BISMARCK, N.D. - A ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony in Bismarck on Feb. 27 marked the opening of the new Military Service Center - an inclusive location for a vast array of services to Veterans of any era or military branch, current military members as well as their families.
Gov. Hoeven, Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota National Guard adjutant general, community leaders, representatives from various veterans groups, as well as members of the North Dakota Patriot Guard and Christian Motorcycle Association were on hand for the ceremony.
"One of the most important things we can do as citizens of this great state and nation is show our gratitude to those who have put their lives on the line to defend the liberties and ideals we enjoy every day," said Hoeven. "The Military Service Center is another milestone in that effort by bringing together a team of professionals and resources to assist service members, Veterans and their Families with a variety of military needs. This partnership is a great way to honor those who serve and sacrifice on our behalf."
The North Dakota National Guard has taken the lead on the project, but like centers of the past, draws no boundary for who they will serve. The U.S. military operates in a joint service environment, and the North Dakota National Guard believes services for military members, Veterans and their Families should be the same - all encompassing without regard to branch of service.
"We established Family Assistance Centers across the state years ago, and this Military Service Center builds on that concept by incorporating even more resources into a single location," said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk. "Taking care of Soldiers and Airmen is my No. 1 priority, so the benefits provided by this center are in keeping our commitment to military members and their Families. As far as we know this is the first major endeavor of this nature in the National Guard and we are proud to take the lead on bringing together all of these personnel and resources to benefit not only those serving with us in the Guard, but those from any branch, whether they're currently serving or have served in the past."
A long ceremonial red ribbon was stretched across the front and down two sides of the large room allowing more than 20 staff members from the Military Service Center and others to simultaneously cut the ribbon along with Hoeven, Sprynczynatyk and the director of the Military Service Center and family support for the North Dakota National Guard, Rob Keller.
"The new Military Service Center concept extends beyond this building," said Keller. "We currently have more than 30 personnel representing over 500 years of experience working with Families, Veterans, and military members all across the state. Our team is a resource to increase awareness of new and existing initiatives, services and support available to all service members, past and present, along with their families."
The center, which is located at 1850 East Bismarck Expressway, in Bismarck, houses 19 employees, including social workers, chaplains and professional advisors and assistants. It also is the new home to the Family Assistance Center and North Dakota National Guard Family Program Office.
As part of the opening ceremony, the Founder of the "Memorial Bike Run for Fallen Soldiers", Mark McMahon presented the North Dakota Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors a check for $4,000. The North Dakota TAPS directly supports the national TAPS initiative and both are non-profit organizations made up of, and providing services to, all those who have lost a loved one serving in the Armed Forces.
McMahon, who serves in the North Dakota Army National Guard's Jamestown based 815th Engineer Company, said that the money was raised by donations to the bike ride sponsored by the Dakota Sunshine Riders.
A dozen teams and offices are ready to serve all uniformed service members, Veterans and their families at the Military Service Center.
The programs and services include:
- The Family Program Office and Family Readiness Team, which focus on military families and strive to establish and facilitate ongoing communication, involvement, support and recognition.
- Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System personnel will be available to produce Department of Defense ID cards and provide benefit information to active, retired and reserve military personnel and their family members as well as civil service personnel and contractors for the Department of Defense.
- The Joint Family Support Assistance Program brings Family services to those who are geographically dispersed away from a military installation and who might otherwise be unable to access support. The program's components include Military OneSource, a free, 24/7 information and referral service available online or via a toll-free phone number, and Military Family Life Consultants, which uses licensed clinicians with master's degrees and at least five years of related experience and military-specific training to provide anonymous, confidential support to actively serving military members and their families.
- The Family Assistance Center services will continue, simply in a new location. These centers offer assistance in enrolling in DEERS, TRICARE medical and dental assistance, financial information and referral, emergency financial assistance, legal referral, mental and emotional health referral, community information and referral and local assistance to Family Readiness Groups.
- The Office of the Chaplain provides religious and spiritual support. In addition the chaplain and licensed social workers offer confidential counseling and referral services; relationship workshops for single, dating and married service members; reintegration support, grief and bereavement support, and crisis intervention.
- The Suicide Prevention Team is trained to recognize, assist and cope with a person exhibiting suicidal signs and to seek help. They also train others in recognizing signs and symptoms in themselves or others, as well as intervention.
- Another serious issue is addressed by the Sexual Assault Response Team, which focuses on education and prevention.
- The Transition Assistance Adviser will be able to provide information and direction on federal and state entitlements and benefits, such as TRICARE health insurance, life insurance, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and military records requests. The advisor also can provide easy referrals to a number of outside resources, such as Vet Centers, county Veterans service officers, the Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service and much more.
- The Reintegration/Yellow Ribbon program works to ensure the North Dakota National Guard is ready and prepared for anything. It begins at the time a unit receives an alert for mobilization order and continues to support the service member and family through the mobilization and reintegration events at 30, 60 and 90 days upon returning, as well as one-, three- and five-year reunions.
- The Outreach Team, which has trained professionals throughout the state, also has a presence in the Military Service Center. Outreach Specialists are available to assist Veterans of any era, conflict or service, regardless of service type or time. They also assist families and employers.