Everyone has experienced being a newbie and not knowing what resources are available or where to get their questions answered.
At Fort Sill, Army Community Service, or ACS can put you on the fast track to knowing what’s available and helping with any issue you might have.
ACS has real-life solutions for successful Army living that enhance the well-being and quality of life of military families. ACS offers everything from financial coaching and spouse employment to infant and toddler playgroups.
Monica Ulibarri, who has been the director of ACS for nearly a year and a half, has more than 12 years of experience working with family programs and was a military spouse looking for answers.
“I have been that spouse at a new duty station having lots of questions. A young Soldier, who was our sponsor said ‘Hey, you need to go to ACS.’ He did the right thing. I got in there and signed up for everything! Newcomer Orientation and cultural integration programs. I went to every class they taught and tried to fully engage in my new community,” said Ulibarri. “I remember at that time thinking ‘this is what I want to do, help other spouses. I want to work in ACS and give back.’”
Ulibarri said her team of professionals all have the basic wish to make the lives of Soldiers and their families better. “No matter what that Soldier or spouse needs, the staff will listen first, and they will find a way to help.”
There are many quality-of-life programs available for Soldiers and their spouses. The most recognized is Army Emergency Relief, which was established to assist Soldiers and their family members in emergency situations through no fault of their own. Financial assistance is given through an interest-free loan, grant or a combination of the two.
“AER is part of the Financial Readiness Program, which also does budgets and has financial counselors on hand for individuals to meet with – whether they are looking at how to better their credit or if they have some creditors they’re trying to work with, our counselors are here to help.” she said.
The Exceptional Family Member Program is another program many military families recognize.
“The EFMP is here to assist those Soldiers and dependents who have special needs,” said Ulibarri. “Special needs can be anything from severe asthma to autism and everything in between. The EFMP coordinator works to provide resources and social connections for EFMP families.”
Another widely recognized ACS program is Relocation Readiness, which assists by reducing or eliminating problems arising because of frequent moves. Services offered through this program include Newcomers Orientation, overseas briefings, re-entry briefs, welcome packets, and the Lending Closet.
“The Lending Closet is available for those just arriving or getting ready to PCS out. If you haven’t unpacked your household goods or the movers have already packed your goods, the Lending Closet has the basic household items you can borrow for free,” she said.
“We want to make sure those who are leaving for an overseas location not only understand the cultural differences, but all aspects of that PCS. We provide a briefing to cover all the pertinent information and we can do one-on-one relocation counseling,” said Ulibarri.
“One of our most recent services is our Newcomer Spouse Orientation, starting in 2023. It will be held every other month at the Patriot Club. It’s a great way for spouses to learn the resources available to them here at Fort Sill,” she said. “We also conduct a bus tour that will take spouses around the installation, so they know where to find everything.”
Ulibarri said for spouses who are becoming citizens, ACS works with the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services to allow virtual testing to be conducted in ACS instead of traveling to Oklahoma City.
The Employment Readiness Program helps spouses – or anyone eligible to use ACS services – looking for employment. The program offers classes such as resume writing classes and job interviewing classes.
“Our EAP coordinator knows so many community resources, employment opportunities and who’s hiring,” said Ulibarri. “She also manages our volunteer corps as the volunteer coordinator. We still use the Volunteer Management Installation System, which is how volunteers register and then record their hours. She helps volunteers find positions and teaches them how to keep track of their hours.”
The Survivor Outreach Services Program also falls under ACS. The coordinator works with the Gold Star Families providing resources and general support. He assists our survivors with questions and needs that arise.
“He has facilitated highway memorials ceremonies and events like the Run for the Fallen. SOS also conducts an annual tea party, holiday party and Gold Star luncheons with the families,” she said. “He connects the community with those families.”
The Family Advocacy Program offers prevention, intervention and education on domestic abuse. The FAP specialists brief commanders and civilians on the signs of domestic abuse and the services and resources FAP offers.
“The Domestic Abuse Victim Advocates are available to work crisis intervention, safety planning, provide victims/survivors with community resources and support.
The New Parent Support Program Home Visitors offer prenatal and postnatal education ranging from virtual home visits to toddler play activities/groups, baby massage instruction, customized breastfeeding support and all things parenting related, she said. “We provide community resources as needed.”
Army Community Service has Military Family Life Counselors for our community. The counselors provide short-term, non-medical counseling services to service members and their families at no cost. They provide services to individuals, couples, families, and groups.
“There are all kinds of people who want to know what ACS is, because they don’t understand what ACS does for them. They don’t realize what all falls under the umbrella of ACS – it’s every kind of family program you can imagine,” Ulibarri said.
“We have a dynamic team that works ever so closely with one another to assist Soldiers and their families. It is important that the community understands that whatever needs they have — even if we don’t support the need — come to ACS, we can refer to the appropriate agency,” said Ulibarri. “It really should be the first place Soldiers and families come to when they arrive and the last place they go when they leave.”
For more information on any programs or services at ACS, call 580-442-4916.