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NEWS | Nov. 7, 2022

Family Programs new orientation shifts focus from Guardsmen to families

By 1st Lt. Balinda O'Neal Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

The Alaska National Guard Warrior & Family Services is on a new mission to ensure every Alaska National Guard family is educated about the resources and information available to them through a new program named Guard Smart.

The Warrior & Family Services team christened the program with a mixture of new and seasoned Alaska Air and Army National Guard families at the AKNG armory on JBER, Nov. 4.

“Until now, we haven’t had a program or orientation like this,” said Carissa Jones, a soldier and family readiness specialist with AKNG W&FS. “This orientation is different because it focuses on the families and not only the service member.”

From medical and educational opportunities to military etiquette, the full-day orientation provided resources, services and tools to help AKNG families and service members navigate civilian and military life. The team also discussed the vast network of support agencies created to aid them and encouraged the families to network during the event-sponsored lunch.

During the program, the AKNG W&FS team recognized both the strength and sacrifices military families face and emphasized that even if they do not wear a uniform they are an essential part of the organization.

“When our service members and their families are taken care of, when they feel valued and supported, there is a sense of relief in knowing they can focus on their mission. In return, a family can take on a deployment or activation easier when they know they have support at their fingertips,” said Jones, who worked with the AKNG W&FS team to develop the program over the past several months.

“No service member, nor military family should ever have to struggle,” said Jones. “We are here to help support through military and civilian life.”

The AKNG W&FS has 18 programs and a team of 35 professionals that provide guidance and promote readiness through confidential no-cost support. Even with the network of programs and group of diverse experts, the team said that Alaska families still miss out on resources available to them.

“As a military spouse myself, I can say this with love, our service members tend to not think the information is needed or they have dumped it by the time they get home because it isn’t work related. It’s not intentional it just happens,” said Jones, who has spent over 20 years as a military spouse. “When things are going well, you don’t think you need the information.”

The program also counters the more traditional notion that family is only a group of individuals united by ties of marriage, blood or adoption. The Guard Smart program extends family to the broader concept of chosen family – unrelated loved ones who share a significant personal bond with the service member.

Jones said that the program is not only open to parents and siblings, but also roommates, coworkers and friends – anyone who wants to be more involved in the service member’s life.

The Warrior & Family Services will continue affording families and service members the opportunity to meet new people, learn about the Alaska National Guard lifestyle and get to know available resources by offering quarterly programs on JBER and bi-annually across the state at multiple locations. For information or to sign up for future Guard Smart orientations, call (907) 428-6663.

The AKNG W&FS team plans on continuingly developing their programming to suit their families’ needs. They are always on watch for new ways to provide assistance and appreciate feedback from families and service members.

To stay up to date on future events and provide feedback to enrich AKNG W&FS’s programs, visit their Facebook page at The Alaska National Guard Family.