LANSING, Mich. –
The Michigan Army National Guard (MIARNG) Family Programs division serves as a one-stop shop providing support and services to National Guard members, their families, and veterans as they transition through life. Family programs assist in emergency situations such as financial need, employment preparedness and job searches, scholarship information, assistance during deployments, among other things.
“Many military careers are about helping people and family programs definitely falls within that category,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dawn Dancer, state family programs director with the Michigan Army National Guard.
Though the name implies family support, the Family Programs office provides assistance well beyond just family members.
“We have programs specifically designed for family and youth, but also for Soldiers,” said Dancer. “One of the programs we have for our Soldiers is transition assistance. When they are ready to leave military service, they can talk with our transition assistance counselors to discuss the retirement process and retirement plans to be successful with life after military service.”
Family Programs can also have a positive effect on readiness. National Guard Soldiers must be agile to counter constantly changing environments. Ready and resilient program training is also offered through family programs.
“Teaching Guard members how to react and become resilient when things don’t go as planned is another service we offer,” said Dancer. “Being resilient is an important part of day to day life as well as an element of readiness so a Soldier is able to deploy.”
“If they are resilient and can overcome obstacles that will make them a better Soldier and help them stay focused on the mission,” she added.
Capturing the total service member includes supporting immediate families and providing services to spouses and children alike.
“We have learned through our Youth Group that they are experiencing additional challenges during COVID-19,” said Dancer. “When these kids meet virtually due to COVID, they often break out into discussions about what’s happening in their life.”
“It’s been really beneficial for them to have the opportunity to talk with other kids their age and realize that others are going through the same things,” she said.
Deployments themselves can offer additional challenges and hardships for the families of Guard members. Family programs is there and available in most every aspect to provide support and resources.
“Part of what our office does is outreach,” said Tina Predmore, lead Soldier and family readiness specialist for the Michigan Army National Guard. “Anytime a member is deployed, at the request of the service member, our team contacts the family to make sure the family is aware of the resources that are available to help them and if they need any kind of assistance.”
And resources can be anything from health insurance questions to day-to-day challenges families can face while the service member is deployed.
“Helping Soldiers who are about to deploy or coming back from a deployment is another service we provide,” said Dancer. “During deployment, if the family member is having a problem with Tricare, daycare, or other daily life events, these are all things we assist with.”
“Family programs can be that helping hand and that is a very rewarding,” she said.
Another resource made available through Family Programs is financial support, financial counseling and general finance questions or concerns.
“We have personal financial counselors available for any service member to sit down with one-on-one and go through debt, retirement plans, and an overhaul of their finances,” said Dancer. “It’s personal, one-on-one, free, confidential, and designed to help the service member work towards a good financial plan and a way forward.”
Guard members who are experiencing financial difficulties may have available resources for them through Family Programs.
“We have seen an increase of service members asking for help during the COVID pandemic,” said Dancer. “A lot of Guard members are reaching out because they have lost their job and they need help with bills. The Michigan National Guard Family Fund which is financed entirely through donations and other resources are available when Guard members can’t pay, for example, their utility bill or rent. We make a one-time payment directly to the vendor to pay the bill.”
Services are also available for members looking to enter the work force or seek other civilian employment opportunities.
“We have a lot of Guard members that come to us that are under employed and we help them through the process of understanding the opportunities that are available to them,” said Predmore. “We help Guard members realize different career paths, options, work on resumes along with job interview skills to help them with career opportunities."
To ensure overall readiness of the Guard member, the MIARNG ensures emotional support is available throughout the 12 family readiness regions placed within the state.
“If a Guard member or family member is in need of counseling or therapy, we can connect them with counselors to provide emotional support,” said Dancer. “We link them up with resources that suites their individual needs.”
Service members and their dependents seeking college scholarships can also utilize the services of Family Programs.
“Resources such as scholarship eligibility, searching, and processing is another service we offer,” said Predmore.
Predmore herself has experienced the benefits of family program support and shares the passion for what she does.
“I am an Air Force veteran and an Army spouse so it’s near and dear to my heart on what we do,” she said. “I’ve been the benefactor of the same type of things our office provides and to have the opportunity to come in and educate families and help them get resources in times of need to better their situation is very rewarding,”
“Everything we do helps people improve their lives and it’s a great thing to be part of,” she said.
The Michigan Air National Guard has Airmen and family support programs very similar to what the Michigan Army National Guard offers.
“We routinely meet with our Michigan Air National Guard counterparts to share resources, upcoming events and best practices to better help all Guard members,” she said.
“Even though our primary role is to work with Michigan National Guard members and their families, we never turn down a service member in need from any branch,” said Dancer. If we cannot assist them, we direct them to an organization that can provide the help they are seeking.”
The Michigan National Guard, in a joint effort with the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), share a vision of ‘member for life.’
“Member for life is a belief that all service members deserve our support and appreciation,” said Dancer. “Once they become a member of the Michigan military family, we vow to be there for them throughout their entire military career and retirement.”
“I love working with our counterparts to provide that level of service,” she said.
To reach the Michigan Army National Guard Family Programs office, call 1-888-MICH-FAM (1-888-642-4326). To reach the DMVA-Veterans Affairs Agency, call 1-800-MICH-VET (1-800-642-4838).