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Networks for Military Family Support with Amy Rodick

May 2


About This Episode

(Season 5, Episode 18)

Amy Rodick, Director of the Office of Military Family Readiness and Policy in the Department of Defense, joins the podcast to talk about the informal and formal network that help military families thrive.

As an Army veteran and military spouse, Amy brings a unique perspective,  sharing real-world strategies for service providers to successfully engage with the Military Family Readiness System at the local level.

Headshot of Amy Rodick


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Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. Here to start the conversation are Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch.

Bob Bertsch: Hi, welcome to the Practicing Connection podcast. I’m Bob Bertsch.

Jessica Beckendorf: I’m Jessica Beckendorf.

Bob: Our guest today is Ms. Amy Rodick, Director of the Office of Military Family Readiness and Policy for the Department of Defense. As Director, Amy is responsible for leadership, management, and oversight of programs affecting military families, including military spouse career advancement, military family life learning, and the Office of Special Needs.

Jessica: Amy has 19 years of operations and program management experience as a civil servant in active duty military officer. She’s an Army veteran and a current military spouse, well-versed in the many benefits and challenges of military life. We are honored to be able to welcome her to the podcast. Hi, Amy. Thank you for your service and for joining us on our Practicing Connection podcast.

Amy Rodick: Good morning. Thank you so much. I’m happy to be here.

Jessica: Amy, you have a wealth of experience, but what led you to your work with the Office of Military Family Readiness and Policy?

Amy: I, as an Army veteran, as you mentioned, and current active duty spouse, and mother of four, [chuckles] really military family readiness policy is at the very core of who I am personally and professionally.

Bob: Can you tell us more, Amy, about how the Office of Military Family Readiness and Policy contributes to military family readiness overall?

Amy: I would love to, yes. Actually, our office, as well as the entire DoD team, I would say, is committed to military family readiness. What does that mean? It means helping members and families to be prepared to face the challenges that military life often throws at you, and that’s through building skills such as, knowledge, awareness of support and resources, and putting all of those things into action to enhance their own personal readiness and overall well-being.

Jessica: We know that family readiness and resilience can be complex. How does the DoD go about addressing that complexity?

Amy: I’ll tell you, they have tried to address it through multiple angles. I think the first step is really recognizing that they do have these complex needs, which can’t be addressed with just one program or service. It’s really the landscape of all programs, services, and communities to help build the support around military families to enhance their readiness and resilience.

We really do need that network of support and services to address those needs, so we do a lot to ensure that programs and services take a holistic approach to identifying these needs, and of course, we value the collaboration and partnership of the other stakeholders that we work with, such as our federal partners, like the VA, the Department of Labor, or community agencies such as the American Red Cross, local school boards, or Chambers of Commerce, but we really see that military family readiness is critical to national security because it enables mission readiness. By ensuring the service members and their families have support and resources they need, we take care of the entire family unit.

Bob: Amy, it sounds like you’re describing the Military Family Readiness System. I’m just wondering, as an entity, and, the Military Family Readiness System exists in policy, how does it impact the work of military family service providers?

Amy: The term Military Family Readiness System is used in our policy, as you mentioned, but people don’t really understand the practical application or what that looks like in everyday life. It’s really not a specific entity, but it’s more of a framework or an ecosystem, if you will. You can’t just walk into a military family readiness office. It’s not really a tangible thing, but really it’s, like I said, the ecosystem that surrounds the military service members and their families that provides the support that’s really so critical to that readiness and resilience we just mentioned.

As many of us know, who are familiar with the military lifestyle, it does present unique challenges, such as relocation, deployment, high stress levels, high operational demands, transition with children and schools, which I have experienced firsthand, and the constant, uncertainty of what the next week will look like for you or your family. The DoD really has widened its aperture and recognizes that not one single program or service can address those needs. It really does take that ecosystem within the Military Family Readiness System to provide that support.

Of course, we have, resources such as Military OneSource to include military installations and some of the other support services that are housed on Military OneSource, but really, what we’re trying to encourage and trying to inform people and educate folks is that the Military Family Readiness System is really the promotion and the integration of all these services when possible, and collaboration and partnerships that support the military family. It’s really the act of enabling service providers to meet service members and families where they are with the appropriate resources to address the different dimensions of the issue at hand.

Jessica: I love the description you used of ecosystem. I’ve also described it as like a network of networks, but I think ecosystem is probably a much better encapsulated word for this. You started to touch on this a little bit. The DoD instruction on military family readiness states that the MFRS, the Military Family Readiness System, must among other things, link informal networks like family, friends, neighbors, the people that are around you, and formal networks like schools, and faith based organizations, medical organizations, professionals in the community. Why is that important and how do you think service providers can help in linking those networks?

