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May 1, 2006

Family Programs Update
Volume 6, Number 8

This newsletter is published bi-monthly by the AUSA Family Programs Directorate. If you would like to receive the Family Programs Update by e-mail, please send a message to with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.

Once again, Family Programs will be a part of the AUSA Annual Meeting, Oct. 9-11. Family Forums I, II, and III will address current issues that concern and/or affect service members and their families, followed by a question and answer period. Please continue checking the Web site for the latest information about the Forums.

In this issue:

  • Hiring Initiative Allows IED Survivors to Fight Back
  • Basic Changes
  • Age Limit Raised to 62 for Active-Duty Soldiers
  • Thrift Savings Plan Offers Tax Benefits
  • Tell TRICARE if You Loose Other Healthcare Coverage
  • Tooth Restoration Added to the TRICARE Dental Plan
  • Army Observes Sexual Assault Awareness Month
  • Army Reserve Changing to Meet Challenges
  • Sew Much Comfort – Tailoring Clothes for The Troops
  • Deployment Disrupts Children’s Lives, Too
  • Sesame Workshop Kit: Talk, Listen, Connect
  • Comfort-Zone Camp – Fun and Safe Place for Grieving Children
  • DoDDS-Europe Registration Begins for Next School Year
  • Save on Gas by Combining Trips to the Commissary and Exchange
  • Get Paid for Shopping Online as a “Mystery Shopper”
  • New Beginnings in the 2006 Baby Catalog
  • Revamped MilitaryOneSource Website More User-Friendly
  • Best-Selling Author Sends Free Books to Troops Downrange
  • Book by Army Spouse Helps Families Enjoy Moving
  • Red Cross Volunteer Loves Her Work in Iraq
  • Mrs. B. Is Set to Rock Europe!

Hiring Initiative Allows IED Survivors to Fight Back
Servicemembers seriously injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during duty in the global war on terror are getting a unique opportunity to use their experience to combat and prevent future IED attacks. The Joint IED Defeat Organization has entered into full partnership with the Operation Warfighter (OWF) program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in an initiative to target, recruit and hire Servicemembers, including many who have suffered serious injuries from IED attacks. Read the Details at:

Basic Changes
In-your-face drill sergeants and PT pain are out. Coaching and combat training are in. So far, instructors and recruits like the results. Army officials say the new generation of recruits learns more effectively when drill sergeants dial back the aggression and intimidation. Rather than confuse soldiers by yelling at them for everything from an untied boot to a misplaced weapon, they make sure the punishment for a missing M16 sticks out. Instead of pushing recruits past their abilities in physical training, they concentrate on form — and making sure there are fewer injuries. Rather than force soldiers through difficult tasks to meet a checklist, they coach them into good marksmanship habits. And rather than tell impressionable young people that they’re not paid to think, they encourage them to plan their own maneuvers. Read all the details at: (Login required)

Age Limit Raised to 62 for Active-Duty Soldiers
The maximum age Regular Army soldiers may serve on active duty has been increased from 55 to 62. “The major reason for this new policy is that the Army has changed its maximum enlistment age from 35 to 40,” said Sgt. Maj. James Bragg, of the Re-enlistment Management Branch, Human Resources Command. The change may have little effect on the current population of senior noncommissioned officers, but it will allow recruiters to target older candidates, particularly former soldiers who previously were barred from returning to service because of age. (Login required)

Thrift Savings Plan Offers Tax Benefits, Matching Funds for Critical Army Jobs
The Army’s Thrift Savings Plan is now offering matching funds to new recruits willing to fill critical job specialties within the Army as part of a pilot program that runs to Sept. 30. All non-prior service enlistees who elect to serve five or more years on active duty in a critical specialty designated by the Secretary of the Army will receive matching funds on the first five percent of pay contributed from each pay period during their initial enlistment term. The first three percent of pay that is contributed will be matched dollar for dollar, and the remaining two percent will be matched at 50 cents on the dollar. Only those who sign up during the recruitment process and make regular contributions into their TSP account will receive the matching funds. Please read all details at:

Tell TRICARE if You Loose Other Healthcare Coverage
A couple of years ago, my wife quit her job and lost the health insurance we’d had for several years. A few weeks later, my next Tricare claim was denied because I didn’t file first with my other health insurance. I didn’t think to notify Tricare that my wife’s policy had been canceled. The policy was reported in our Tricare record as being in force. When a Tricare beneficiary loses or cancels a health insurance policy, it’s important to advise the Tricare claims-processing office promptly by mail to avoid this problem. You will need to include a letter from the other health insurance, on its official letterhead, that identifies all the persons covered under that policy, and the last date each person had coverage. For complete details read:

