Friday, March 27, 2009

History of Special Services, Part III


The Special Services program experienced numerous changes after Vietnam, pursuant to government downsizing and restructuring. By the late 70's, uniform dress codes had been eased; program areas were developed in theater and fine arts, and several were merged with existing military programs. Supported previously by non-appropriated (NAF) funds and military allocations, appropriated funds became available.

The mission (to promote the morale, welfare & recreation needs of military personnel) remained fundamentally the same in the 70's and 80's. Traditional recreational activities and programs were expanded; critical intra- and inter-personal services such as counseling, family assistance, youth programs, day care services and relocation assistance were added....

A Department of Defense directive (1015.1) issued August 19, 1981 clarified the activities, role and funding for a comprehensive Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Program: "...activities exclusive of private organizations .... located on military installations ... that provide for the comfort, pleasure, contentment, and mental and physical improvement of authorized DoD personnel in terms of providing recreational and free-time programs, self-development programs, resale merchandise and services, or general welfare. MWR activities may be funded wholly with appropriated funds, primarily with NAFs or with any combination of appropriated and NAFs."

Today, the Morale, Welfare and Recreation program includes a spectrum of "special services" worthy and essential in supporting a high-tech, sophisticated, all-volunteer military community -- whether in peacetime or in the combat zone. R & R locations are maintained for military personnel around the globe; access to the Internet and information technologies are basic modes of communications; personnel and their families have access to a wide range of educational and social programs through the local MWR center.

"....then I think about the 10,000+ soldiers keeping the peace downrange and the
MWR specialists carrying on that proud tradition, not just in Hungary, Bosnia,
Macedonia, and Kosovo, but here at home and all over the world wherever there
are soldiers and families. Morale - the Army’s secret ingredient for 225 years -
and our* mission. Now that’s something to celebrate!"

Major General Craig B. Whelden observed: "The MWR program is a diverse collection of leisure, recreation and social services enhancing the quality of life of soldiers, families and civilians serving our Armed Forces. The services provided make our communities a great place to live and work: sports and fitness, recreation and parks, arts and entertainment, youth and child development, social services, golf and bowling as well as dining and catering..... Wherever soldiers are stationed, we must provide....a quality of life equal to that they are pledged to defend."

And that, we know -- has always been the mission of Special Services.

Dedicated to Roz Muskat
Friend & co-worker, Stateside Service Club
A Circle of Sisters 1968

We had worked together at DiAn.... bright, effervescent, a people-person ... her disposition was well-suited for Club work -- Roz bubbled with enthusiasm, wit and charm. The guys enjoyed being around her and she around them -- she was a listener, a sympathetic shoulder, a caring and sensitive friend whose compassion for others far exceeded her years. Shortly before her tragic death, she had been to visit -- to talk me through a "downtime." Not many knew Roz's intellectual and pensive side. If she was not writing during her time-off, she was at the club -- playing chess, board games or listening to music with the guys. Few knew she was a member of MENSA. I used to ask her why she was not in med school or smashing atoms or discovering new galaxies. She would respond with a blush to her freckled face, a sparkle in her eyes and that chortled laugh, "I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up...."
You were a special person, Roz -- You would have been anything you chose to be. Those of us who knew you -- especially we who felt such dismay in your death -- now smile warmly in your memory.

-- Based on research and interviews for the Reflections in Marble collection, circa 2001.