Helping agencies: Army Community Services

Helping agencies: Army Community Services

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

It’s no secret that attempting to maintain an even work-life balance in the Army life is more than challenging. Whether you’re a new spouse, a seasoned soldier, civilian employee or retiree, there are different needs throughout your time in the military. From last-minute deployments, new family additions, constant movements and just plain everyday stressors can feel overwhelming. There’s a place to help balance the load and lift the burden — Army Community Services, or ACS.

What is ACS?

ACS was established 56 years ago on July 25, 1965, by former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Harold Johnson. What began as a volunteer program mostly made of Army spouses has blossomed into a one-stop place to find a wealth of knowledge, workshops, counseling, relocation assistance and newcomer orientations, family advocacy courses and soldier readiness programs. ACS centers can be located on almost all Army posts.

What specific programs or services are offered?

Some of the unique programs ACS offers include the Soldier and Family Assistance Center (SFAC) and the Mobilization and Deployment Readiness Program (Operation READY). SFAC provides aid and assistance to soldiers and families who have been wounded, injured or suffer illnesses attached to a Warrior Transition Unit. SFAC helps with referrals and substance abuse programs and can help coordinate legal and spiritual counsel. Specialists can also help families who need help coping with transition and difficulties associated with their changing family dynamic.

Operation READY is very similar to the Key Spouse program in the Air Force. This program helps commanders and leaders provide the necessary tools for family readiness. Training sessions and modules help guide soldiers and their families through the difficulties of impending deployments. Financial counseling, emotional support and wellness materials can be obtained through your local ACS office or Family Readiness Group (FRG) within the active-duty member’s unit.

Other offerings

ACS also offers plenty of other programs. If you’re new to Europe, ACS usually offers a host-nation orientation that gives insight into your new location's culture and customs. Are you heading back to the States from Europe? Sign up for a re-entry workshop to get the right information about shipping household goods, cars and pets back to the U.S. To help with financial matters, the Financial Readiness Program (FRP) can help with creating budgets, credit counseling and more. Spouses looking for employment can take advantage of services offered through the Employment Readiness Program (ERF), including resume writing, interview skills, job fairs, navigating the ins and outs of home-based businesses and applying for federal opportunities.

If you have a family member with different needs require specialized care, ACS is home to the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). In conjunction with medical facilities, EFMP can help with referrals and offer opportunities to give caretakers and families a break. Often, they’ll host activities and events designed specifically for those enrolled in EFMP. In addition to EFMP, ACS also provides a variety of family support programs. The New Parent Support Program (NPSP) offers parenting classes designed for different situations unique to the Army lifestyle, such as deployments, reunification and feelings of isolation.

Army life can be difficult in the work-life balance department. It’s easy to feel frustrated, overwhelmed and at a loss of who to turn to. However, knowing where to go and having the professionals at your local ACS at the ready can help wade through and get you to where you need to be. For more information, visit www.armymwr.com.

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