Advocacy in Action – Reaching Beyond the Gates
By Theresa Donahoe, National Military Family Association Representative, Fort Knox, KY
When the final Duke Brigade Soldier returned to Fort Knox after a year-long deployment to Afghanistan, the post came together to evaluate the effectiveness of community support during deployment. The overall report was resoundingly positive. The communities of Fort Knox and the surrounding area stepped up to provide unparalleled support to the soldiers of 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and their families throughout the deployment. This was not a large installation with a history of facilitating multiple deployments. So what was it that enabled this level of community support that had not deployed a brigade of its size since WWII?
Long before the first Duke soldiers left Kentucky for Afghanistan, numerous parties collaborated to design a plan for accessing resources and support for the deploying unit. The Mobilization and Deployment program in Army Community Service provided overviews of the deployment cycle to military and civilian groups. School Liaison officers reached out to educators throughout the region to raise awareness of the impact of deployment of military children and families. Family Readiness Support Assistants and Senior Spouses met with an outreach coalition of community organizations to identify needs that could be met outside the traditional military community. The post recognized the need to raise awareness about the upcoming deployment, to discuss the impact of the mission on the families left behind, and to identify ways in which the community could mitigate the stressors through social, financial, and educational means.
Multiple factors played a role in establishing a support network for the Duke Brigade, but one element was critical. Fort Knox leadership reached beyond its gates and tapped into local communities, businesses, and organizations to develop a support network. Their plan echoed two components outlined in the National Military Family Association’s publication Finding Common Ground: A Toolkit for Communities Supporting Military Families—engage civilian communities and create public awareness about the lives of military families. These efforts to expand support networks into the communities where military families live, work, and play resulted in a collaborative, community-wide system of support that maintained a presence for families throughout the deployment. Additionally, the success of this outreach initiative established a foundation of support for future endeavors.
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