Most people associate the American Red Cross with medical skills training and disaster relief, but the organization also maintains multiple programs to serve active members of the military and their families, as well as those who are transitioning back to civilian life. Recently, the organization teamed with the US Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM). According to a recently signed memorandum of agreement, the Red Cross will provide staffing at Military Entrance Processing Stations across the nation to address the needs of inductees and their loved ones.
The Red Cross worked with USMEPCOM for about a year to create the memorandum and outline how volunteers could best service military staff. USMEPCOM has remained diligent about improving the transition of new recruits into the military, as well as making the process as easy as possible for families. The partnership will help both organizations fulfill their mission statements and offer the best services possible.
How the New Partnership Will Help Service Members
During information sessions at these stations, Red Cross representatives will outline the various services that the organization provides to support members of the military and their loved ones, such as the Hero Care Network emergency communication program. Over the course of a typical year, 200,000 individuals pass through processing stations as they launch their careers in the American military. Too often, these individuals are not fully aware of the services available to them, which can cause stress and anxiety. With the new partnership, Red Cross volunteers will ensure that these men and women know exactly what resources they can call upon in times of need.
The agreement between USMEPCOM and the Red Cross is meant to assist loved ones just as much as service members. The thought of a child, parent, spouse, or sibling going overseas causes a great deal of anxiety, but understanding how communication can remain possible alleviates many of the fears that families have. Plus, these information sessions are a great way for families to address any of the concerns they have and resolve any issues that could be present prior to deployment.
Having Red Cross volunteers directly on site makes it easier than ever before for military staff to access services. The volunteers will work directly with the professionals at the processing stations to teach them about the services offered, so that they can more readily connect service members in need. In addition, these individuals will have the ability to participate directly in the resiliency programs spearheaded by the Red Cross, such as Reconnection Workshops.
The Red Cross’ Reconnection Workshops Program
One of the newer resources offered by Red Cross, Reconnection Workshops are free and confidential programs that help military personnel ease their transition from active duty back to civilian life. Especially after being in a combat zone, the shift back to community life can come with many challenges. The workshops involve small group discussions and one-on-one counseling that are intended to help participants rebuild connections with loved ones and with their communities. Overall, the program aims to reengage service members with their civilian lives. Currently, five workshops are offered for adults and two for children and teens. Each of these workshops focuses on a different topic.
The adult workshops tackle some of the heavier issues that service members often face as they transition back to civilian life. For example, one workshop deals with trauma and the stress that it creates, while another focuses on identifying and coping with depression in a constructive manner. The other adult workshops are designed to help service members communicate more effectively, connect with their children after a long absence, and work through their anger. One of the workshops for younger participants works to identify personal strengths than can be used to manage stressful situations effectively. The second focuses on listening and interpersonal communication.
Other Assistance Offered to Service Members by the Red Cross
The other major service that the Red Cross provides is the Hero Care Center, which is available around the clock every day of the year. This service helps relay critical information—such as news of an emergency back home—to active duty service members. Individuals can initiate a communication online or by calling the center. When using the service, people should provide a way of verifying the emergency and a point person for the service member to call for more information. All service members on active duty, including activated reservists, are eligible for the service. In addition, civilians employed by or contracted with the Department of Defense and stationed outside of the United States can access the service. The Red Cross verifies the emergency, but it is up to the commanding officer to authorize leave for the service member.
In the event of an emergency, Red Cross also facilitates financial help through Military Aid Societies, which may offer grants or loans depending on the situation. The Red Cross works to expedite financial resources and to ensure that each request for funding receives due consideration. Some situations that may qualify for a grant include the need for emergency food and/or shelter, a loved one’s burial, and unforeseen travel expenses. Requests for financial assistance can be made online or over the phone.