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Family Services opens satellite office at MWSS-273

By Sgt. Todd Greenwood | | December 15, 2000

Sgt. Todd Greenwood
Tribune staff

A family readiness satellite office opened recently at Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 as a resource for Marines facing domestic challenges and to help enhance deployment readiness.

An extension of the Air Station Family Service Center, the MWSS-273 Family Readiness Office is a proactive step to improve combat readiness within the unit by helping to ensure MWSS-273 personnel are emotionally fit, well adjusted and that family members are prepared for the challenges of deployment.

The office, located in the MWSS-273 Engineers Division building performs many of the same functions as the FSC, but with a more specific mission ? deployment readiness and crisis prevention.    

Air Station FSC counselor Eric Ashley, who helped initiate a similar program at Camp Lejeune, conceived the idea of a Family Services satellite office. Ashley added that with support of the commanders a program could well make a difference in reducing numbers of problems that escalate into disciplinary incidents for unit commanders.

?The idea was to be proactive with family advocacy, and try to head off an issue before it occurs,? said Ashley.  ?It made sense to place a counselor at the unit during the work day and let it be known they were there for assistance. The results were encouraging. With command support for the program we were able to establish a 33 percent reduction in domestic violence issues over a seven-month period.?

?It (the satellite office) is about being proactive in reaching the individual. We?re facing a different situation with young Marines than we were even a few years ago,? said GySgt. Geraldine Henderson, FSC prevention specialist.

"Divorces are over 60 percent and we have many single parents in the fleet. When called on to deploy it is vital they and their family members are prepared. They have to be ready emotionally and with issues like childcare and a financial plan. A Marine performs best when he or she knows their family situation at home is secure.? 

Karen Halling, licensed counselor at the satellite office emphasized that the proximity of a counselor to the Marines within the unit makes possible early professional assistance on issues.

?Any of the services we offer are available at the Family Service Center, but the immediate presence of a counselor in the unit makes all the difference,? said  Halling. ?As a resource for prevention, I am in a position to meet with a Marine, to head of an issue before it is expressed inappropriately. This can take any number of forms, from developing substance abuse issues, to adjustment issues to stress that an individual may be unable to express appropriately and may be acted out as verbal or physical abuse.?

?Marines may not always be able to take the time to go to the Family Service Center to see a counselor,? continued Holling. ?They may not know we?re available. They may not think it?s for them, but having a counselor there when the problem is too much can help head off problems before they escalate to crisis. We?re right around the corner when it counts.?

Other issues the office can help with include unresolved childhood issues and problems adjusting to the Marine Corps lifestyle. 

?Anything we can do to promote individual health and welfare helps accomplish the mission with fewer distractions,? said Henderson. ?Issues a Marine brings with them into the Corps don?t just go away and can impact their contribution to the unit. It?s our responsibility as supervisors to do all we can to build healthy, strong and well-adjusted individuals and families. These satellite offices provide commanding officers a proactive way to do just that,? said Henderson.

One of the advantages of having the counselor in-house is the separation from the chain of command. The counselors act as a source of information and support for Marines without fear of action because the issue goes up the chain of command.
?Anything a Marine shares with us is confidential,? said Halling. ?We are professionally obligated to safeguard what is said, with the exception of an individual expressing an intent to harm himself or another.?

The second goal of Family Readiness is to help ensure combat readiness of personnel by ensuring families are ready for a potential deployment. Although the Family Service Center has numerous resources to help ensure family readiness, the challenge of ensuring each Marine receives the guidance on specific readiness issues can become difficult or impossible for even the most well-meaning supervisor.    

Karen Halling, a licensed social worker with the FSC is the on-site counselor Thursday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon. Halling encouraged unit commanding officers interested in finding out more about satellite offices and family readiness are encouraged to contact Halling or Ashley at 228-7353.