What to Look For |
What to Do |
What to Avoid
What to Expect |
Commands who do not actively engage families and provide them with the appropriate education and tools for deployment preparation may risk much. For example, a Marine is forward deployed in a hazardous area. He is worried about his family back home because of the recent problems with the car and money – issues the Marine could have addressed easily before deployment. The Marine realizes his family is ill-prepared to cope without him and is now constantly distracted. A distracted Marine could mean the difference between life and death in some forward deployed locations where total focus is required for mission success. This example may be extreme, but it highlights the need for Marines to be able to focus on their mission without worrying about their family back home.
Marine seems more anxious about his family as deployment approaches.
Marine discusses deployment preparation problems at home.
Marine complains that his or her spouse is not supportive of deployment.
Marine seems unfocused or distraught over deployment preparation.
Marine asks for more time off than seems necessary as deployment approaches.
Marine is avoiding going home at night.
Family calls asking for help or complaining about the deployment.
- Marine is an IA expressing concern with support for his family.
When you are looking for signs that might suggest a Marine is having trouble getting the family ready, you need to be aware of some of the typical reasons that the spouse or family is unable or reluctant to become involved with preparedness planning, pre-deployment preparation, briefs, or other unit functions. There are many reasons why families do not become involved with their own pre-deployment preparation and education. Some reasons are easily explained; others are beyond common reason. The issues that may prevent families from becoming involved could be emotional, logistical or simple awareness. The challenge to the command is ensuring the families who do not come forward voluntarily are identified and followed up on by unit representatives.
Spouses may have personal reasons for not becoming involved with the unit and not participating in pre-deployment activities. Resistance issuesare based on the perspective of the spouse and family at that time. A spouse may not understand enough about the Marine Corps, the unit's mission or the spouse's role to easily accept the demands placed on them by a deployment. Though certain emotions may seem random or arbitrary, there are definite emotional stages of deployment. These stages can be referenced in the Unit Deployment
Guide for Families.
Denial is quite common in the earlier stages of deployment preparedness, but other emotions may also become apparent such as fear and resentment. Here are some examples:
“I don't need this info. My Marine is not really going” - Basic denial.
“The Marine Corps is taking my Marine away from me” – The spouse may be fearful of the upcoming deployment, afraid of losing their spouse, the Marine may be the only one who can explain all that is going on, is their Marine Corps “interpreter” explaining all things Marine.
- “The First Sergeant yelled at my Marine and is mean to him, making him work late…” - The Marine may share his work frustrations with the spouse, which may build resentment of the Marine Corps within the family.
Basic logistical reasons may also prevent families from getting involved and attending unit pre-deployment functions. Obstacles are often issues such as distance from the base/unit location, limited access to transportation, issues with childcare due to age, number or health of children and conflict with the work schedule of the spouse.
One final consideration is to determine whether the families have been adequately informed of the importance of being involved. Does the spouse even know about the option to participate? Did they receive the details about pre-deployment briefs and information on additional services available to them (i.e., legal assistance, pre-deployment budgeting
classes, CREDO retreats….)?
If some of your Marines are having more trouble than the rest in getting their family ready for deployment, take them aside and help them out so they don't affect the readiness of the entire unit. Here are some things you can do:
Ask the Marine how things are going with getting his family ready.
Use active listening skills to encourage the Marine to confide in you.
Determine which areas in particular need to be worked on.
Arrange for the Marine to meet with the Family Readiness Officer (FRO) for assistance in preparation.
Follow-up with the Marine to ensure program compliance.
Allow sufficient time for the Marine to get his family prepared.
Ensure the families of IAs are connected to the unit's KVN as well as the gaining unit's KVN.
Some things your FRO can help arrange are as
- Communication to unit families.
This can be accomplished through unit newsletters, “Welcome Aboard” letters to families as they join the unit, presentations at different functions (birthday ball, Jane Wayne Days, Family Days, Drill weekends, etc.) Something as simple as the personal phone invitation to a unit function by a command representative can break down the resistance a family may have.
- Coordinate a Unit L.I.N.K.S. Session.
