Volunteers Meet to Learn Best Practices for Deployed Soldiers Families
Story by: Eric Durr - Division of Military and Naval Affairs Dated: Sat, Nov 8, 2008
Family Readiness Group Volunteer Barbara Senus, whose husband Capt. Rick Senus is deployed in Afghanistan, values the chance to meet her counterparts from around the state during the annual meeting.
COLONIE, NY-Smart commanders “get” family readiness programs, says Major General Joseph Taluto, the Adjutant General of New York.
But there are still some out that need to be worked on, Taluto told 125 family readiness volunteers and professionals gathered for the annual New York National Guard Family Symposium, Nov. 8-9.
As the National Guard, and especially the Army National Guard, moves from being a strategic reserve to an operational reserve, families can count on separation and sacrifice, Taluto said. It’s up to the Guard’s family program to help family members and Guard members deal with those challenged, he emphasized.
Once Family Readiness Group, translated into an annual Family Day picnic, Taluto said. And he admitted being one of those leaders who never thought about family programs much.
But the increasing tempo of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, have changed that, Taluto emphasized.
“It’s not just about retention and showing that you care. It is the right thing to do,” he said.
The New York National Guard has expanded the number of family professionals and family readiness centers, Taluto said.
“This is not just a sometimes thing, it is an always thing,” he said.
The Family Symposium was an opportunity for both family readiness unit volunteers and the Guard’s professionals to meet, and exchange ideas.
Barbara Senus, the spouse of Capt. Rick Senus assigned to HHC 27th BCT, said the best part of the two-day event was getting to “connect with people who get it.”
The families and Family Readiness Group members are spread out all across the state, Senus said. This is a chance to meet, face-to-face and share ideas. This is particularly important for a unit like the headquarters of the 27th BCT, which has members from around the state, Senus said.
Anne Marie Lara, a professional family assistance specialist in Syracuse, said the two-day gathering gives her to share lots of time with people she normally just talks to on the phone.
The offices are isolated from each other and its good to get together in one place at least once at year, Lara said.
Participants in the meeting learned about new family programs, as well as the latest information from mental health professionals and others on how to help families cope with the stress of deployments.
While the adults were getting their questions answered, 85 children of the volunteers took part in a special youth program at Division of Military and Naval Affairs Headquarters. The kids worked with crafts and got a chance to use a NASCAR simulator and climb the New York Army National Guard Recruiting Wall.
New York Air National Guard Master Sgt. Willie Gizara, a member of the 109th Airlift Wing, which flies ski-equipped C-130s to the Antarctic, also presented a talk on the mission to the children.