It shouldn’t surprise anyone that when the U.S. Army outlined new standards for earning a certification for the Military Family Readiness Program, Fort Drum became the first military post to qualify.
Fort Drum established its Soldier and Family Readiness Division in 2020 under the Directorate of Human Resources. The Army required posts to meet standards it created to continue providing a Family Readiness Program. Fort Drum is the first post to earn this certification.
“The process for certification began six months after the merging of Army Community Service and the Army Substance Abuse Program, and transitioned to SFRD,” according to a news item published Feb. 18 by the Watertown Daily Times. “SFRD provides resources to the community that are designed to enhance the quality of life, and to promote resilience and self-reliance. Services include Army Emergency Relief, Relocation Readiness, Mobilization and Deployment, Family Advocacy, and the Exceptional Family Member, Financial Readiness and Army Substance Abuse programs.”
The idea was to offer additional support to all members of an Army family. This initiative began several years ago.
“The Army recognizes the need for community support as it shifts away from spouse-only programs to all-encompassing soldier and family readiness groups,” an article published Oct. 14, 2019, on the website of the Association of the United States Army reported.
Col. Steve Lewis, chief of the family programs branch in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, said in the AUSA story: “Social support and connectedness are critical for family readiness and we recognize that.”
According to this article, Lewis said that Army leaders recognize the impact of connectedness, which prompted changes to the Family Readiness Program. These changes focused on simplicity and flexibility to allow commanders to shape the group based on the soldier and family needs they see; connection and communication as core tasks; and commanders leading family readiness groups.
Lewis added that commanders need to be able to link family members and soldiers into one unit and connect them with information, resources and support.
“As long as those three elements are in place, we’ve got a strong, viable soldier and family readiness group,” Lewis said. “[T]he foundation for family and soldier readiness really begins with the commanders establishing [a] strong Soldier and Family Readiness group and being able to effectively communicate with those families through multiple mechanisms.”
Lorilyn Starr, SFRD chief at Fort Drum, said that Family Resource Center operations officer Rich Stepanek and Employee Assistance coordinator Christine Robinson were instrumental in the certification process.
“During that time, we were able to look at the services we had in place, regulatory requirements and the supporting documents that we had,” Starr said in the Times article. “We had already begun to consolidate and improve in all of our functional areas. … This process really serves as a quality assurance and utilization assessment. … Failure to obtain certification can potentially lead to the degradation of services and a decrease in funding. It also provided a platform in which to showcase the benefit of merging the two programs and realigning services. We essentially did more with less.”
Fort Drum has pioneered various initiatives for the Army since the 10th Mountain Division was reactivated and assigned to the local post in the mid-1980s. Military officials decentralized some services so that soldiers and their families would interact with the broader community more so than had been done anywhere else. Fort Drum also was the first post to become self-sufficient when it came to its daily energy needs by using electricity generated by the ReEnergy Black River biomass facility.
And now Fort Drum has become the first Army post to achieve a certification for its Family Readiness Program under these new standards. This reflects well on the leadership demonstrated every day at the local post and the commitment of all its soldiers and civilian employees to carry out its mission.
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