November 14, 2016, By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau, Arlington, Va. – The National Guard is taking part in a three-year pilot program designed to increase access to financial advisors, mental health providers, education and other opportunities for Service members assigned to locations away from large military installations.
Called Building Healthy Military Communities, the pilot is part of the Department of Defense’s Total Force Fitness Program and builds upon family support elements already in place throughout the Guard, said Guard officials.
“The pilot aims to increase awareness of and access to military and community financial, health and wellness resources for Service members and their families in order to improve readiness and resiliency,” said Army Brig. Gen. Ivan Denton, the director of manpower and personnel at the National Guard Bureau, in a memo to Guard elements taking part in the pilot.
Access to those resources may be difficult to come by for many Service members who aren’t near large military bases, said Anthony Wickham, the programs chief at the NGB, adding that’s where the Guard comes in.
“If a Service member is, say, a recruiter in Iowa — there are no active component bases there — the nearest asset closest to him is probably a National Guard armory with a Family Assistance Center in it,” said Wickham.
Staff members at Family Assistance Centers and Air National Guard Airman and Family Readiness Program Managers are well versed in resources available nearby, said Wickham.
“We’re already in the local communities and we know what the local resources are,” said Wickham. “Since 9/11, we’ve referred families [of deployed Guard members] to these local resources.”
The BHMC program streamlines efforts by providing a coordinator who can identify gaps and coordinates with local governmental and non-governmental resources to fill those gaps.
“We have multiple silos of excellence out there and [the program] brings these silos of excellence together so they talk with each other,” said Wickham. “We’re not replacing anything, it’s trying to bring things together to coordinate the various assets that are out there.”
Wickham stressed that while the coordinators and assistance personnel may be located in Guard facilities, it’s not just for Guard members.
“We turn no one away,” he said. “Our FACs and AFRPMs do information or referral and it’s for any Service member or military family who walks in the door.”
The important part is making sure Service members and their families have access to needed resources when they need them, said Wickham, adding those include resources for family readiness, education and employment, physical, spiritual and behavioral health.
For those serving in areas away from large military bases, traveling to use on-base resources may prove difficult.
“Anything beyond about a 30 minute driving time, they’re probably not going to use that service,” said Wickham, adding the program fills in those gaps.
“The program is designed to tailor service to the unique needs of the military community and try and be more efficient in providing these services,” said Wickham. The end result is to the ability to build greater resiliency and readiness.
The program means the family “isn’t flailing out there trying to find an asset or resource,” said Wickham.
“It’s an approach that provides resources and programs that support the well-being and readiness of families and Service members,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. Ultimately, it revolves around readiness and retention of our families and Service members.”