WASHINGTON, D.C. --
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Since June 2009, Bea Ramos has traveled across the country as the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion Family Readiness Officer to build a network of health, employment and financial resources for the Marines and Sailors of 4th CEB and their families. Her efforts, along with the efforts of the dozens of family readiness officers within the battalion, have resulted in 4th CEB winning the 2014 Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Award for the Marine Corps Reserve.
The battalion, along with winners from the National Guard and Reserve components of each branch, was recognized at a ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.
“For this last year, I feel the program has excelled in many areas,” Ramos said. “We have developed networks of employers and support teams to meet the needs of Marines in terms of employment. Many of our Marines live in remote locations, and Reserve Marines may not qualify for many of the benefits their active-duty counterparts have on an installation.”
Because Reserve sites are so geographically disbursed, Reserve Marines face different challenges than their active-duty counterparts. Ramos included in the network government welfare assistance programs, as well as Army and Air Force National Guard and Reserve programs for families who may need government assistance or are searching for programs for children and teens who would not otherwise have access to that kind of information. Ramos credits 4th CEB’s command involvement for the program’s increasing impact.
“This is the commander’s program, and the command has been very involved,” Ramos said. “Family readiness has been promoted in family days, post-deployment training and many other instances. There is always command leadership present at each event or involved specifically in the disbursement of information. They are actively engaged with our message.”
In 2014, the 4th CEB family readiness program expanded its support network to include mental health contacts, including the Maryland Mental Health Association, as well as pro bono legal assistance for Marine families. Ramos also reached out to veteran support associations such as Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans, the Marine Corps League, and the Marine Corps League Women’s Auxiliary.
The battalion was the lead unit for Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Africa 13-3. During that deployment, Ramos worked with 42 FROs to provide support for more than 30 reserve units in the rotation. In March 2014, 4th CEB spearheaded the first 4th Marine Division-led, multi-unit, post-deployment conference in Cleveland, Ohio.
According to Lt. Col. Frank McClintick, the battalion Inspector-Instructor, having a supportive command can drastically affect a family readiness program’s impact, as well as a Marine’s readiness.
“Having the command involved shows the Marines that their family is just as important as they are,” McClintick said. “You can’t deploy Marines into a combat zone while they are worried about their families not being taken care of while they are gone.”
McClintick emphasized the uniqueness of 4th CEB’s program, because they also work with parents and siblings of Marines, along with spouses and children. Ultimately, 4th CEB’s program network extends across five states with six different unit sites, enabling Ramos to get assistance for any Marine or Sailor in 4th CEB with a phone call. Marine spouses and family members credit the program for their preparedness for deployments as well as every-day life.
“It’s helped a lot, and I’ve learned just from talking to other Marines and spouses that command involvement like this doesn’t happen at other Reserve units,” said Lauren Greene, wife of 4th CEB heavy equipment operator Staff Sgt. Christopher Greene. “Bea is always available and helpful. I’ve had a very positive experience with the family readiness program.”
Ramos believes the program is an indispensable part of operations in 4th CEB, and wants to keep it that way.
“It’s not just another program, it’s the difference between deploying our Marines and not deploying them,” Ramos said. “It’s a quality of life program, which helps them balance their lives. We may not be deploying (within the near future), but that means they need us now more than ever to adjust to civilian life. The command presence makes the difference. It’s real, and it’s strong.”
Ramos has done everything to expand 4th CEB’s family readiness program, from resume writing for civilian employment, to incorporating chaplain capabilities from the community or other units. Because keeping Marines families prepared will affect their readiness, the command is now involved all the way down to the small-unit leadership level, ensuring that every last Marine remains ready, relevant and responsive.