Monday, April 22, 2013

Military Monday: Lets Make a Readiness Folder #militarymonday

I'm no stranger to the "going it on your own" life.  In more ways then one it applies to the military life.  For some it is the very essence of their world.  For those of us in the National Guard or Reserves world it can be a daily thing.  Having been stationed fairly remotely, without the conveniences of a standard base, find the kinds of support many of my online friends talked about was difficult, if not impossible.  I have a couple of friends who aren't even stationed in the same town, or even the same state, as their significant others unit.  Many National Guard and Reserve Units are lacking in the support department, don't have FRGs and don't have the resources to provide remotely located spouses with the guidance they need to navigate these tricky waters of MilSpouseDom.  For those that are girlfriends or finaces the waters can be even more treacherous to explore.

So, what can you do to stay afloat?  One thing you can do is put together a Family Readiness Folder.  I happen to extremely blessed with a husband who actively makes sure I'm connected in some way to his Unit, and he has an amazing boss, who feels more like family then a co-worker, having been the rock I've leaned on whether he knew it or not.

What makes a good Readiness Folder?

Contact Information is Key:

Gather together key contact information from your husband, the base website or anyone else you can get it from.

1. Family Services Contacts
  • Family Programs local 
  • Family Readiness Assistant
  • Youth Programs
  • Air Wing Family Programs Coordinator (or other branch Equivalent)
2. Support Services
  •  Military OneSource Consultant
  • Transition Assistance Advisor
  • ESGR (Employer Support Guard/Reserve
  • TriWest (for your area)
  • ID Cards/DEERS
  • Survivor Outreach Services
  • American Red Cross

3. Wellness Team
  •  Director of Psychological Health
  • Military Family Life Consultant (adult/family & child/youth)
  • Chaplain
  • Personal Finance Counselor
  • Suicide Hotline (national (800) 273-TALK)

4. Yellow Ribbon Program contact info

5. Your local unit or operations group contacts
  • Group Commander
  • Squadron Commander
  • Operations Support Commander
  • Director of Operations
  • First Sergeant
6. Track down the list of FRG or Key Spouses, or maybe your s/o's buddy's spouse or significant other.  Finding a connection with another spouse, girlfriend or family member connected to your husband is important, even if its just one.

Pre-deployment Information Form

Find one of these and fill it out before a deployment.  This will have important information  for the unit, like deployment location and time information, who your family is, who your child are, emergency contacts, information about you so that you can be located and specific concerns about the deployment.  It is important that you are kept in the loop during a deployment.

Important Dates

Include an important dates section in your folder - drill schedules, special events, or local events that might be helpful to those stationed near you, and for those that are not.  They may want to make the trek closer if there will be special base events or holiday events (especially for families).  Our local base had Easter, Halloween and Christmas events for the kids.  There is also usually a unit BBQ.  For the National Guard many states have a State Military Ball where all branches affiliated with the Guard and Reserves in the area are usually invited.

What My Family Should Know:

This is a guide for all the things you should know, your family should know.  It is also a great way to get the conversation going about topics no one wants to talk about.  Lets face it, who really wants to have a conversation about funeral arrangements before anyone is actually passed on.  Talking about those things is important none the less. For me, I wanted to confidently be able to stand my ground and specifically state that I knew exactly what my husband wanted.  This may also force your significant other to have this conversation.  If I could recount the stories that I've been witness too where that was never discussed and problems arose.  Contact information going unchanged - never being changed from a parent to a wife, and other similar situations.  Being married to an Eagle Scout, being prepared is a mantra around here.  It never EVER hurts to be prepared...it can always hurt to be unprepared.

Here's a link to a packet if your unit doesn't have one.  I can also probably get one of mine, so please feel free to email me if you feel the one linked to doesn't work for you.

