Col. Larry Phelps, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division rear element, and his staff of Soldiers and volunteers have their hands full lending their support to the families of the Soldiers who are currently deployed.
Armed with the latest communication technology and an additional staff of dedicated volunteers, Soldiers on the frontlines and their families here at home have a secure link to one another despite the distance that sets them apart.
“The cadre of the 1st Cavalry Division is about 350 folks at the brigade, battalion and division level,” Phelps said. “That may not sound like a lot of people, but we also have a lot of combat multipliers and volunteers to support the families in need…There’s no way we can function without their support…I know that doesn’t sound like much, but when you add the technology and the volunteers, it goes a long way.”
One of the things that they incorporate is the use of special video teleconferencing technology to provide a direct link to the Soldiers on the front to their families back home in real time.
Phelps organizes these special video teleconferencing meetings called VTC Town Hall Meetings each month for the families here on the installation. During the last VTC Town Hall Meeting Jan. 25, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks addressed the meeting live from Baghdad.
These live video feeds will help family members put into perspective what their loved ones are going through while deployed. Sgt. Colby Hauser, spokesperson for the 1st Cav. Div., explained that during the last town hall meeting, people wanted to be able to see video feed on what a Chinook helicopter is and what it does. Hauser explained that they will now regularly set up special things like this to keep families informed about what is going on with the Soldiers who are deployed.
During the Jan. 25 town hall, Hauser explained how they filmed special “shout outs” of the Soldiers’ spouses, which will be transmitted to Iraq so the Soldiers can have a special message from home during the Super Bowl game. Special things like these are ways that the 1st Cavalry Division can bring families closer together and help boost morale on the homefront as well as the frontlines.
Phelps also commented on how the 1st Cavalry Web site holds a crucial role in providing information.
“One of the great things we have, in my opinion, is that we have the Army’s best Web site,” Phelps said. “Information is the key.”
Wendy Fil, the wife of Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, is another person who is key to the support of the 1st Cavalry Division.
Wendy Fil is the senior advisor for the division’s Family Readiness Groups, which help families here at home by providing support groups, community functions and other programs to help.
“Our main goal is to help keep the families informed and to help resolve any issue that may arise that they need help with,” Wendy Fil said. “We also have C.A.R.E. teams that help assist the families of Soldiers when someone has been killed in action.”
Along with providing help with support groups, Fil also handles various issues of the 1st Cavalry and making sure those issues go where they need to go to be resolved.
“I mostly meet with the senior spouses and brigade and battalion commanders and command Sgt. Major’s wives,” Fil said. “We disseminate information from headquarters and discuss issues that have arisen from our units. We receive updates from Iraq and squelch any rumors that have been going around. I also bring up issues to the III Corps level if we have any.”
Hauser added “the spouses are the brain trust of the 1st Cavalry Division. They figure out things so they can better assist (the families).”
Phelps explained how they have a wide range of resources to lend support.
“There’s a multitude of things that runs the whole gamut,” Phelps said. “We want to keep the families informed and make sure they get the help and support they need.”
Even teens and younger family members have programs, like the Teen FRG, that can help them cope when loved ones are away on deployment.
“The overwhelming fact is that no matter what issue may come up, it can be resolved,” Phelps said.
He further explained that with the technology at hand and the support teams and programs, all bases are covered, whether it be financial issues or health issues, it can be resolved.
“Even if it is not something that the installation can do, we have support in the communities to do it,” Phelps said.