By Scott Prater
In an effort to enhance support services for its members, the Air Force embarked on the Year of the Air Force Family this past July.
In a July 17 memorandum, Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz designated July 2009 to July 2010 as the Year of the Air Force Family.
Secretary Donley and General Schwartz have directed Integrated Delivery Service staff throughout the Air Force to place significant emphasis on four important areas… or pillars, and Schriever’s family support organizations will respond in earnest during the first week of November, dubbed the Week of the Air Force Family.
Starting Nov. 1, local family support organizations, the Chaplain’s office, Sexual Assault Response Center and Family Advocacy will combine efforts and host 11 events, either here, at Peterson Air Force Base, the United State Air Force Academy or the Southwest Colorado Springs YMCA.
“This is an exciting time for the Air Force,” said Christina Ruetz, community readiness consultant at Schriever’s Airman and Family Readiness Center. “We have more programs now for Airmen and Families than we’ve ever had before. We want to put our families and Airmen in touch with all of the services we provide and let them know about all of the resources available to them.”
The week’s events will cover all four pillars of emphasis: Health and Wellness; Airman and Family Support; Education, Development and Employment; and Airman and Family Housing.
The Week of the Air Force Family kicks off Nov. 1 with Family Bowling at the Peterson Bowling Center. Schriever’s Airman and Family Readiness Center then hosts a Family Information Fair Nov. 2 at the Space Innovation and Development Center Dining Facility. The USAFA AFRC will host a Career Tracks Military Spouse Seminar on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4, while the Schriever AFRC steps back in to offer a Holiday Shopping and Savings Tips class on Nov. 4 and an Open House and IDS Information Fair on Nov. 6. Peterson will also host a Retiree reception and briefing on Nov. 3 and the Readiness Family Dinner and Movie night on Nov. 6.
“If you look at the list of events — we’re covering the four pillars across the board,” Ms. Ruetz said. “We’ve got stuff for military spouses, retirees, saving money and families of deployed Airmen. And that’s just one week.”
Anyone interested in obtaining the full list of events scheduled for the week can pick one up at the Schriever AFRC.
Some may say that many of the programs and events highlighted during the Year and Week of the Air Force Family are existing programs. So, what has motivated Air Force leaders to place an emphasis on these services now?
“I think the goal of this entire initiative is two fold,” Ms. Ruetz said. “To evolve a lot of the programs we have now as a way of ensuring that we are enhancing those programs. We’re also asking, ‘what can we do better to provide for the changing needs of Airmen and families.”
Though it may not be designed as an awareness builder, the Year and Week of the Air Force Family campaign also succeeds in educating military members about the various services offered by the community family partners.
“There are a lot of resources out there, but it’s knowing how to get to the right place or even where to start,” Ms. Ruetz said. “That’s what we’re here for. At the AFRC for example, we are subject matter experts in our particular fields, but we’re also consultants with the community. In other words, we each have areas that we’re educated in and we have resources and contacts in those areas, so we can work with the military member based on what their needs are.”
Ms. Ruetz is responsible for individual financial readiness for example, but the Schriever AFRC also offers consulting in relocation, career assistance and transition assistance among many other programs.
“All of us can meet with individuals to discuss what they are looking for,” she said. “Folks need to understand that they can come into the ARFC and meet with a friendly face, sit comfortably and know they are going to get sound, current information.”