July 18, 2002
She doesn't live in Mount Vernon. She doesn't work in Mount Vernon. But a very consuming part of her life has been focused on the Mount Vernon area. And, that will expand significantly in the months ahead.
She is Michelle Moore, wife of the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Donald Moore, of the recently deployed unit from the U.S. Army Reserve element of the 9th Theater Support Command (TSC) located at Fort Belvoir. Her job, and that of those working with her, for the next year is as critical, in many ways, to the long range mission of today's reserve concept, as the military one.
During the deployment ceremony held at the Mosby USAR Center, just off the Fairfax County Parkway in the Mount Vernon area, July 9, she stood on the stage next to her husband as the designated leader of the unit's Family Readiness Group. It will be her job to coordinate all efforts on the home front to insure the family linkage is maintained between the activated reservists and their loved ones now separated by a continent, an ocean, and the unknown.
"This is a relatively new concept of getting the families involved as a result of the events of Sept. 11," she explained. "I didn't particularly want to be the leader but nobody else volunteered."
RESIDENTS OF Manassas, Michelle and her husband have been married for 11 years and have two sons, Cameron, eight, and Connor, five. She teaches second grade at Sinclair Elementary School, Prince William County. A graduate of Baylor University, Waco, Texas, she is working on her Masters in Education at George Mason University.
Although this is his first deployment as a reservist, the demands of sacrifice are nothing new to either of them. They are both products of military families. "My dad was in the Army stationed at Fort Hood in Texas. I grew up in this atmosphere," she said.
Colonel Moore's father was also career military, retiring after 30 years on active duty. "I have been a part of the Army for the past 22 years," he explained following the deployment ceremony at the Center. "They have been evenly split - 11 years active and 11 years in the reserve."
Colonel Moore was deployed once before when on active duty. He was sent to Panama in 1989 during Operation Just Cause. In civilian life he is employed by Calibre, a defense contractor located near the Springfield Mall on Walker Lane.
"This family support activity didn't start just now with the deployment. It's part of an on-going activity for the Reserve unit. Every weekend there is a drill and we have meetings on Saturday and Sunday," Michelle Moore explained.
That point was buttressed by Lizabeth Norris, the wife of Sergeant Major Stephen Norris. "I've been a part of the program since my husband has been affiliated with this reserve group. He is a civilian employee of the Army as well as a reservists so we are always involved," she said.
"Until this deployment our main organizational activities centered around the Christmas party and the Summer Fun Day. But now it will focus on the needs of those whose family members have been activated," Norris stated.
SHIRLEY WOODS of Mitchelville, MD, who serves as Corresponding Secretary of the Family Readiness Group, knows first-hand the value of the organization. Her husband, Spencer R. Woods, is the Command Sergeant Major, Special Troops Battalion, for the 9th TSC. He was involved during Desert Storm.
"I was contacted then. That's how I became involved. It's very comforting just to have someone to commiserate with at such a time," Woods said. Even though they are Maryland residents her husband is a Captain in the Fairfax County Sheriff's Department.
She also draws on her own military experience to offer strength and comfort. "I was in the Army in the 1970, stationed at Fort Hood,TX. Although, there wasn't a Family Readiness Group, when ever there was a need we met it," she said.
Family Readiness Group activities will now take on a lot more meaning for the family and friends of the 46 members who have been deployed. "We will be maintaining regular contact with them to give them updates on how things are going and to enable them to contact the soldiers," Moore explained.
Major Beth Jamison, the Family Readiness Group reserve military liaison officer travels every month from her home in Albany, NY, to the Mosley Center. "I am the go-between for the families and the military. My husband is now deployed and his group didn't have a Family Readiness Group. I know how important it is," she said.
IN ADDITION TO her military reserve activities, Jamison describes herself as "a full-time mom and the lunch room lady at the local elementary school." She has a degree in Social Work but "this enables me to be with my kids and have the summers off," she said.
As Michelle Moore's military counterpart, Major Jamison's primary assignment in the Family Readiness Group is "to keep in touch with both the families and the deployed soldiers." That's also a personal assignment applied to her reservist husband.
Those activated will be stationed at the 9th TSC Headquarters at Camp Zama, Okinawa, Japan. Their mission will be to strengthen the support operations within the Pacific region as part of the war on terrorism's Operation Enduring Freedom.
"We are planning to designate a special room at the Center to install a computer with quick Internet service," Michelle explained. "This will enable those without home computers to have direct access to their family member."
But family support activities reach far beyond just maintaining a contact service. "We are putting together lists of plumbers, electricians, general maintenance people, auto technicians, and lot of others who can provide the services needed in everyday life," she said.
"A lot of these families didn't even know there was an organization like ours. Many of the members in the unit are from out of the region and their spouses haven't come to the sessions," Moore said. As an example she cited the unit's sergeant major who is from western Pennsylvania - five hours from Fort Belvoir.
IN PREPARATION for her new role, Moore attended one of the Army's Family Readiness Courses in Harrisburg, PA, April 26 to 28. She and others will be going to another session in August at Virginia Beach.
One of the most important functions of the support group is to establish and manage the "telephone tree," according to Moore. This is a contact network that enables the group to get information to families and from families to the deployed reservists. "We met this past Sunday to do just that, organize the phone tree," Norris said.
"My husband gave me a list of all the soldiers who were deployed. Nine are from outside the capital region and have listed contact persons as far away as California," she noted. "Only 13 contacts have e-mail addresses. That means there's going to be a lot of telephoning."
In many ways, this deployment of her husband is like "deja vu all over again" she recalled. "When I was in college he was stationed at Fort Ord in California. I went out to visit him at Christmas. The day after I got there, he was sent to Panama and I was stuck in California," Moore said.
"But the Army took good care of me and saw that I got back home. That's why Family Readiness Groups are so important," she insisted.
When a unit is activated there are a myriad impacts, Moore noted. "There are changes in the health and dental insurance programs from the regular employers to the military. Credit card and mortgage rates are frozen at six percent. You get full access to the Commissary because you are issued an active duty ID card," she explained.
MICHELLE MOORE insists she knew her husband was going to be one of those activated before he did. "We went to a meeting last February in Williamsburg and the General said that there was a 99 percent chance that part of the 9th TSC reserve unit would be activated. I could tell just by the way he was looking at us."
Her premonition also had a lot to do with asking for a one year sabbatical from her teaching long before the June 11 call up was announced. "Our youngest is entering kindergarten this year and with working on my masters, I just wanted to have more time. Now I have this."
Once the unit is settled some of the families might be able to visit them over the holidays. But for Michelle Moore that presents one more challenge.
"Our oldest son is terrified of flying ever since Sept. 11. He was watching television that day and saw the planes hit the Towers. Hopefully, that will change if we have a chance to visit," she reflected.