Navy family support network praised

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Royal Naval community workers who support military families while spouses are away from home on combat missions to Afghanistan have been presented with a top award by the Royal Marines.

The Naval Personal and Family Service (NPFS) and Royal Marines Welfare (RMW) have been awarded the Commandant General Royal Marines (CGRM) Commendation.

The award recognises community support work with families of Service personnel during the Afghanistan conflict last year, when Plymouth-based 3 Commando Brigade headed the UK forces deployed on Operation HERRICK 14.

Brigadier Martin Smith RM, 3 Commando’s Commanding Officer, presented the award, on behalf of the Commandant General at Stonehouse Barracks, to Becky Leslie and Lynda Pearson.

He said:

The support families receive is very important in maintaining morale for those partners who are deployed far from home.

Those deployed operate more efficiently in theatre and on the front line knowing their families are being looked after back home. It is as vital to operations as having confidence in your kit.

I sometimes think it is harder for the families left behind than it is for the troops, because they are in the dark about what is going on in places like Afghanistan where their loved ones are getting on with their job, but still have to cope with all the problems of bringing up a family and looking after the home.

Things have improved significantly during the recent Afghanistan deployment for families. The way the community workers have gone out into areas of the country where there are no base-ports and other military camps, and set up networks of support for families has been exemplary.

As a rapid-reaction force 3 Commando Brigade is always likely to be deployed at short notice and now we have the same for the community workers who can also react quickly in support of families should that happen - this is a blue print for the future.

The CGRM Award recognises all the hard work, dedication, and commitment that the Outreach Support Team have given to families during Afghanistan.

The citation states:

3 Commando Brigade are most grateful to the outreach team for all the hard work, dedication, and support that they have given to families during Afghanistan.

The team did a superb job, their contribution to the deployment was extremely valuable and they thoroughly deserve my Commandant General’s Commendation.

After experience of previous Afghanistan deployments, welfare staff were organised to work with the Brigade much earlier in order to plan events for deployed families. An outreach project was developed to provide families with opportunities to meet with other families to share and obtain information on the progress of Afghanistan operations.

Ms Leslie acted as the single contact for all administration during Afghanistan operations 2011 and arranged and delivered pre-deployment briefs and newsletters to ships and places other than Afghanistan. Ms Pearson organised family outreach events and met families in Lincoln and Leicester throughout Afghanistan last year. She also manages the Friends and Families of Deployed Units organisation and works closely with service families needing additional needs.

Ms Leslie said:

I feel humbled by receiving this award. Our main achievement has been providing the catalyst to recreate the sense of community among Service families which has been lost over many years. This is especially important for families who do not have a barracks or port as a focal point.

Ms Pearson said:

A lot of friends among Service families have been made through this outreach work. We have included Royal Marine and Royal Navy Reserve units in our meetings with families, so that increase the community and gives families benefit of their experience.

We now have the backing of the Marines and Navy command to replicate this way of working for future deployments and can rapidly deploy our teams as fast as the Marines do.

These outreach support groups organised for Royal Marine staff to provide the latest briefings to families on the progress within Task Force Helmand. The aim was also that families developed coping skills through the sharing of experiences and develop friendships to reduce isolation through separation.

This project was developed in order to nurture family’s emotional resilience and well-being.

Between January 2011 and September 2011 the NPFS and RMW Community Team planned and delivered an outreach support project throughout the UK in support of 3 Commando Brigade during the Afghanistan conflict. The team comprised community development staff from Plymouth, Portsmouth and Faslane naval base areas.

By liaising with other agencies the outreach team were able to identify Service families living throughout the UK, providing 34 support groups in three wide areas, who organised meetings attended by some 2,000 adults and children during the deployment.

These 34 events were delivered from Royal Marine Reserve, Territorial Army centres and Royal Marines Association branches throughout the UK. This project brought together social workers, RMW staff, family support workers and Royal Marine officers, to enable the generation of community spirit and local self-help.

In the long-term it helps families to develop their own networks of support.

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