General Schwartz: Taking care of families critical to AF mission

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The four-day training exposed attendees to national-level speakers and initiatives within the educational, legal and medical fields.

EFMP coordinators and SLOs play a vital role in building resilience in families by allowing Airmen to focus on the mission while their family gets the support they need.  According to Mrs. Schwartz, the Air Force has the right family support programs in place and is committed to making them better.

"We are here to empower Airmen and families by giving them the tools they need to navigate available resources more efficiently," Mrs. Schwartz said.

EFMP coordinators connect more than 17,000 special-needs families in the Air Force to community support resources and help them navigate the health care system. SLOs educate local school administrators, counselors and educators on the military lifestyle and how it can affect children.

General Schwartz noted that of the approximately 175,000 school-age Air Force children, many of them will move an average of six times, bringing about unique challenges.

"Installation leadership and SLOs must engage with local education system to recognize who the champions are for military child education and who can influence curriculum," the general said.

By examining the results of a quality of life survey and forums conducted two years ago, Air Force officials identified a need to better help families navigate educational and special-needs resources. Since then, officials have increased the number of EFMP coordinators and SLOs at installations worldwide.

Attendees were not only able to learn from the trainers and speakers, but also had the opportunity to learn from one other, said Jaime Lopez, a SLO at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

"It was great to network with other people and find out how other SLOs handle situations, as well as learning ways to better publicize my responsibilities," Mr. Lopez said. "It was also great to hear how the Air Force will provide additional legal support for both programs."

For Susan Hunter, the EFMP family support coordinator at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., the training will better equip her to support the approximately 130 special-needs families at her installation.

"As a prior readiness NCO, I'm a firm believer that we play a vital role in taking care of our military members, and also in retaining them by taking care of their families," she said. "I look forward to going back and using the tools I obtained this week for the job I'm empowered to do."