Army Community Service History
Story by: ACS Staff
From pioneer days to the Volunteer Army of the 1980s', the concept of humanitarian concern for the welfare of others exists as a foundation of the Army way of life. A volunteer spirit and the tradition of "caring for its own" are its characteristics.
Army posts, familiar to the pioneers, were isolated and often located in hostile and dangerous environments, seldom located near a civilian community and had limited and infrequent communication with the world outside its protective fortifications. The early day Army existed as a closely knit, distinct and generally self-sufficient society. The pioneer Army wife knew hardship in her environment, but she established an enviable pattern of personal sacrifice and compassion still found in the Army wife today.
For years, Army wives have operated lending closets, thrift shops, and nurseries; raised funds to help the needy; assisted in emergencies; taught and trained the inexperienced; provided care and comfort to the ill and bereaved; and, through a grassroots understanding of the Army community, contributed significantly to its stability. An adverse aspect of these social service activities was that they often disappeared or stagnated when their originators transferred or left the service.
Army Community Service (ACS) was designed to eliminate this adverse aspect to a large extent and provides a flexible framework for the operation of a viable system of social services. Emerging needs can be met, and services no longer needed can be discarded, to ensure that each program is adapted to the requirements and resources of each local Army community.
Changes in the Army society have been substantial and significant, and reflect the changes of the larger society, which it serves; however, the major impact of these changes has been most apparent since 1940.
In 1940, the active Army numbered 269,000 of whom only 25 percent were married. The advent of World War 11 (WWII) rapidly altered this picture. The rapid buildup of U.S. defensive forces, and their deployment worldwide had a devastating impact on American family life. Long separations, lack of communication, meager pay, fear, and reports of casualties brought disruption and insecurity to Army families who shared this experience.
1 Adapted in part from Army Community Service? Its History and Development, LTC Emma M. Baird (Ret), 1987 .
An important resource for the alleviation of social welfare problems of soldiers and their families came in the 1940s in the form of Army Emergency Relief (AER). Funded by donations of the American public, and proceeds of the Irving Berlin Broadway hit "This is the Army" AER offices were located at Army posts throughout the United States in 1941. One large metropolitan AER office, and the only one so established, was located in New York City on 5 February 1942.
Staffed by military and civilian personnel, and a large number of civilian volunteers, this unusual quasi-military organization operated under the supervision of the 1202nd Service Command Unit. In March 1944, the AER office was redesignated "Personnel Affairs Branch", but continued its same operations with a slightly altered but effective relationship with AER funding. In operation until the end of WWII, this organization through an interesting coincidence, provided the framework for development of ACS more than 20 years later.
Then LT Emma M. Baird was assigned to the aforementioned AER and Personnel Affairs Offices during the major period of their existence, as the Allowance and Allotment Officer. This experience formed the background of her planning the structure and organization of a "family services program", which was to become ACS.
In providing assistance, the New York AER not only had access to AER funds, but also drew on a network of resources from Salvation Army, Department of Welfare, Navy Relief, Catholic Charities, and many other civic organizations cooperated to ease the problems and hardships of soldiers and their families. Civilian psychiatrists, social workers, lawyers, and the police donated their professional expertise to assist in difficult cases, free of charge.
Through the years prior to the establishment of ACS, no single group developed more awareness of the social needs of the Army community than did Army wives. Their awareness and efforts to help those in need played a major role in the final acceptance of ACS.
An Army wife who has made notable contributions to development of the ACS program is Mrs. George S. Patton (Joanne). An early advocate for assistance to military personnel with handicapped dependents, Mrs. Patton's' input to the success of the Army efforts in this area has been continuous and unstinting. Appointed as ACS Volunteer Consultant to the Department of the Army in 1980, Mrs. Patton continued to bring her talent, experience, and wholehearted belief in ACS to benefit the ACS program. Her abilities helped in achieving meaningful assistance for handicapped dependents.
From the beginnings of ACS, thousands of Army wives have enhanced and improved the lives of fellow members of their Army community. From the initiation of the A C S program, and throughout its history, the volunteers, primarily Army wives, have ensured the success and the support of the A C S program.
