By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va., (8/4/10) -- The National Guard is willing to help family members around the country, no matter which branch or component their servicemember belongs to, the Guard's top family programs official said Aug. 3.
"Families' needs are the same across the board, and we can't afford to work within just our own service," Alex Baird, chief of Family Programs for the National Guard Bureau told participants in a DoD Bloggers Roundtable. "We've got to be joint."
He added that a family's location, financial constraints, limited local information and a need for face-to-face interaction demands that all the services make their support programs accessible to all.
The National Guard has about 40,000 volunteers across the 54 states and territories, who support servicemembers and their families, he said.
"I think the biggest success is the way we've been able to use our volunteers," said Baird, who is hosting the 2010 National Guard Volunteer Workshop in New Orleans this week.
"We're all in the same service together, so we're willing to help anybody," he said.
Baird said the Guard has made progress in communicating its family and servicemembers support programs through the Joint Services Support Portal at http://www.jointservicessupport.org.
"You can find out who the state family program directors are, the family assistance centers, and connect anywhere into that network, and then they can get you the help that you need," he said. "
He said the Guard does not replace the programs and support of other service components, but it augments them, especially for the families of servicemembers, who may be geographically isolated from their units.
"There's a big difference between somebody who can come face to face with you and somebody who is … halfway across the country," he said.
"The other thing we find is when you've got somebody, let's say, in Kentucky that you're trying to get help … they don't really know what the services are in Minnesota. So having somebody who's local, who knows what the local resources are and support services are, is a great advantage."
Baird said the other reserve components have also adopted this practice.
"We know (they) never turn any of our families away," he said.