116th IBCT Family Readiness Group hosts resource fair during annual training

The 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Family Readiness Group hosted a resource fair June 20, 2013, at Fort Pickett, Va. The FRG made direct connections with 48 resource organizations which distributed information on education, job-placement, and family-support services available to Soldiers. (Photo by Sgt. JoAnna E. Greene, 116th IBCT Public Affairs)

The 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Family Readiness Group hosted a resource fair June 20, 2013, at Fort Pickett, Va. The FRG made direct connections with 48 resource organizations which distributed information on education, job-placement, and family-support services available to Soldiers. (Photo by Sgt. JoAnna E. Greene, 116th IBCT Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Soldiers of the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team made direct connections with 48 resource organizations for military servicemembers during a resource fair hosted by the Family Readiness Group June 20, 2013, at Fort Pickett, Va. The organizations distributed information on education, job-placement, and family-support services available to Soldiers.

The resource fair was held at the end of the first brigade-wide annual training in almost 10 years, due to years of rotating deployments.

With all the budget cuts, most of these organizations aren’t able to send out representatives to smaller events, said Jaime Hogsten, Family Readiness Support Assistant for the 116th IBCT. With all the brigade being together like this Hogsten and others thought it would be a great opportunity to host their first-ever resource fair.

“This is an awesome opportunity for Soldiers to actually see the programs I routinely talk about and for them to see that these things really do exist and they do really care about Soldiers,” said 2nd Lt. Brian Harvey, chaplain’s candidate of the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “When you get the Soldiers in front of these organizations, they can get connected on the spot.”

Harvey said he also found programs that could help him personally.“I didn’t know anything about the Apprenticeship Partnership Initiative until AT. I was able to register with them, so that when I finish my seminary I can get an apprenticeship certificate from the state of Virginia, saying that I am proficient in my job, which will give me some benefits in the local community. It’s a great program especially for Soldiers that have been out of work.”

“We have a high unemployment rate in this state for National Guard Soldiers,” said Hogsten. “There are program representatives here today to let Soldiers know what training they qualify for, fields that are in need, licensing and credentialing programs, grant programs, and assistance for transitioning Army skill sets on to a civilian resume.

“Additionally, there are family-support services here like the Virginia Army National Guard Youth Programs, that offer events such as summer camps at almost no cost for Soldiers’ children.”

Hogsten and eight volunteers of the brigade’s FRG planned, coordinated, and ran the fair for approximately 2,400 brigade Soldiers.

“Guardsmen and their families are geographically dispersed around the state, volunteering in FRG allows the family to feel connected to their Soldier’s unit, and gives them information resource support,” said Hogsten. “Volunteers can contribute as much or as little as they want. We shape individual volunteer roles depending on task preference, whether it’s phone tree calling or working on our newsletter.”

“We are so blessed to have folks that volunteer to help make Soldiers’ lives better,” said Col. John Epperly, commander of the 116th IBCT. “Every time we do this it makes a profound difference in a Soldier’s life.”