Wednesday, October 08, 2008

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Oct 8, 2008 6:17:06 EDT

Just as every community has a post office, it should also have a center that supports troops and their families, said the chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz Jr., who suggested that such facilities could even be located in places like local Wal-Marts.

A pilot program at eight sites will test the idea, said Stultz’s wife, Laura, as the two discussed the concept at a family forum Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army.

The idea is to support those who live far from other military families and from installations, Laura Stultz said, adding that she is seeing more families that feel overworked and overextended, with many burned out from trying to juggle their own schedules and their volunteer work helping other families.

The Stultzes have been working on ways to help connect geographically dispersed families with the resources they need, she said. They are also working on a Web-based component.

It’s not just National Guard and Reserve members who don’t live on or near installations with their various support services, the Army Reserve chief said. Relocated family members — such as spouses who have moved closer to their relatives — often walk into Army Reserve headquarters and say they are having trouble getting medical care for their children because they are in a different region than the active-duty installation where their deployed service member is stationed, he said.

The locations for the eight test sites are Franklin, Pa.; Rochester, N.Y.; Whitefish, Mont.; Jackson, Miss.; Laredo, Texas; Brevard, N.C.; and sites in Oregon and Utah that have not yet been chosen. Four of the sites are urban and four are rural.

“The pilot [program] will enable us to get future centers right,” Laura Stultz said.

She said all the programs will be set up differently, depending on the needs of each community. For example, one will have a community support coordinator in a mall, another in a Reserve center, another in a government agency.

“My husband and I would like to see the Army Reserve working with the community through volunteers in the community,” she said.

There will be family program staff working in these centers, she said, as well as volunteers from groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and faith-based organizations who could be trained to work there.

These partnerships “will provide a further level of comfort to our soldiers and their families that they are leaving behind,” she said. “My husband and I are committed to working jointly to see that Reserve and National Guard families no longer think they are forgotten.”

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