There is also an opportunity to provide a unit L.I.N.K.S. session. L.I.N.K.S. is a spouse-to-spouse mentoring program which provides a full introduction to the Marine Corps, its structure and mission, as well as great information on other topics that impact a family's quality of life in the Corps. Other L.I.N.K.S. topic areas include moving, pay and benefits, deployment, and becoming involved in your community, as well as sections on staying Marine and dealing with others. L.I.N.K.S. is a great way to help new spouses meet new friends and put them on the path to self-sufficiency. Local MCTFB staff can coordinate a session to meet your schedule and needs.
- Work with your Key Volunteer Network. (KVN)
Your KVN is a vital link to the families and can help educate and inform families on the benefits of being involved and prepared.
Letting someone else take the lead. Command involvement and endorsement of family readiness is the first step in dealing with spouses who are unable or reluctant to become involved with pre-deployment preparation, briefs or other unit functions. The Marines in the unit follow your attitude, approach, commitment, and follow through. A Marine will take your lead and relay the need for family readiness back to their spouse. You must be the greatest advocate and educator for family readiness.
Not making all levels of leadership within the unit accountable.
Assuming the Marines and their families know it all, have gone through it already and don't need extra information, resources or guidance.
Not planning properly to allow ample time for action (i.e., between the first pre-deployment brief and the actual deployment date, time to arrange unit L.I.N.K.S session, ample time to get KVs trained before unit departs…). People need time to take action.
- Not communicating with families.
- Most Marines will respond positively to unit leaders taking an interest in their problems if it is done with their best interests in mind.
- The Family Readiness Officer (FRO) will refer
the Marine to appropriate helping agencies.
The Marine will get assistance from the agency to which they were referred.
The Marine should be willing to keep his leader apprised of general progress with the problem so far as it affects unit readiness.
The Marine should understand that his job is to get his life in order so that he can perform well in his unit as a Marine.
Fewer family issues that take away from the Marine's time, energy and focus.
Increased participation from unit families at unit functions, pre-deployment briefings, and KV functions.
More self-sufficient families – less calls to the KVN, FRO, and CO.
- Increased unit readiness.
- Marine is reluctant to get spouse involved with unit because they are afraid it is a gossip group or only the officers' spouses participate.
You set the tone of the family readiness program,
to include the Key Volunteer Network (KVN). You will need to establish your guidance, attitude and directive to all your Marines, all leadership in your unit and to all families in your unit. Communicating the reasonable expectations of your program will offset some of the misconceptions and erroneous information that may be circulating.
- Spouse doesn't know anyone so doesn't
want to get involved.
There are many ways to make a spouse feel more a part of the unit and therefore more a part of the readiness planning process. The KVN is a great way to connect spouses as is holding a unit L.I.N.K.S. session. They help with team building goals you may have for the unit. Unit functions such as family days, Jane Wayne days, unit picnic, etc. are also a good way to get families together and connected. One of the best selling tactics to help a spouse get involved is the testimonial. Find a few compelling stories about how the command assisted families in time of need and spread the word. Be specific with how and what the commands can do and how to reach the command 24-7. Access and responsiveness is crucial.
- Spouse has to overcome basic obstacles
to participation – Day
Care, Transportation, conflicts with personal schedule/work.
- Day care - Arrange on-site day care or speak with your local Child Development Center about reserving spots for unit functions. Often family child care providers are available for evening care.
- Transportation - Schedule meetings, briefs, or events near access to public transportation. Help to coordinate car pools or ride sharing.
- Offer more than one opportunity for events, briefs or functions so the spouse who works can attend as well.
- The unit loses track of the family.
Families may decide to move out of the area while a Marine is deployed or simply break contact with the unit. Either of these actions results in families being less informed, more vulnerable and away from the caring and watchful eye of the unit. The KVN is the first point of contact with these families and is responsible for updating families through phone calls, personal contact and electronic or regular mail. If the KVs are not able to link with the families, they lose personal touch, the personal connection, as well as the opportunity to bond the family to the unit and the other families. Ensure the Records of Emergency Data (REDs) are up to date and that the KVN has current and continuously updated rosters.
- Spouse is not informed or educated about the Marine Corps, the
base/installation or unit.
Spouses who are new to the Marine Corps or have never participated in the community can benefit from attending a L.I.N.K.S. session. You can arrange a unit specific L.I.N.K.S. session to better prepare and educate the younger, newer or less informed spouses.