MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Newcomers to the military lifestyle are thrown into a labyrinth of unfamiliar customs, acronyms and a new community that works differently than any they were a part of before.
Lifestyles, Insight, Networking, Knowledge, Skills is a program that helps guide families through the military lifestyle, whether they are new or not, providing insight and knowledge into different aspects of life in the Marine Corps.
The classes are held monthly and are open to Marines and sailors stationed in a Marine installation and any part of their support groups including their significant others, whether they are married or not.
“(L.I.N.K.S.) is not just spouses anymore,” said Barbi Suggs, the L.I.N.K.S. program trainer for Marine and Family Services aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “It’s also for family members: moms, dads, siblings and anybody who is a part of the Marines support network.”
The classes are held with a light atmosphere and led by volunteers, many of whom are Marine spouses themselves. The class is divided into sections and begins with discusion about the structure of the Marine Corps, while going over its history and customs.
Suggs said they teach ranks, jargon and the organizational structure of units and their purpose. The program also shares some of the distinctions the Marine Corps has from other services and how it can affect them, such as how the Marine Corps can be called into combat for a limited time by the president of the United States, without approval from congress.
“We don’t just provide textbook information,” said Suggs. “We explain that to them so they understand why their service members deploy and the purpose of that deployment.”
The class helps spouses navigate benefits and services available to them, along with discussing pay, allowances and sharing tips and tricks on all aspects of moving.
“We give people insight,” said Suggs. “We give them the ins and outs with locations and contacts and share what the base has to offer.”
However, L.I.N.K.S. isn’t just about the logistics of the military lifestyle. They also discuss how couples can get along and the emotional cycle a person can go through when their loved one is deployed.
The program began with spouses mentoring each other, and that guidance continues to this day. Suggs said she believes that mentorship is key to getting the support a military family needs. Volunteers have many different backgrounds and levels of experience in the military lifestyle. L.I.N.K.S. classes can be held in Japanese or Spanish to assist participants who may be more familiar and comfortable speaking those languages.
“It’s the volunteers who run the program,” said Suggs. “They are in day in and day out stepping up to do what they need to do to make the program successful.”
The program is a rank free zone, said Suggs. Her goal is to hold comfortable, flexible and light hearted classes where spouses can learn without worrying about their spouses position in the military.
“We want it to be an environment where everyone knows they’re equal regardless of who they are sitting next to,” said Suggs. “We should get to know each other for each other not for what our service members do. We only have one thing in common, we care for a Marine or a sailor. Everything else is something we build upon each other as friendship or networking.”
The class provides vast swatches of information in a fun environment. Classes are tailored to the groups they are held for. Whether it’s the children or parents of Marines and volunteers communicate in a way participants can understand.
“I want people to feel equipped and ready to go out in the Marine Corps community when they leave L.I.N.K.S. because it’s not easy,” said Suggs. “It can be very stressful. It can take you to your limits but I really believe that knowledge is power. The more you know the easier it is.”
For more information, visit mccslejeune.com/links.