Tooth Restoration Added to TRICARE Dental Plan
TRICARE is serving up another reason for active-duty families — as well as eligible National Guard and Reserve members and their families — to open wide. The TRICARE Dental Program has expanded its coverage to include such services as the restoration of teeth damaged by birth defect or worn down by incorrect brushing or grinding. For the rest of the coverage click: (Login required)

Army Reserve Changing to Meet Challenges
The Army Reserve is no longer simply a force in reserve, but a vital part of the country's defense that's making big changes to meet its current and future challenges, according to the commander of U.S. Army Reserve Command, Army Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly. Through the world wars, the Cold War and Operation Desert Storm, a strong reserve force has always been important to the country, but never more so than during the current war on terror, stated the SMA. More than 150,000 Army Reservists have been mobilized since Sept. 11, 2001, about 25,000 of them serving more than once. "These are clearly hallmarks of heroes," Helmly said. For the full story:

Sew Much Comfort – Tailoring Clothes for The Troops

Sew Much Comfort; a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization is filling the "adaptive clothing" need for injured soldiers. The goal is to provide each soldier with an individually designed and tailored wardrobe of adaptive clothing providing them comfort and maintaining their dignity, thereby facilitating the healing process. Adaptive clothing accommodates their medical devices and situations, provides ease of use, personal independence and minimizes the visual impact of their medical condition. Read news article at: to find out more visit their website at:

Sesame Workshop kit Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families Cope with Military Deployment
Research shows that 483,514 children of active duty military members and 177,888 children of Reserve and Guard members are less than five years of age. These children deal with several unique challenges. In response, Sesame Workshop and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. have partnered in the development of 138,000 bilingual, multiple-media outreach kits. Sesame Workshop will develop the outreach project to help the young children of members of the United States Armed Services, National Guard and Reserves deal with the various stresses of military life. Featuring the Sesame Street Muppets, Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families Cope with Military Deployment is designed for military families with children between the ages of three and five. Starting this summer, the kits will be available at no cost to schools, child care programs, family support centers and other organizations serving the needs of military families. These resources will provide specific strategies to help young children cope with the feelings, challenges, and concerns experienced during various phases of deployment, pre-deployment, and homecoming. Find the Workshop at:

Deployment Disrupts Children’s Lives, Too
When deploying soldiers leave behind loved ones, the disruption to family life can be especially hard on children. That’s why Dr. Thomas Hardaway, a child psychiatrist and chief of behavioral medicine at Brooke Army Medical Center, spoke with first and second graders at Fort Campbell, Ky., last fall when the 101st Airborne Division went to Iraq. He was coaching school administrators, counselors, nurses and parents to talk with children about deployment. “Deployment has potential to be destructive to a child’s development,” Hardaway said. Read the rest of the story and Hardaway’s deployment tips for parents:

Comfort Zone Camp -- A Fun and Safe Place for Grieving Children
Our camps welcome children ages 7-17 from across the country who have experienced the death of a close loved one.
Comfort Zone Camp is a free, safe and fun weekend camp where children come together with a dedicated adult volunteer for a weekend of unconditional love and support to honor their loss and their loved one. Children have the unique opportunity to drink in the incredibly important message that they are not alone, gain tools that will help them in their day-to-day grief journey and put smiles on their faces! The camps are held primarily in Richmond, Virginia with a satellite program in the New York/New Jersey area. Travel scholarships for a child and a parent/guardian are also available. For camp details visit their site:

DoDDS-Europe Registration Begins for Next School Year
Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) across Europe have begun the process of re-registering and pre-registering students for the 2006-2007 school years. Sponsors of children new to the DoDDS-E system must register their children for the year ahead. Sponsors of students who attended DoDDS-E schools this school year must re-register their children. School registration is an annual requirement by DoD Regulation to determine continued eligibility for school enrollment. For more information click:

Save by Combining Trips to the Commissary and Exchange
Although military shoppers stateside are not totally unique, they do have different shopping patterns from the average American. “Higher gas prices may be convincing military shoppers to make fewer trips, but they seem to be buying more when they do make the trip,” said Patrick Nixon, chief executive officer and acting director of the Defense Commissary Agency. “By combining trips, they can go to the exchange, the bank or credit union, and dry cleaners - and make the commissary the last stop so they can head right home with their groceries.” A few other tips to increase the savings at your commissary and exchange can be found at the following sites: (DeCA is not allowed to advertise prices outside the store, but you can print out a list of items on sale in your commissary), also at

