERST was in the planning process for 18 months, he said. Under Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, Wyoming’s adjutant general, the program was pushed through and placed under the supervision of Breckenridge and Wyoming Army National Guard Col. Harold Walker.
“When you have all the pieces on the table together, like all the pieces in S-FERST, it makes sense how they relate to each other better, rather than when you have what tends to feel like a lot of independent agencies, or independent programs kind of scattered all over,” said Robin Gorsuch, the state youth coordinator for the Wyoming National Guard. She oversees the Child and Youth Program.
Within her program are leadership opportunities for children, camps, opportunities for children to meet others in similar situations, and more, said Gorsuch. The problem is getting the word out.
Evidence of the previous information roadblock sits in a locked cage in the back of the Wyoming National Guard’s Joint Forces Readiness Center, in Cheyenne. There, a host of board games, activities, portable entertainment systems and video games are ready to be checked out to military organizations and their family programs.
Despite her efforts, Gorsuch said most of it went unused over the past year. As S-FERST has come into play, more National Guard family groups, known as Family Readiness Groups, are checking out the equipment for events.
She said she’s hopeful this is a trend for families to gain access, not just to the equipment, but all of the programs the Child and Youth Program offers.
“I think it’ll be easier and I think it will bring more visibility to it,” Gorsuch said. “Even though we try to do a lot of marketing, I think a lot of families aren’t even aware there is a youth program or what it is.”
Some of the programs in S-FERST are focused on certain areas. The Yellow Ribbon Program is a composite of two programs in the pre-S-FERST days, one for the Air National Guard and one for the Army National Guard. Under S-FERST, the two work together to help troops and their families prepare for deployments, cope during deployments, and readjust after deployments.
Many of the programs deal with National Guard and troops in the reserves, like the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the Wyoming Seven Seals Jobs Coordinator, and the Transition Assistance Adviser.
There are some programs that work with specific branches of service, like the Army’s Survivor Outreach Service, Army Family Readiness, and Airman and Family Readiness.
Also, there are programs geared toward any military member from, or residing, in Wyoming. Those programs include the Wyoming Military Assistance Trust Fund, Family Assistance Center, Psychological Health and Military One Source.
S-FERST also includes the Military Family Life Consultant, who provides consulting and counseling services dealing with a variety of issues; and the Personal Financial Counselor, who helps with credit management and budgeting.
“We can address the employer issues, the family issues more comprehensively and it reduces the possibility of redundancy and ensures that we have more expeditious service to our customers,” Breckenridge said.
To reach S-FERST’s services, phone 1-800-635-4917, or visit wyomilitary.wyo.gov.