Amy: It’s a great question. When we think down to the simplest terms and the most common concepts of informal networks, it’s really your friends and your community. We want people to think about the Military Family Readiness System in a more local manner. It’s not so much the DoD or these federal agencies, or these big government, but it’s as important, and as essential, and as useful and effective looking at it from the local level. Then those formal networks are your programs and services.

When you think about it, one of the examples that we wanted to highlight is like when you move to a new location, you’re a military family, you pick up about every two years, the ecosystem or support network that you’ve established at one location now becomes dissolved as you move to another location. There’s a lot of different things that you have to coordinate as a military family for each one of those moves, trying to establish medical care providers, trying to get enrolled and informed about the schools within your area, not to mention jobs for military spouses, which can be significantly disrupted through all those moves as well.

When you move, you’re starting out at zero and where you may make some informal connections prior to making that physical move, it really is a challenge to create some of those more formal networks until you’re physically in place. The Internet and virtual resources are, of course, helpful, but it’s that in-person equity, it’s that crowdsourcing, it’s that spouse-to-spouse referral, or family-to-family referral that really makes the most impact for military families when they move, and really that is what encompasses this Military Family Readiness System. It’s the combination of those informal networks, like we mentioned, the friends and community and as well as combining some of those more formal networks.

Bob: Amy, with that in mind, what advice do you have for service providers who are looking to link those formal and informal networks and engage with the Military Family Readiness System?

Amy: Thank you for that question as well. I think sometimes when we think about this Military Family Readiness System, we think about it being this very large ecosystem, but really when you try to scale it down to just the local level, you realize you’re not alone. You realize, “I am a part of a larger system,” but the responsibility for solving some of these issues does not rest solely on you or a program, but there’s a whole network of resources that are ready within the Military Family Readiness System to support you and your family. You just have to access them and you have to engage in your community to be informed about what resources are available. People are so willing to help, and especially those who are military connected, they want to provide support to families, they just don’t always identify themselves. I would say, the solution, again, is not at the DoD, federal, or service level, but I really do think of it more as a local solution. I would encourage people to be curious about the military population within your community. There’s probably a military-connected family within your neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be installation-based.

I think sometimes we’re wrapped up in that installation-based military family, but we have so many more military families and service members who are geographically dispersed, who aren’t necessarily assigned to a specific installation. We also have our Reserve and National Guard service members and their families who are in your communities. That’s the whole idea, so how do we go and support them as service providers, as community members, in support of the Military Family Readiness System? Be curious and engage.

Jessica: Amy, what personal practices might you have that help with your own readiness and resilience?

Amy: One personal practice that I employ is that I don’t give up. I’m not scared by administrative tasks, that’s the other thing. As a military spouse, when you move, you can’t let the administrivia intimidate you, enrolling children in school, enrolling in the child development centers, re-establishing healthcare. I try to just pace myself without trying to become completely overwhelmed, and at the point of feeling overwhelmed, which can happen to the best of us, I take a knee. I take a knee and I just regroup, set some additional tasks again, just incrementally, and then I say, “Look, it may not be on my timeline, but everything will get done.”

That’s my mantra just in life and I’m being very honest here. [chuckles] Even in my day-to-day with my family and work schedule, my mantra is, it may not be done on my timeline, but everything will get done. You just keep on pushing through and it will get done. When it does, you’re like, “Okay, I’m onto the next thing.” You just keep on going, but every once in a while, taking that, what we call the tactical pause, taking that tactical pause, take a knee, regroup yourself as you need so that you don’t become completely overwhelmed. Then just set those little tasks leading you into forward movement all over again because it can be daunting.

Then knowing that there’s resources out there to help you, if at some point taking that knee and thinking about those next steps is not working for you, realize there’s other resources out there that you can tap into to get you over that hurdle. I mentioned Military OneSource. We also have amazing non-clinical counseling services through our Military Family Life Counselor Program, which is amazing, and I’ve used them.

We have the customer as well and they’re extremely helpful. Again, just to get you through a potential impasse or current impasse that you may be experiencing in your personal life because it is hard. It really is, but at the end of the day, nothing that’s worth doing isn’t hard. You just keep on pushing through and you’ll get to the other side, it’s all good.

Bob: Amy Rodick is Director of the Office of Military Family Readiness and Policy for the Department of Defense. Amy, thank you so much for joining us.

Amy: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

Jessica: That’s it for this episode. Thanks for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, click the Share button in your podcast app to share it with a friend.

Bob: We’d like to thank our co-producer, Coral Owen, our announcer, Kalin Goble, Maggie Lucas, and Meisenbach for their help with marketing, and Nathan Grimm, who composed and performed all the music you hear on the podcast. We’ll be back next week with a new practicast on exploring your character strengths. Until then, keep practicing.


Kalin: The Practicing Connection Podcast is a production of OneOp and is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, US Department of Defense, under award numbers 2019-48770-30366, and 2023-48770-41333.

[00:15:02] [END OF AUDIO]


May 2
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