The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the United States Military have worked hand-in-hand to meet the needs of Texas families since 1987. Currently, Extension staff are at Ft. Bliss and Ft. Hood providing educational programming in multiple areas, providing an excellent example of how Cooperative Extension helps build community capacity to enhance the resilience of service members and their families. Following are a few examples of the excellent programming being done at the Installations.
Cooperative extension agents are in the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) at both Ft. Bliss and Ft. Hood. The mission of FAP is the prevention of child and spouse abuse. This goal is met by providing educational programs in awareness to military personnel as required by Army regulation. Agents teach parenting education, couple enrichment, and train all child care providers in identification and prevention of abuse. Promoting awareness of child and spouse abuse through community awareness campaigns is a major focus of the program. FAP also provides education on child safety and life skills training such as stress management, anger control, and dating violence. Fort Bliss has a puppet show that provides educational programs for children and youth on several topics from child abuse to bicycle safety. The Passenger/Car Seat program is also very well received at both installations with regular monthly car seat events for families.
Victim Advocacy is also a part of the FAP and assists victims of spouse abuse to access services available to them. They also train a volunteer corps to assist in the program.
New Parent Support Program provides in-home visitation, therapeutic support, and resource assistance to Army families with new babies and continuing support for families with children through the age of 5 years. The program attempts to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect and spouse abuse through individual parenting education, roll modeling, and access services.
Since the program began at Ft. Hood, awareness classes to soldiers have increased from 40 percent of units being reached to 100 percent or above of all units being reached in a year. In fiscal year 2002 Fort Hood Cooperative Extension Agents briefed 100% of the Units at Fort Hood and over 85% of all military personnel, an all time high. Recently, an Extension Agent reached 100% of individuals assigned to the units he is responsible for. Fort Bliss continues to provide training to the military community with innovative programming. The Extension Agent for Family Violence has also assumed a larger part of the Victim Advocacy program in the absence of the Victim Advocate. Fort Bliss Extension Agents are extensively cross trained in programs due to limited staff in all community service areas. It has been showcased as a model program for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
The Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) uses Cooperative Extension agents to provide educational programming to make soldiers and family members aware of the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. Agents take leadership in Army-required military unit training, awareness campaigns, and violence in the workplace training for civilians. A highlight is the Summer Sense campaign held over the summer season to create a heightened awareness not to drink and drive. The program also brings the message to youth in the community througha three-day outing that teaches leadership skills and drug and alcohol abuse prevention. The Fort Hood Substance Abuse Program received the Secretary of Defense 12th Annual Community Drug Awareness Award for the best community drug awareness program in the United States Army back in FY2001, and continues to provide leadership in this area.
Military families face many hardships that can create financial burdens. Cooperative Extension provides programming in the Financial Readiness Program by training NCOs to teach fiscal responsibility to soldiers in their units. Agents provide basic financial education as a part of the 1st Termer program, an educational program to help new soldiers and families get started on the right foot financially. Agents also provide educational programming in budgeting, insurance, and protection against scams.
The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) provides services to enhance the quality of life for special needs individuals and their families. This includes family members with learning disabilities, medical needs, or handicaps. Advocacy, education, and recreational activities for the support of families are included.
Mobilization and Deployment (MOB/DEP) are the backbone of today’s military. Soldiers must be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to anywhere in the world, and their families must also be ready. To meet the challenges caused by military deployment, agents provide extensive training to rear detachment units, family readiness groups, and others. Operation READY, a comprehensive program developed by Family Development and Resource Management specialists, is a vital link in the training curriculum. When rapid deployments occur, agents have worked 24 hours a day. They have been active in providing services to soldiers and families as they prepared to deploy to fight the War on Terrorism.
The Relocation Assistance Program (RAP) is another integral service to military families relocating approximately every three to four years. RAP helps families prepare for moving by providing information on the locations to which they have been transferred. Educational programming is provided on financial preparation, making a smooth move for youth, and practical preparation to moving. They also provide a much needed service to newly arriving families through the lending closet. This service allows newly arriving military families temporary use of basic household items until their household goods arrive in shipment from their last duty assignment. Classes and groups are also provided for foreign born spouses to help them learn about the military and life in the United States. Waiting spouses are provided educational program that help them to deal with the situations of having a spouse away on an extended tour of duty.
Information and Referral (I&R) is the basic concept of the Army Community Service (ACS). If a military family wants to know the availability or up-to-date information on military and community resources, they call ACS. Staff assistants are at both Fort Bliss and Fort Hood to provide this vital single point of contact service to the military community.
The Employment Readiness Program (ERP) provides educational programming and information that can assist participants in finding employment opportunities in the community. Military family members learn skills such as resume writing, interviewing techniques, and working with employers in the community.
Volunteering is the backbone of both Cooperative Extension and the Military. Without volunteers, we would never be able to reach many of the soldiers and family members. At Fort Hood, under the Soldier and Family Readiness Branch, a Cooperative Extension Agent is in charge of the Army Family Action Program (AFAP). The AFAP brings volunteer community members together, to include teens, to discuss community concerns which are addressed to the Command Group of the installation. This community capacity building. Volunteer Program is led by Cooperative Extension at Ft. Bliss. Our Extension agent recruits, trains, and places volunteers throughout the Ft. Bliss community. She is responsible for all Post-wide recognition of volunteers, including the Ft. Bliss Volunteer of the Year Award. There is also an extensive youth volunteer initiative at both installations.
Bell and Coryell County 4-H Agents give leadership to Child and Youth Services 4-H development on Ft. Hood, which has established 4-H Clubs at Youth Centers across the Installation. Their educational areas covered are Photography, Fine Arts, Citizenship, and Technology.
Each of these programs stands alone to provide services to soldiers and military families, but joint programming efforts are continually developed to better meet the needs of servicemembers and their families, and to build community capacity to enhance the resilience of military families. With Cooperative Extension Agents and Staff Assistants working together with their military partners, programming efforts have surpassed all expectations. Whenever a new initiative is introduced in the care of soldiers and families at either Ft. Bliss or Ft. Hood, they look to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to help them meet these emerging needs.