Family Forum / By COL H. Allan Cutchin: The 244th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade (ECAB) is finalizing preparations for one of the largest Army Reserve deployments in recent history. The challenge of mobilizing and deploying almost 900 Soldiers and over 400 lines of equipment from seven different locations requires the 244th ECAB to leverage every possible readiness enabler.
Soldiers and family members of the 244th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade (ECAB) are briefed by the commander of the Army Reserve Aviation Command (ARAC), BG Jamelle C. Shawley, at a mobilization ceremony held ahead of the Brigade’s upcoming deployment in April 2019.
With individual Soldier readiness the number one priority the 244th ECAB is utilizing family readiness to reduce the stress on the family members and Soldiers due to the upcoming deployment, thereby enabling Soldiers to focus on their mission. In order to meet this goal, the 244th ECAB is engaged in continuous outreach, education, and partnering with support organizations.
The challenge to effective family readiness lies in educating Soldiers and connecting with family members. Advances in technology have changed the way people communicate and Soldiers and family members are now able to connect almost instantly from anywhere in the world. Despite these technological advances, family support programs remain invaluable and can prevent a deployed Soldier from having to try to solve family problems from thousands of miles away via the internet.
Educating Soldiers and family members about the support available to them and encouraging them to utilize these programs when needed is critical; therefore, outreach and education are a priority. In a culture of connected technology, the 244th ECAB is utilizing digital communication to develop strong family readiness bonds and is conducting individual outreach to integrate with Soldiers and families.
The 244th ECAB is also looking for ways to bring family members into the units to make them feel part of the team. The brigade is geographically dispersed from coast to coast, making connection with family members a significant challenge. One-way leadership is looking to overcome some of the challenges posed by geography is by developing “Family Connectivity Groups.” The goal is to bridge geographic gaps by mapping the towns of all Soldiers in the brigade by zip code and not by unit as is traditionally done. This will allow the 244th ECAB to better resource education and outreach efforts. It will also provide Soldiers and family members with potential additional support resources within their communities.
Soldier education and innovative family outreach has never been more important to ensure Family members receive the necessary information during deployment. The challenge is delivering the information to the Soldiers and the Family in the manner best suited to their needs. Email, online apps, Facebook and Twitter are all examples communication platforms preferred by Soldiers and Family members.
Resources and programs such as Army Reserve Family Programs (ARFP), Fort Family, and the Yellow Ribbon Program are examples of helpful resources available to Soldiers and families. The ability to and impact of connecting with families and providing outreach is significantly enhanced by partnering with supportive organizations. The 244th ECAB has taken advantage of the support and resources provided by all these organizations to provide family-oriented events that build understanding and belonging.
As the 244th ECAB finalizes it deployment preparations it is fortunate to have the continuous support of a full-time family readiness coordinator, engaged spouses at the Brigade and Battalion levels, strong FRG leaders, and other volunteers. Family readiness is a big challenge and requires constant work. These individuals are the backbone of our family readiness initiatives and they bring significant enabling capability to the brigade. Because of their work, 244th ECAB Soldiers and family members are being better prepared for this deployment.
COL H. Allan Cutchin is the commander of the 244th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, headquartered at Joint Base Lakehurst McGuire, NJ;