How Military Leaders Can Support Our Troops and Families

Frederick E. Vollrath, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Force Managemen

Frederick E. Vollrath, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Force Management

Frederick E. Vollrath, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Force Management 

On Dec. 16, I had the pleasure of touring the Military OneSource call center in Arlington, Virginia.  I want military leaders at all levels to know what a fantastic job the folks there are doing to support our service members and military families. I was impressed by the professionalism, knowledge, and dedication of the personnel I met at the call center (more than 60 percent of all Military OneSource employees have a military affiliation by their own military service or as a military spouse), by the range and depth of the services provided, and by the efficiency of the operations I observed in connecting service and family members to the resources they need.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that requests for information on spouse education and career opportunities and requests for face-to-face confidential non-medical counseling ranked as the top two reasons service and family members call.   What really struck me, however, was the  complex nature of some of the calls.  For example, there was the case of a young pregnant spouse of a deployed Marine Reservist.  On a cross-country trip while at a rest stop “in the middle of nowhere,” quick thieves took her valuables – including a wallet, military ID card, rear-detachment contact information – you name it, it was gone.  She placed two phone calls:  first the police and then Military OneSource.

Military OneSource staff were able to connect her immediately with a family assistance center.  Within an hour, working in conjunction with the staff at the center, the consultant was able to replace the spouse’s military ID card, cancel her credit cards and arrange for new ones to be sent overnight, arrange for a hotel stay (at no charge to her), and connect her with a local affiliated bank to get some cash from her account.  Using the resources of the family assistance center, the consultant was also able to obtain the information that meant the most to this spouse, the rear detachment contact information.  When the Red Cross message was sent to her husband, it included the bad news and the good news that she was safe and the issues were under control.

While typical calls are not this complicated, every caller is important.  Each month in fiscal year 2013, Military OneSource, on average, provided services to approximately 200 wounded warriors, completed an estimated 4,500 work-life consultations, translated more than 400 documents as part of their document translation services, and roughly 150 health and wellness coaching sessions. In addition, call center referrals resulted in approximately 12,500 confidential, face-to-face non-medical counseling sessions. Military OneSource has a vast array of information materials and products that can be provided to callers and visitors to the website for assistance with matters related to childhood services, special needs, relocation assistance, and deployment. More than 150,000 educational materials were distributed monthly in fiscal year 2013.

Callers to the Military OneSource number, 800-342-9647, first speak with a masters-level triage consultant who evaluates their questions or concerns and either provides answers or connects them with specific services. Depending on their issues, callers may be connected with a Military OneSource specialty consultant, confidential non-medical counselor, or referred to services in their military or civilian communities. They manage this while responding to approximately 50,000 calls each month, each call answered within 20 seconds on average. For those of you who don’t know, Military OneSource is available worldwide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost to the user and regardless of the service member’s activation status.

Military OneSource specialty consultations offer confidential services for specific needs, including wounded warrior support, special needs care, adoption, education and spouse employment, health and wellness coaching, financial and tax services, document translation, and simultaneous translation. The specialty consultant may also work with a service provider in the caller’s area to ensure the individual’s needs are met.

I served in the U.S. Army for more than 30 years and know how important it is to service members that their military families are taken care of.

I encourage all military leaders to learn more about Military OneSource and how this resource can provide invaluable support to your service members and their families. I urge those under your command to visit the Military OneSource website and search through the various military life topics for current information and resources. To access Military OneSource resources and programs visit www.militaryonesource.mil or call 800-342-9647 to speak with a consultant.

After visiting the Military OneSource call center, I know that our service members and families are being well-cared for and supported throughout every phase of their military life. After more than 10 years of war these resources are as important as ever. I challenge all leaders to visit the website and access the Tools for Leaders/Command for reliable information about the programs supporting the service members and families under your command.

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How Military Leaders Can Support Our Troops and Families