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SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Being new to the Army and new to a garrison is one thing, but try being new to the Army, a garrison and the country — all at the same time.
Trying to navigate the military in a new country, with different cultural norms and expectations, is exactly what Australian native Felicity Castillo faced after she got married and transplanted here.
“Everything was so new to me,” she told other spouses during the inaugural Junior Spouses Conference, held at Army Community Service, here, Friday. “I needed to adjust to everything.”
Luckily for Castillo, she bumped into another Aussie who pointed her in the direction of ACS. Castillo was finally able to get comfortable in her new surroundings.
Having held conferences for senior spouses, Ferne Conry, Army Family Team Building program manager, ACS, decided it was time to tap another valuable resource: junior spouses.
“For us to provide the services our community needs, we need to know what they need,” Conroy said. “The purpose of this conference was to expose the new and junior spouses to ACS, find out what services they use and what barriers, if any, they have to coming to ACS.”
Conroy said she hopes to breed a new generation of spouses who will, in turn, mentor other junior spouses about where they can turn to for support and resources.
The conference kicked off with a tour of ACS through the decades, starting in the 1960s, when ACS got its start, and continuing to present day ACS.
Spouses were then treated to a Hawaiian story from Annelle Amaral, Native Hawaiian liaison, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii. Amaral gave the spouses insight into Native Hawaiian culture and peoples to foster a better understanding and to build stronger bridges between the military and Native Hawaiians.
“We share the same values,” she said. “We just use different words to express them. We have more commonalties than differences.”
The conference concluded with a focus group, led by Dr. Brandi Chew, psychologist, ACS. Chew asked spouses for their feedback on issues and programs like employment readiness/opportunities, financial readiness, and parenting and marital support. Other topics included deployment readiness, relocation resources, child care and exceptional family members.
During the focus group discussion on what ACS can do to help spouses during the relocation process, spouses unanimously agreed that a one-stop-shop for in- and out-processing would make processes much more manageable, as well as one place where they could go to obtain all the necessary paperwork.
“Junior spouses need to go out and dig for information, and if we are not aggressive, we would be left in the dark,” said Stacy Ambles, a family member. “I definitely recommend having conferences like this several times a year, because it would mold behavior and give spouses the exposure to Army life that they lack.”