The Surgeon General, General Leonard Heaton, was fully aware of the growth of the serious social welfare problems within the military community and brought to the planning and development phase of ACS the professional knowledge of the Army Social Work Officers. The presence of these individuals ensured a professional base for program development. The insight, support, and professional background of the Army Social Work Officer in assisting to identify social welfare needs, and planning resources to meet these needs, were vital to the creation of the professionally acceptable activity.
Agencies in the civilian community, as well as in government, played a role in supporting the establishment of a military social service agency. The impact of military social problems on these agencies led to an emphasis of the need for a contact or coordinating agency within the military structure. There was a frequently voiced opinion among such agencies that the Army should establish some means to better help its members solve their social problems.
These interacting forces served to bring about a decision from the Department of Army, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (ODCSPER), that some kind of family service program must be established.
Initial action to establish an official "family assistance" program was taken by the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (DCSPER), LTG J. L. Richardson. In October 1963, General Richardson requested that a qualified WAC Officer be assigned to ODCSPER to develop a plan for the creation of an Army wide community social service program; LTC Emma Marie Baird was nominated, and selected for the assignment, December 1963. A study to develop a preliminary proposal began in January 1964. At DCSPER's request Surgeon General Leonard Heaton appointed LTC William Rooney as social work consultant to the project.
During the period of submission/resubmission of the proposal, AR 608-1, the Army Community Service Regulation was written and staffed. The regulation not only contained guidelines for program development, but also provided guidance for the organization and utilization of a volunteer corp. This latter aspect of a sound ACS program was initiated by plans for the publication of a volunteer handbook. This project sponsored by the DCSPER, Department of the Army (DA), was later published by the Human Resources Research Organization and distributed under the authority of the Chief of Research and Development, DA. This document, prepared by professional staff from many Army Social Work officers, ACS personnel and volunteers, remains one of the most valuable tools for guidance in ACS volunteer development and training. In addition, AR 608-1 contained an outline for emergency care of dependents, separated from sponsors, presented the developed ACS emblem; and incorporated the motto "Self-Help, Service, and Stability."
With the onset of the war in Vietnam and the displacement of thousands of military dependents, a portion of the completed AR 608-1, entitled "Emergency and Specialized Programs" (Section VI, para 15 and 16,19 Nov 65) was extracted, refined, and dispatched without delay to commanders on 1 Jul 1965 (DA Msg 722180) and 9 July 1965 (DA Msg 723088). In many areas, such as Hawaii, the receipt of draft guidance and preplanning on the part of command simplified their effort. Colonel Edward Wellems, the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Hawaii, served as executive officer, ODCSPER in the early days of ACS development and was a staunch and consistent supporter of its merit.
Then Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, stated to Congress, the soldier is not at his station by choice so the government has the special responsibility to care for his needs. "A Military man must be willing to accept hardships, but the nation should not expect the same from his family." The Army's tradition of self-help, and caring for its own, and Secretary McNamara's philosophy were brought into full play during this mammoth undertaking. ACS observers were dispatched to California posts to dispatch reports to DA on the success of the undertaking.
The assistance of Air Force Family Service volunteers during this period was outstanding and a noteworthy example of inter-service cooperation. The efficiency of this well trained organization was a clear demonstration of volunteer effectiveness in any organization.
Praise from commanders and affected dependents were unstinting. Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson, Commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade wrote:
"The success of their move (dependents) was a great source of satisfaction to me and my troops. It was the result not only of good planning and attentiveness to details on the part of commanders and their staff, but also the thoughtfulness and human efforts of many individual men and women, both military and civilians, who worked unselfishly to make the move as convenient and comfortable for our families as possible.
2 Open letter to the Army Times from General Williamson, 24 November 1965.
It was not expected that upon General Williamson's return to assume command of Fort Polk, Louisiana, the establishment of ACS would be one of his first orders of business.
Reports from Hawaii stated that dependents assistance centers were operating 17 hours a day and cited the planning received by DA messages as "invaluable".
On 25 July 1965, General Harold K. Johnson, Army Chief of Staff, dispatched a letter to all major commanders announcing approval and establishment of the A C S program.
