CAMP MABRY, Texas - The goal is to help the Soldiers and Airmen of the Texas National Guard.
Through collaboration and partnerships with faith-based organizations in the state, the Texas Military Forces Chaplain Col. Joe Combs can achieve just that.
Since November 2013, Combs and his staff have been working to launch a Partners in Care program for the Texas Military Forces.
Partners in Care is a Department of Defense-approved program that establishes partnerships between the Texas National Guard and faith-based organizations that can provide resources to Soldiers and Airmen, and do so without regard to any religious affiliation.
The benefit of the initiative in Texas, given Texas’ vast geographical area and members living in communities across the state, often rural, is that it provides a linkage between service members who may be in need with groups that can provide resources to assist them at no charge.
“In Dallas, or Houston or Austin, there are a lot of resources, but when you’re talking about Nocona, Texas, and Muleshoe, Texas, where we have Guardsmen and women, those resources aren’t as easily available,” Combs said. “But in each of those communities, there are faith-based organizations that are active and meeting the needs of those in the community.”
Though the partnerships are with faith-based organizations, the program allows service members to receive needed assistance from these organizations while maintaining their religious freedoms.
“It’s very clear in the [Memorandum of Understanding]. This initiative neither endorses the establishment of religion, nor requires any member of the Texas Military Forces to participate in any religious activity,” Combs said. “It respects each member’s right and each family member’s right to freedom of religion.”
Types of support includes, but isn’t limited to; counseling for individuals, couples, or families, childcare, household and automotive repairs, child and teen education, mentoring, reunion and reintegration support, single parent support, emergency food, clothing, and housing, transportation assistance, financial management classes and crisis and grief counseling.
A key benefit is that these groups provide assistance at no cost to the National Guard or the service member.
In early March 2014, Combs received the final approval to hit the ground running and begin establishing these partnerships with Texas congregations. Despite the green light, Combs is not in a rush to kick off the program.
“I want to make sure to proceed slowly and judiciously to make sure we do it right,” Combs said.
Combs plans to work with Air and Army National Guard chaplains throughout Texas Military Forces to identify possible congregations that would be willing to participate, in addition to getting commanders on board with the program.
Twenty-five other National Guards have already established a program in their respective state or territory, and Combs and his staff connected with chaplains from other states with established programs to gain insight on how to launch a program here.
“These faith-based organizations have a history of being willing, ready and able to help in the time of need,” Combs said. “As long as we ensure those religious freedoms are being upheld, this is a great resource to alleviate some of those needs out there.”