FORT PICKETT, Va. --
A deployment can be difficult for servicemembers, as well as their spouses and families. Often in the past when Marine Units deployed, those same family members were called upon to work as volunteers and liaisons between the unit and the families left behind.
Headquarters Marine Corps is setting out to change that for deploying units, effective now.
Six representatives from Headquarters Marine Corps' Family Team building braved the cold and rain to join the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the field at Fort Pickett, Va., where the Marines are in the midst of their first MEU-wide training exercise.
According to Lt. Col. John W. Capdepon, executive officer of the 26th MEU, the representatives from HQMC’s Marine Corps Family Team Building office traveled to Fort Pickett to assist the 26th MEU with data entry for the new system, and also to provide valuable training to key personnel who will use the mass communication tool.
“Not only did they key-punch data; they also provided insight to the leadership and those involved in the (Family Readiness Team) as to the functionality of the new tool,” he said.
Capdepon said the representatives taught them how valuable a communications tool the program will be for Marines, families and the newly created family readiness officer position during the MEU’s upcoming deployment.
The importance of the work done at HQMC should not be undervalued, said Capdepon.
“They’re doing a lot of hard work to develop the (Family Readiness Team) that will greatly benefit the individual Marine and his family,” he said. “More importantly, it provides the commanders with a family readiness officer as continuity to the whole program.”
Formerly, members of the key volunteers network, as it was called, took their own time to disseminate information, organize events for unit family members in the rear, and generally help meet spouse and children's needs when one parent deployed.
The creation of the Marine Corps Family Team Building program and its associated tools represents a dynamic transformation to the way it handles business on the homefront.
Petty Officer 1st Class Myesha S. Booker, religious programs specialist with the 26th MEU, said the program will alleviate many of the pressures a deployment levees on both deployed Marines and their loved ones at home.
“Instead of the command using its own assets, the commanding officer will choose a civilian to be the family readiness officer,” she said. “That will take those responsibilities from a military person who has other duties and give them to a civilian whose only job will be that position.”
“The communications tools will allow the family readiness officer to do the work the KVNs used to do,” she said. “This takes the pressure off the KVNs.”
She explained the program allows the commanding officer to be confident someone is devoting 100 percent of his time and energy to matters on the homefront. The FRO will then coordinate volunteers in the rear as needed, taking the stress off spouses.
The system not only ensures the best attention to matters at home, it is also “innovative and state-of-the-art” according to Booker.
“It’s an automated system; the (commanding officer) can record a message on the telephone and the message will be sent to every phone in the phone tree without any need for the volunteers to do anything,” she said, adding, “Also, the (family readiness officer) will receive messages from the system that will say, for instance, that the message wasn’t delivered to this number or that number because no one picked up.”
She also said the phone system will allow conference calls with multiple parties.
Booker explained that the system has been in use by other services for awhile, but that the representatives from the MEU need to be trained to operate it properly.
Overall, the program will be a boon to the 26th MEU as well as the Marine Corps overall, said Capdepon.
“The new Family Readiness Program will open a much wider spectrum of available resources to a much wider audience,” he said. “That will benefit the individual Marine and will ultimately have a positive impact on the entire unit.”