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Military family support professionals gather

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 05, 2004) -- Directors of family support centers from across the Air Force gathered nearby in Landsdowne, Va., to discuss how to better serve Airmen and their loved ones.

The weeklong conference, Strengthening the Home Front, focused on two areas: integrating the Air Force One Source program into base activities, and reaching out to squadron commanders, said Linda Olivia Smith, chief of Air Force family matters.

"Our focus has been, traditionally, that members come to the (centers) when they need assistance," Ms. Smith said. "Now we are asking our (staffs) to go out into the squadrons and communities so they can actually touch the people we would like to support and serve.

"That is a large shift from where we were four years ago," Ms. Smith said. "We have made a shift to being a resource for (leaders). We have found that what keeps leaders up at night is not how well their people are trained, but the personal issues of their members and how to help them deal with those issues. It is our responsibility to ensure we provide just-in-time resources and prevention programs to the servicemembers and their families so our Airmen can remain focused on their mission."

Air Force officials recently extended the reach of family support centers with the Air Force One Source program, a round-the-clock resource available to all servicemembers and their families.

Much of the Washington conference focused on educating the directors about the program and how to integrate the new resource into their own programs, Ms. Smith said.

The Air Force One Source has a Web site and a toll-free number.

“They are available all day, year round," Ms. Smith said. "This extends (our) capability beyond the duty day so we can respond to the needs of our families when the needs arise."

The phone line, (800) 342-9647, is manned with consultants familiar with military issues and needs. Additionally, they are aware of the resources available to military members in their region. The service is available in English and Spanish to all active-duty, Reserve and National Guard servicemembers and their families. The services can also be translated into more than 140 other languages.

The Web site is www.airforceonesource.com.