Get Paid for Shopping Online as a “Mystery shopper”
AAFES - The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is reenergizing its focus on delivering exceptional customer service by upgrading its “Mystery Shopper” program. AAFES’ updated program aims to improve customer service and provide an improved product assortment by using authorized PX/BX customers as anonymous mystery shoppers who review and evaluate how well their PX/BX is delivering the exchange benefit every day. The new program provides shoppers with a standardized list of questions to answer and requires that they evaluate issues, such as customer service, quality of product, brands offered, available sizes and price ranges. Authorized customers may apply to become a “Mystery Shopper” via the “Mystery Shopper” link at Shoppers are selected from a pool of applicants at each Exchange location and as appreciation for their time “Mystery Shoppers” receive a $30 AAFES gift certificate for each valid survey set submitted.

New Beginnings in the 2006 Baby Catalog
The new 2006 Exchange Baby Catalog has more than 50 pages of name brand essentials including strollers, car seats, cribs, nursery décor and 4-piece bedding sets. Exchange customers will also find plenty of items for toddlers and new moms. The 2006 Exchange Baby Catalog is available at all main stores and online at,, or

Revamped MilitaryOneSource Website More User-Friendly
Military families are encouraged to take a look at the newly-redesigned MilitaryOneSource website. New features on the revamped site include a new design, Installation News, Podcasts, RSS Feeds, and improved search capabilities. Check it out at:

Best-Selling Author Sends Free Books to Troops Downrange
In appreciation of troops who have deployed to Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, best selling author James Patterson is sending more than 5,000 complimentary copies of his paperback novels to Army & Air Force PXs and BXs throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and all points in between. “The troops fight for us everyday,” said Patterson. “Giving them something to enjoy while they relax is the least I can do to say thanks for their incredible sacrifice.” You too can buy a book, soft drink or other comfort item for troops serving downrange with a PX/BX “Gift from the Homefront.” Those wishing to send a gift certificate, that can be redeemed at any one of the more than 55 exchanges AAFES operates in OEF/OIF, can log on to or call 1-877-770-4438.

Book by Army Spouse Helps Families Enjoy Moving
Sandee Payne, an Army spouse, has written "That Military House: Move it, Organize it & Decorate It" to help other Army spouses enjoy moving. “It’s time to take a different look at PCSing,” said Payne, a freelance organizer and decorator who has relocated seven times in 10 years to follow her husband’s military career. From now on, think of it as your positive change of surroundings. For details on this book visit:

Red Cross Volunteer Loves Her Work in Iraq
Everyday, women are making history here in Iraq, but one Red Cross worker is making history one family at a time. Heather Ross, Assistant Station Manager, Tikrit-American Red Cross, might not make the history books but she is a part of the soldiers' and their families' lives while in Iraq. Ross started as a volunteer with the Red Cross in the United States. This is her fourth trip to this area and she is completing her second year in Iraq. "I love this job - I absolutely love this job," Ross said. "I love working with the soldiers - I love hearing their stories - I love being part of this." The main mission for the Red Cross is to provide a communication link between the American public and the Armed Forces. Ross and the other two members of her team assist the units and the soldiers in making a decision as to when a soldier needs to go home on emergency leave. The team also gets to relay good-news messages to soldiers who might be hard to contact The Tikrit office also provides some additional services that boost moral such as a coffee shop, free phone calls and free gift checks for Army and Air Force Exchange Service and giving away free bags of coffee. All of the products handed out are donated by businesses and people that support the Armed Services. AAFES receives donations from military supporters for the gift checks and they also donate some on their own behalf. Thousands of dollars in phone cards and thousands of pounds of coffee are just some of the other things donated by military supporters in the United States. Ross and her team often stand outside the chow hall and hand out the gifts as people come through. If someone looks grumpy they might get a gift check just to cheer them up. "Every once-in-awhile you get to touch someone's life at a personal level," Ross said. "We have people all over the world but I feel like it means something to be over here. (Story Courtesy of Sgt. Waine D. Haley, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Mrs. B. Is Set To Rock Europe!
Starting May 8th the hottest show in town will be at the ECAPTS (European PTA) because that is where you will find Carri Blake-Brekke (Mrs. B.) performing all of her hit songs. This rock n’ roll mom is set to perform in front of educators and parents from all over Europe at this very prestigious conference. “Mrs. B’s Story Time…With a Twist!®” is a wild, fun, funny and always surprising one-woman show for kids of all ages that combines hilarious rock and pop tunes with accompanying story books both written, sung and read by Carri Blake-Brekke (Mrs. B).