RICHMOND, Va. -- In recent months, Virginia National Guard Family Programs has undergone significant changes. The Soldier and Family Readiness Program has transitioned to one all encompassing program to provide assistance and support to Soldiers and their families. This has taken place with programs nationwide and has been put into effect by National Guard Bureau.
The Soldier and Family Readiness Program is now comprised of civilian federal employees. This program has transitioned into what used to be the contracted Family Assistance and Family Readiness Support programs encompassing all of the previous duties and improving on those processes.
“Soldier and Family Readiness is now one comprehensive program to provide direct support to Army leadership and to assist National Guard service members and their families navigate the unique challenges of their military and civilian lives,” said Teresa Merritt, lead Soldier & Family Readiness Program coordinator.
There are 10 Soldier and Family Readiness Assistance Centers throughout the state to support the geographically-disbursed force and families of the Virginia National Guard. They are now located in Abingdon, Danville, Fort Pickett, Fredericksburg, Hampton, Hanover, Norfolk, Richmond, Staunton and Virginia Beach and fall under the Virginia National Guard director of human resources and the state Family Program director.
The Soldier and Family Readiness Program is designed to be the Guard’s entry point and primary contact for all readiness and assistance needs.
The Soldier and Family Readiness Specialists provide assistance and non-medical case management to service members and families on a variety of subjects. An example of these services are basic financial education, Tricare claims assistance, ID card questions, resource and referral to community services, state agencies, employment assistance and guidance through the Exceptional Family Member Program if they have a family member with special needs that fall under EFMP.
They also work closely with the commander’s Family Readiness Program to assist Army leadership and volunteers. They provide training support and briefings to command leadership, family readiness groups, Soldiers and families, and community partners.
The SFRS support Yellow Ribbon events to keep in touch with deploying Soldiers and families, and work closely with the Recruit Sustainment Program to educate new recruits coming in the Guard and get them off to a successful start in their careers. They are out in our communities forming relationships with agencies and organizations that can help our Soldiers and families and maintain an up to date state directory of those resources.
While their focus will remain Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers and their family members, SRFS will not turn away other military members and their families.
“There is no wrong door for our services and it is now truly a one-stop shop. You can call any one of our numbers and we will get you to the right person for what you need,” said Sais. “All 10 positions are now filled and actively on board and these positions will be able to provide more sustainable support to our service member versus contract positions.”
Services are confidential and available throughout the week during normal office hours and 24 hours through their emergency assistance hotline 434-480-6585. A member of the staff operates this hotline at all times.
“We are here to navigate the services and resources available to our service members and families and help with the information overload,” said Merritt. “We are here to identify ways to make their military and civilian lives a success.”