|RDO Training Emphasizes Taking Care of Soldiers and Families
When the frantic call came into the Army Reserve center that the mother of one of the deployed Soldiers was seriously ill and the Soldier's spouse had no way to visit her because of a disabled automobile, the NCO on duty was not sure where to turn to next to get help.
Scenarios such as these were part of small group activity workshops that approximately 130 student-soldiers were involved in during Rear Detachment Officer In Charge (RDOIC) training held in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jul 12-16 2004. The five-day training event, sponsored by the U.S. Army Reserve Command (USARC), also featured speakers talking on such topics as Reunion for Families, Deployment Guide, Emotional Cycles of Deployment, TRICARE/Dental among others, according to Diane Magrane, USARC family program manager, who organized the training along with other members of the USARC Family Program staff.
Unit commanders provide assistance to family members of deployed Soldiers by appointing a Rear Detachment Officer (RDO) (noncommissioned or officer) to work with the unit's Family Readiness Group (FRG) Leader and Telephone Tree Chairperson to contact family members on a monthly basis.
The focus of the training was to address the issues and concerns of the officers and in some cases NCOs who will be in charge of rear detachment operations once units mobilize. The conference emphasized taking care of soldiers and their families.
."In response to the Global War on Terrorism, the USARC Family Program Office first developed and implemented formal RDOIC training in July 2003," Magrane said. "Since then we have trained over 500 Soldiers. Our goal has always been to conduct proactive training delivered by subject matter experts to better support the RDOICs."
According to Magrane, the Cincinnati training is the last training Family Programs will sponsor as the program proponecy now transitions to the Well-Being office.
Rear Detachment Operations (RDO) is an initiative of the Army's Well-Being Program which is a critical component of Army Reserve Readiness, according to
Edward Dimmerling, newly appointed director of the Army Reserve Well-Being Program.
"We are committed to a holistic implementation of the Army's Well-Being campaign. Our support and active participation will improve Well-Being Army-wide for all constituents which includes soldiers, families, veterans, retirees and civilians," Dimmerling said.
"We, as part of the Army Reserve G-1, have functional staff responsibility to include program management and execution for the Army Reserve Well-Being program," Dimmerling added.
The intended end-state of RDO and family readiness is to develop and sustain soldiers and have self-reliant families that understand and use Army and volunteer support programs during times of separation.
During the group workshops students briefed solutions and developed plans of execution for planning and preparation during the alert and mobilization phases. "The workshops gave the students an opportunity to do a dry run scenario," said Magrane. Groups were given scenarios and created solutions based on the instruction. "Solutions included financial planning, getting commanders involved and counseling," she said.
The RDOIC establishes contact with the Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader. They may be doing mobilization briefings while soldiers are at home station. The Soldier should get to know the FRG members so they get the feeling that their families are going to be well taken care of.
A positive and supportive relationship between the RDO and FRG is critical and will benefit a unit's retention and keep Soldiers focused on the mission and build trust, enhance communications, and morale for both the deployed Soldier and the family member.
"You are the 'intake' person, as RDOIC or NCO," said Al Balent, family program manager with USARC. "Families calling the RDOs can be under a lot of stress. RDOs have to be an example for them. They are looking at you. It is a struggle."
According to Balent, the RDOIC works with the Family Readiness Group Leader and deals with the issues that may arise. The RDOIC also handles the tracking sheet and does follow-up on any issues and concerns. The FRG needs to establish and
exercise the telephone tree. If FRG volunteers become aware of complex issues, they refer them to the RDOIC. The RDOIC will first verify the facts in a situation. They may then refer individuals to a number of resources for further assistance such as Army One Source, a toll-free helpline, "Balent said.
RDOs are required to have Family Readiness skills, be mature, sensitive to family concerns and issues, intelligent, a good listener, calm and calming, willing to help and energetic. They should also have knowledge of official Army pay, legal, medical and other personnel services to solve family issues and concerns locally or provide information and referral for these areas.
Paulette Horning-Sanford, a unit administrator for the 706th Transportation Co., based in Mansfield, Ohio, has been functioning as an RDOIC, but didn't know it until she came to the training conference. She has been performing the various duties talked about in the conference. "It is very time consuming, but the Army One Source will be most helpful now," said Horning-Sanford.
Having just returned from Iraq to become RDONCOIC in her unit three weeks before the conference started, Sgt. Juanita Cyr, 353rd Engineer Group based in Oklahoma City, Okla., was expecting to get lots of information to help support her Soldiers. "It's a head start to get information to let Soldiers know how you can help them. It is important that families keep us informed and let us know what their needs are. Then we can give them the reassurance to help them," Cyr said.
So far, Cyr has been setting up the family tree and putting the newsletter together. She is doing the RDO newsletter and one from the family support group.
"The family members know why their son/daughters are over there. I update Soldiers on their wants and needs. The main thing is that you can serve as a resource. You can go through the experience and learn from them," Cyr said.
Someone the students could rely on who really knew what she was talking about was Ellen Evans, a family programs Senior Volunteer Resource Instructor (SVRI), and FRG volunteer with the 330th Medical Brigade under the 88th Regional Readiness Command. Evans made a presentation on the Deployment Preparation Guide.
"Many of the Soldiers here have not been deployed thus far and don't have the personal experience to draw on," said Evans. "I try to ensure that the Soldier and their families are prepared ahead of time."
One student who has been previously mobilized for seven months as commander of a psychological operations detachment is 1-Lt. Michael DiSalvo. This time he will be the RDOIC while his unit is deployed. "This is very interesting training and is a very good overview of what I am going to be dealing with for Operation Iraqi Freedom. This will help me as an RDOIC to get plans in place to get started," DiSalvo said.
Besides teaching at Family Program Academies, Evans has the experience as a spouse of a Soldier for two deployments, so she really knows what it feels like. "I love doing this because I love doing something my husband and I have in common. I love sharing the experiences I have had," Evans said.
One student said to her that Evans brought a whole new perspective to this as a family member. Evans said that the student told her that she really brings the "family-side of the house" to their attention and students were very appreciative of that.