A new $1.8 million program, spearheaded by UNC, that is designed to serve the families of National Guard and Reserve personnel is included in the Defense Department appropriation bill that was finalized this month by a joint House-Senate conference committee.
The collaborative program is called the National Demonstration Program for Citizen-Soldier Support. It is designed to help meet the needs of Guard and Reserve members – many of whom are being deployed in unprecedented numbers and for lengthier terms of duty – and their families.
The Citizen-Soldier initiative received backing from across North Carolina’s Congressional delegation. Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, wrote the initiative into legislation that will fund the Defense Department in the coming fiscal year.
The new program aims to better address challenges Guard and Reserve members and their families face during periods of mobilization, deployment and return from duty.
Unlike active military personnel who live on or near the military post at which they serve, Guard and Reserve members are dispersed across the state as part of 137 units in 92 communities. Families of deployed Guard and Reservists face challenges related to their geographic dispersement, and they also may lack the benefit of informal family networks that grow up around military bases and posts.
In addition to enhancing communication of critical information provided to families at the time a service member is deployed, the Citizen-Soldier program will work with existing Defense Department programs by bringing employers, schools, child-care providers, health professionals and faith-based organizations into a network of family support.
In North Carolina, a growing number of these Guard and Reserve forces are being deployed. More than a third of the 23,300 Guard and Reserve members in the state have been mobilized to date.
Chancellor James Moeser is promoting the University’s Citizen-Soldier initiative during his Carolina Connectstour. Recent stops have included Fort Bragg and the National Guard Armory in Asheville. Moeser will visit family members from the 108th Army Reserve Division and the North Carolina Air National Guard in Charlotte in August.
“My visits with these Guard and Reserve family members and those seeking to support them have only strengthened my belief that we can make a significant and positive difference by helping communities mobilize on their behalf,” Moeser said. “North Carolina is a military-friendly state; the service men and women who call North Carolina home contribute to the state’s economy and to the richness of our communities.
“It is important that our state and our communities provide assistance now when our citizen-soldiers and their families – many of whom do not live near a military installation and may find themselves somewhat isolated from support services – could most benefit from our help.”
Partnering with UNC in the initiative are several other UNC institutions, UNC-TV, Duke University and several out-of-state universities.
Retired Maj. Gen. Doug Robertson, director of UNC’s Highway Safety Research Center and a professor of health behavior and health education in UNC’s School of Public Health, is a member of the team that has been working with Reserve and Guard leadership and staff to ensure the University’s program is targeted and attuned to military efforts already under way.
“For years, several of our faculty worked individually on military family issues,” Robertson said. “As we began to hear more and more stories about the hardships that Guard and Reserve families were facing, we realized that we could do something much bigger and more helpful if we combined our efforts.
“We look forward to working with the leadership of the Guard and Reserve to maximize the impact of the Citizen-Soldier support initiative,” Robertson said. “And we thank the U.S. Congress for providing initial funding to support this important work.”