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Orientation tailored for military spouses

Published: 11:29AM January 24th, 2013
Orientation tailored for military spouses

By Julie Smith/Northwest Guardian

CYSS deployment specialist Gail Jepson, left, speaks with spouses Sanya Bowen, middle, and Sarissa Walker during the first JBLM spouses’ newcomers orientation at the McChord Field Collocated Club.

Service members receive an overwhelming amount of information when they move to a new duty station, but sometimes that information doesn’t make it to military spouses.

That’s why Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Army Community Service and Airman and Family Readiness Center have partnered to organize monthly spouses’ newcomers orientations, held at the McChord Field Collocated Club.

The events will provide an opportunity for military spouses to be informally introduced to representatives from several JBLM agencies, including Child, Youth and School Services, Employment Readiness, and the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate.

“We’ve invited agencies that we thought would be of interest to spouses,” relocation assistance program manager and event organizer Perlita Rafael said. “The goal is (to) have all the information they need in one place.”

According to Rafael, spouses are invited to attend the traditional newcomers orientation with their service members, also held at the Collocated Club, but the majority of information doesn’t pertain to spouses.

“We want to provide information that is very specific to spouses,” she said.

That’s exactly what Air National Guard spouse Sarissa Walker and Army spouse Sanya Bowen were hoping for when they attended the Jan. 16 orientation together. Neither was a newcomer to JBLM, but they were curious about the event. Walker, who has been a military spouse for eight years, had just learned that morning about the formal process to contact her husband overseas through the American Red Cross.

“My husband has been deployed seven times and I never knew,” Walker said.

Bowen said she got a lot of information as a former family readiness group leader for her husband’s unit, but she feels there is often a lack of communication to military spouses.

“There is just so much information out there,” she said.

Rafael said the event is designed to bridge that communication gap and help spouses discover services across JBLM available to them. There are plans to incorporate an installationwide bus tour as part of the orientation so spouses can more easily locate agency offices.

JBLM deployment specialist and CYSS representative Gail Jepson believes the orientations are good opportunities to spend quality one-on-one time with spouses, particularly for Air Force spouses since CYSS began as an Army program.

“Spouses can come and talk to us face-to-face and get their questions answered,” she said. “It’s a huge educational process for families to learn about our organization.”

The next spouses’ newcomers orientation is Feb. 20. from 9 a.m. to noon. Call 982-2695 to register.