Other Notes:

Many Family Readiness Groups on base have booklets for deployments and info ones to have around all the time.  Seek them out.  If you aren't near your husband's unit, but you are near another base, reach out to them!  Currently we are nowhere near hubby's home base, but close to so many.  I am always actively seeking programs that we are eligible for.  We have full rights to the MWR too.  Last year we got a pool pase for a great deal.  Sure it wasn't the local neighborhood pool that I could walk to, but it was hundreds of dollars cheaper.  If you're a mom look for a local MOPS group.  The base here has one, but there is bound to be a local church that hosts one.  Each one is different, and while all of them are faith-based,  they are all different.  Seek out other Moms groups in your area as well.  There was more than one in the area we were in previously, faith based or not.  They are out there!  Look online for military support groups, or facebook. While many can have drama (what doesn't in life anymore), I can tell you that I have made some amazing friends that I have 6yrs later, and many I eventually met in person.  These ladies were my saving grace at times and I couldn't be more thankful.  Find out if your area has a local Blue Star Families.  They have been an amazing connection for me.

So, I hope this helps and is a place to start for you.  Please do not hesitate to contact me for clarification on anything listed here, as well as help tracking down the information for your local area.  If you're totally lost and wouldn't even begin to know where to start PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE email me and I will help you!!!

7 comments:

  1. I love this post! I wish more people would do stuff like this. I have a binder just like this. :)

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  2. I didn't click the links, so forgive me if this has been covered. One thing that no one seems to cover is what to do in case of an injury (WIA) notification. KIA is a pretty tight ship, god forbid it ever happen to anyone. But WIA is not so, as there aren't official policies outside of the Big Military calling you. That's it. Talk with your service member on who in the family to call first, and how the information should be dispersed. If you have a passport, know where it is. If you don't, consider who in the family does. Occasionally, family is flown to Germany to meet the service member if he/she isn't stable within a certain time frame. I won't tell anyone to go get a passport for this reason, but it is something to consider. What will be done with the kids if you (the parent) does go? Do you have pets? How can you get the situated without 48 hours from notification, and then a week later? I know that organizations are helping with those costs now, but a lot of them aren't available until you're at the military hospital. Cover that as well- everyone usually comes through Walter Reed, but for various reasons can continue onto California or Texas.
    I will never forgive myself for the jerking around our WIA notification did to my husband's family. The way we found out he lost his legs was terrible- I ended up screaming it into the phone shortly after I found out. I had no idea which parent to call first (I wanted to call his mom, but his brother conference called his dad). It was awful for everyone, and I wish we'd had a plan. I knew what would happen if he died... no one ever talks about what to do with the in-between.
    I also HIGHLY suggest that male service members freeze their sperm before they deploy, single or committed. There's nothing quite the sting of infertility brought on by war, and knowing that if we had sperm we wouldn't have to worry at all.
    I hope I didn't freak anyone out here, but these are all things I didn't think about until I had to- and that is the worst possible moment. Good luck, and great post!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for commenting...all those are super important things, and I think the only thing I didn't cover was the sperm thing, but I would include that if I was doing a different style post. I didn't really think about the difference between KIA and Injured, but its true. I know they have the service member notify if possible, but it never occurred to me that it would be different, but good points. Thanks Kat.

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    2. Heya ladies, I wanted to go ahead and throw in some $.02 from an active duty AF perspective. I'm not sure if Guard/Res folks have the same setup, but (and this is for AF families) on the Air Force Portal, we have a thing called a vRED (virtual Record of Emergency Data) that requires an annual review. Basically, service members update this as information changes. It does cover everything from who to contact in case of injury or any kind of emergency as well as who to notify in cases where the service member becomes KIA/MIA. It would probably do you some good to urge your spouses to check that out and get a print out to keep in your binder, that way YOU know it's up to date. Unfortunately, that's something only within his control since you have to have access to .mil domains with CAC login credentials. I figured it's worth noting, as it's just another one of those things that a lot of service members seem overlook. :)

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  3. This is a great, informative post. Nate is active but I often feel very disconnected - I guess because of his job. I don't even know anyone from his "unit" or who he works with. I will def. pass this on to new spouses!

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  4. Great info! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Great post! I didn't have a binder but I did know a lot of the info. I should have had it all in one place though:)

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