Army Community Service celebrates 55 years
Army Community Services celebrated its 55th anniversary Saturday.
ACS began from the roots of the Army Emergency Relief program in the 1940s. Funded by donations of the American public, AER offices were located at Army posts throughout the U.S. AER provided the framework for the development of ACS.
ACS was founded July 25, 1965, when Gen. Harold Johnson, Army chief of staff, dispatched a letter to all commanders announcing the approval and establishment of ACS.
ACS is a part of the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation department of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
Recently, a Soldier was participating in an exercise while his spouse was about to deliver their child. His spouse was without her husband or family members around so she needed help. ACS New Parent Support home visitor was a part of the Family experience during the pregnancy, at the hospital and provided visitations support once the mother and baby returned home.
“ACS is important because it provides a 360 social service delivery for Soldiers and Families,” said Paul Burk, director of FMWR. “The one-stop shop of support services minimizes the stress of the Soldier guessing where to seek assistance.”
Over the years, several programs have been added to ACS. In 1978, the Handicapped Dependent Program, now known as the Exceptional Family Member Program, was formed to assist Soldiers who have children with special education requirements.
During advanced individual training, a Soldier can inform leadership they have a Family member with special needs and they will be referred to the military treatment facility for EFMP enrollment and to ACS EFMP Family Support.
An ACS EFMP will a Family needs assessment to determine the Families immediate and long range unique needs and coordination of necessary community services.
“ACS contributes to the overall Army readiness by offering a full spectrum social service support system,” said Sharon Swisher, 55th birthday coordinator and Exceptional Family Member Program manager. “ACS has a great group of professionals who are equipped and prepared to work with military Families.”
Today, ACS has many programs to help Soldiers and their Families, from financial and employment readiness to volunteer opportunities and Survivor Outreach Services.
“ACS is an organization that takes care of the total Family,” said Swisher. “A Solider or Family member could have their needs meet without going outside of the installation.”
ACS has continued to serve Soldiers and their Families during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing virtual support, educational sessions, online training and safe face-to-face interaction as needed.
“ACS will be there for commanders, the community and for our Army Families,” said Swisher. “We stand ready and equipped to meet the many demands during these ever changing times.”
For example, if a Soldier’s car breaks down, the estimate for repairs is $589.27. Unfortunately, he does not have the money to cover the cost of the repairs. AER is a great option for the Solider to get an interest-free loan or grant to repair his car. In addition, a personal financial manager assesses his finances and helps the Solider develop a future budget.
ACS will continue to grow and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the global Army Family.
“The future of ACS is solid,” said Burk. “It has withstood the test of time over the past 55 years and especially during the pandemic. The pandemic showed us what we were really about, active, committed and sustainable.”
ACS is available at most garrisons. For garrisons that do not have an ACS center, their resources can be accesses through www.armymwr.com/ACS and the Army family web portal at https://www.armyfamilywebportal.com/.