In early spring of 1966, LTC Baird traveled to Europe to assist commanders in establishing ACS centers, primarily those in Germany. Shortly thereafter Colonel Ralph Morgan, Army Social Work Officer, assumed duties of ACS Officer for USAREUR.
Initially, in implementing the program, minor confusion arose from the almost simultaneous receipt of "family assistance" guidance, and the announced approval and establishment of the ACS program, for they were one and the same program. Publications of AR 608-1 on 19 November 1965 superseded all previous instructions and ACS finally was welcomed as a viable and important Army program. Born in a climate of some confusion may be a partial explanation of why ACS continues by many to be called "Army Community Services". There are innumerable Army community services, there is only one officially designated Army Community Service!
The first CONUS ACS conference was conducted at DA in November 1966. By this time, the CONUS caseload had exceeded 500,000 and experience of over a year's operation could be reported and examined. In remarks made at this conference, General Harold K. Johnson remarked on the adopted ACS emblem, and expressed regret that a "heart" has not been included in the design. Upon examination of the design it became almost immediately apparent that a "heart" already existed within the gyroscope of the emblem. The heart motif had been there all the time and needed only to be outlined in red to bring it into being.
By 1967 the majority of CONUS posts had initiated an acceptable program. Local workshops were conducted at many Army posts and served to train and educate personnel assigned to the new program. In addition DA and CONAR staff members attended many of the workshops to assist in the growth and development of ACS.
By 1969, 155 ACS Centers and points of contact were established Army wide. The largest majority of overseas centers were located in Germany, but wherever American troops served, an ACS Center or ACS point of contact was established.
By the 1970s, it became apparent that some ACS Centers had not yet achieved the desired development, and some managers of ACS Centers seemed to lack sufficient knowledge to establish a workable local program. DCSPER, DA, requested that the Academy of Health Sciences design and conduct a course to help correct these deficiencies. The first two-week course was conducted in 1972. Between FY72 and FY79, 14 ACS classes, graduating a total of 445 military and civilian students, were conducted by the Academy. Between 1975-76, proponency for the ACS program was transferred from DCSPER, DA, to TAGCEN, DA. The Administration Center in 1977 at Fort Benjamin Harrison requested and received permission to conduct the ACS course. The Academy's instructional material was turned over to the Admin Center. The Army Community Service Officer's Course was turned over to Headquarters, Department of the Army, Community and Family Support Training Center where it remains to this day. In FY96 the course would undergo revision to incorporate the major changes experienced in ACS for over three decades.
In 1987, LTC (Ret) Emma Marie Baird passed away. To maintain her memory among Army families, the LTC Emma Marie Baird Memorial Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service was established in 1988.
Moving toward its third decade, ACS has grown and evolved in responsibility and effectiveness. The publication of a revised version of AR 608-1 on I October 1978, introduced new avenues of accomplishment of this viable program. Budget counseling and debt liquidation, relocation assistance, and an information program at many ACS centers, became services offered by ACS, which was designated an official and essential program The revised regulation incorporated the Army Child Advocacy Program (ACAP) into ACS; established the Army Child Support Services Program; established criteria for financial support, personnel functions and duties, and program requirements; and incorporated standards for child health and safety protection at military facilities offering temporary care for children. In FY96, AR 608-1 would again be revised to capture the enhancements and evolution of this essential program.
Since the revised publication of AR 608-1 in 1978, additional programs were formed under the Army Community Service umbrella. In 1982, the Family Advocacy Program and the Family Member Employment Assistance Program were officially established. In 1988, the Relocation Assistance Program was officially established by a Department of Defense Instruction and further mandated by Public Law in 1989. In its current structure, ACS consists of the Relocation Assistance Program, the Consumer Affairs and Financial Assistance Program, the Family Member Employment Assistance Program, the Volunteer Program, the Exceptional Family Member Program, the Family Advocacy Program, the Outreach Program, and the Information, Referral, and Follow-up Program.
In FY95, an official mission statement was established for ACS: "ACS will assist commanders in maintaining readiness of individuals, families, and communities within America's Army by developing, coordinating, and delivering services which promote self-reliance, resiliency, and stability during war and peace."
Army Community went under a complete restructuring process in the 1990's that further enhance the programs mission and authenticated the agency as "Partners In Readiness"!