Published: April 30, 2021
Needless to say, 2020 was a year like no other. The year had a particular impact on one segment of the American public: those serving in uniform and their families.
Did you know that, based on Blue Star Families’ annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey, more than half (55%) of National Guard family respondents and a quarter of active-duty (24%) and Reserve (27%) family respondents reported a deployment or activation from March through October 2020? Of those families who experienced a deployment or activation, more than half of active-duty (66%), National Guard (52%), and Reserve family (55%) respondents reported unexpected extensions due to COVID-19 or were required to spend extra time away from family due to quarantine restrictions.
During these activations, as with all deployments that have occurred post-9/11, a team right here in Illinois was (and remains) ready to assist with providing information, assistance, and referrals. Blue Star Families of Illinois and Chicagoland wants to make sure you are aware of this “special forces” team located within the Illinois National Guard Family Assistance Centers (FACs). Previously, FACs were staffed with Family Assistance specialists (FASs) and Family Readiness support assistants (FRSAs). This year, these contracted positions merged into one federal employee role now known as Military and Family Readiness specialists (MFRSs). The position continues to provide great value to service members and their families, along with veterans and retirees from all branches of the military, Guard, and Reserve, regardless of deployment status. Additionally, the MFRSs help units manage their Family Readiness Groups by supporting volunteers and command teams, providing training, guidance, and assistance to ensure mission success.
Military and Family Readiness specialists are now located at 13 Family Assistance Center locations across Illinois, including: Peoria, Mount Vernon, North Riverside, Crestwood, Mattoon, Milan, Marion, Machesney Park, Joliet, Northwest Chicago, Urbana, Springfield, and Marseilles.
Basic services they provide include:
- Information and contact assistance in obtaining an ID card and/or enrolling in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). For example, they provide information regarding which documents are required to obtain a new ID and where the nearest RAPIDS location for obtaining an ID is.
- Assistance with TRICARE, including connecting members with the nearest Health Benefits Advisor and information on TRICARE Health and Dental Programs. Information can also be provided for assistance with the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).
- Providing financial resources and referrals. The American Red Cross is the official communication channel to Army Emergency Relief, Air Force Aid Society, and other armed services’ relief agencies. Referrals can be made to other local, county, and state agencies, as well as Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) that assist with resolving financial problems.
- Legal information and coordination with the State Legal Assistance Officer and/or other JAG offices for assistance with wills, powers of attorney (POA), Service Member Civil Relief Act, and other legal matters.
- Crisis information and referrals. For example, referrals to Military and Family Life Consultants, the local VA, and/or Military OneSource can be made.
- Provide information, resources, and referrals to various military and civilian agencies that assist with an array of unique needs, including emergency food and shelter, MWR services (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation), employment resources, and local opportunities to connect the military with the community, including our very own Blue Star Families events.
Ryan Brown, the lead MFRS in Springfield, also noted that if your issue is not listed in the above services, you should feel free to reach out. If an MFRS is unable to provide direct help, they will point you in the right direction.
Included are pictures of some of the Military and Family Readiness specialists to help put names to faces, as well as the latest contact information and numbers. If you are not sure which location is closest to you, feel free to call 1-800-832-9225, and they will assist in directing you to the right location.
We are fortunate to have this great resource in the state of Illinois staffed with dedicated personnel available to assist with a range of topics all in one place.
Ryan J. Brown
Lead Military and Family Readiness Specialist
1301 N MacArthur Blvd, Springfield IL 62702
North Riverside Armory
8660 W. Cermak Rd North Riverside, IL 60546
13838 S. Springfield Ave Robbins, IL 60472
Northwest Chicago Armory
1551 N. Kedzie Ave. Chicago, IL 60651
2900 W. Jefferson St Joliet IL 60435
5212 78th Ave. Milan, IL 61264
1450 Army Rd Marseilles IL 61340
2323 S. Airport Rd Peoria, IL 61607
Machesney Park Armory
10451 N. 2nd St Machesney Park IL 61115
Springfield (Camp Lincoln)
1301 N. MacArthur Blvd. Springfield, IL 62702
112 Broadway Ave East Mattoon, IL 61938
Mt. Vernon Armory
600 Shiloh Dr. Mt. Vernon, IL 62864
11427 Minuteman Rd, Marion IL 62959
600 University Ave, Urbana IL 61801