Key Volunteers keep families informed

7 Nov 2003 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Commissary, Tricare, working party, deployment. These words may seem familiar to most service members and their families, but to those who are new to the military, these phrases may seem like useless jargon.

Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, is trying to combat the "fog of war" on the home front by instituting its own Key Volunteer Network.

Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCB was the first of the base's tenet commands to get the ball rolling on the network.

"A key volunteer is a spouse of a member of a unit who is appointed in writing by the (commanding officer) of the unit," explained Col. David E. Smith, commander of the battalion.

Key volunteers provide a unit's families with information and referrals concerning services available on the installation and within the local area.

Smith added, "They serve as a communications network for families in the battalion."

Since the beginning of the year, 12 spouses have volunteered their time within the battalion to the network.

According to Bambi McCray, the battalion's KVN coordinator, a spouse volunteers for the position and then is appointed in writing by the unit's commanding officer before beginning training.

She said, "Training spans for 10 hours over a two-day period, and volunteers learn what they need to know in order to help other spouses."

One of the most important issues stressed to trainees is confidentiality.

If a caller phones in to the network with a problem such as spousal or child abuse, the key volunteers know whom to contact immediately.

McCray said, "We can't have our volunteers gossiping to someone else about a situation someone is facing. Our job is to help others."

McCray, a "seasoned military spouse," explained that key volunteers are capable of assisting a spouse or parent of a troop with questions ranging from educational and healthcare benefits to how to cope with the deployment of a Marine or sailor.

"A misconception is that Marines and sailors with (Marine Corps Base) don't deploy, but every one of them is deployable and could go at any moment," said Smith. "Their families must be able to cope, and the Key Volunteer Network is there to ensure a means of assistance for spouses."

Although the network is available for use during deployments, the unit also established it to aid in the event of a disaster, such as a hurricane.

Sergeant Maj. Brian K. Pensak, base sergeant major, said, "We spend a lot of time preparing the base and local agencies for natural and stateside disasters. Key volunteers are a great help to the commanders because they help to prepare the families by getting important word out."

For more information about the battalion's Key Volunteer Network, contact McCray at 451-5403.