The U.S. Army has established a toll-free Family Assistance Hotline for Operation Iraqi Freedom at (800) 833-6622. The hotline was established by the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center, in conjunction with the Army Family Liaison Office staff to provide referrals and information to the families of deployed or activated soldiers.
The hotline is toll free when called from the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. The hotline staff will answer calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily Eastern Standard Time to answer family support-related questions. Emergency assistance will be provided between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. EST, officials said. "Our staff will assist all callers by listening, explaining, and directing them to the most helpful resources we can," said Gail Lovisone, manager of CFSC's Family Assistance Hotline call center.
Lovisone emphasized that the first place families of active-duty soldiers should contact is Army Community Service or the unit rear detachment at the installation from which the soldiers deployed. "The mission of our Family Assistance Hotline is to provide Army families caring support in the form of accurate information, useful resources, and helpful referrals related to family issues," said Brig. Gen. Robert L. Decker, commander of the USACFSC, the Army agency responsible for Morale, Welfare, and Recreation. "This Family Assistance Hotline is a 'safety net' for those who have exhausted all other resources," said Decker. "We will do everything we can to help each and every caller."
The hotline is intended for use only by family members of soldiers on active duty as well as those in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve called to active duty. After hearing a short, recorded message, callers will be able to speak to hotline staff members who have access to extensive reference materials. Staff will be unable to answer questions about casualties or soldiers wounded or missing in action. Because of the sensitivity of this information, the Army's Casualty Assistance Office will first contact the soldier's immediate family. Once the Army is certain that the soldier's next of kin have been notified, information about soldiers' deaths will then be released to the public through news releases and other means such as the media and Department of Defense Web sites.
Due to operational security and force protection concerns, CFSC hotline staff cannot provide locator services (addresses) for soldiers or units, or information about operational matters. The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve state and regional support commands also operate assistance lines, though they may not always be toll free. Information is also available at www.guardfamily.org and www.army.mil/usar. "We may often refer callers to the installation because installation ACS staff have local resource telephone numbers, and more detailed information," explained Lovisone.
In addition to local and Army-level assistance via telephone, family members can find answers to many routine questions about family readiness, Army Community Service, and deployment support resources online at the ACS Web site, www.goacs.org, and at the Army Family Liaison Office website, www.aflo.org. "We anticipate a high volume of calls, so we strongly urge people to use those Web sites as a first stop," noted Lovisone. Recognizing that not all households have Internet connectivity, Lovisone suggested families use computers at installation ACS centers or at on-post or local civilian libraries.