WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Fleet and Family Support Center's (FFSC) Individual Deployment Support Specialist (IDSS) program provides assistance to individual augmentee (IA) Sailors and their families.
The primary purpose of an IDSS is to contact IA family members on a regular basis to provide support and resources.
"I think as family members we are used to everyone going together deploying on a ship and this is completely different," said Alexandria Hoffman, IDSS, Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md. "So the families have a lot of questions, and we are there to form a relationship with them much like a friend would to make sure the needs of the family are met."
Service members and their families are contacted by an IDSS within two weeks after their IA orders are cut. During the initial call, the IDSS will learn the interval of contact a family desires. The call will also determine whether the family wants to be contacted by phone or e-mail.
"It made me feel more secure to know that if there was a problem I could just contact them, and they would tell me the right area to help out," said Billie Jo Caldwell, a Navy spouse aboard NAS Patuxent River.
Before a Sailor departs on an IA assignment, an IDSS will arrange for the service member and his or her family to attend a pre-deployment briefing hosted by FFSC.
"It's very crucial for them because the family members need to know the resources that are out there for them while the service member is away," said Hoffman. "If they need assistance with a certain thing, they know who to contact."
The IDSS support for the family and IA Sailor continues for the duration of a deployment and then continues through the post-deployment reintegration of service members and their families.
"The service member is returning to their job they had before they were on an IA deployment, and that could have been irrelevant to what they do on a day-to-day basis," said Hoffman. "You have to make sure the service member gets reacquainted with their command and their workplace."
Hoffman said in addition to ensuring a Sailor is reintegrated with his or her command, it is also critical for Sailors and their families to be successfully reacquainted.
The IDSSs offer resources to assist spouses with this transition. FFSC offers post-deployment briefings and classes for spouses and family members.
"It's meant to prepare you for homecoming," said Caldwell. "You know that you have been away for a year, and you have to reconnect with your spouse. Your children have to be reconnected too."
Post-deployment classes are provided to returning IAs who may need help with adjusting during the post-combat experience.
"If they need counseling services or they are having a problem with reintegration, we definitely make sure this is taking care of," said Hoffman.
Caldwell said she was very pleased with the assistance she received from FFSC and its IDSS program. She recommends that anyone with concerns about coping with a deployment process to contact the nearest FFSC.
"I think a lot of us would have felt alone," said Caldwell. "They have helped us in a way that we didn't know was available."
As of March 26, 2010, more than 10,000 Sailors are serving in IA assignments. To enroll in the IDSS program go to www.nffsp.org.
For more news from Commander, Navy Installations Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnic/.