Knowledge is power at Lejeune's Infopalooza
By Thomas Brennan | The (Jacksonville, N.C.) Daily News | Published: March 21, 2014
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Marines, sailors and their families got to learn more about local resources available on and off base Wednesday at Infopalooza.
Headquarters and Support Battalion wanted to provide a snapshot of what programs available both on and off duty. Booths were set up at Marston Pavilion aboard Camp Lejeune by Marine Corps Community Services, Marine and Family Life Programs, insurance companies such as MetLife and HealthNet as well as a variety of colleges and universities to include the University of North Carolina, Coastal Carolina Community College and more.
“ This year has more stuff (for transitioning) and I’d like to see more of that,” said Marine Capt. Miguel Cruz, a company commander with Headquarters and Support Battalion and a resident of Hampstead. “But with what we have here, I hope that it gets Marines out of their comfort zone and leads them to explore the base and the community to try and find out what all there is for them.”
Whether a Marine spends four years or 20 years in the Corps, Cruz said that he hopes the Marines, sailors and families within his unit use the resources to open their eyes to what’s available before they leave the military.
Some of the transitional services made available include the relocation assistance program offered by the Marine Corps, the Onslow County Career Center, the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce, base education services, the Department of Veterans Affairs and more. One transition program that Cruz found particularly interesting is the Marine For Life program which finds Marine veterans and reservists to serve as sponsors for Marines transitioning into civilian life. The program pairs the individuals based off of where the transitioning Marine will live upon discharge and the sponsors then assist them upon their arrival to their destination.
“ There were several resources such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, counseling resources and new parent support, which is especially good for new parents whether they have just had them or if they are under the age of five,” Cruz said. “It is just great to see how much they have available for everyone.”
For Nicole Jones, who was representing The United Way at the expo, she would also like to see more information made available about transitioning. Because of the draw down and the fact that her husband may be leaving the military, she feels as though transition assistance is important for the future success of whoever is leaving the military.
“ We are here to help active duty or transitioning military network within their own community,” Jones said. “We just like to let them know about services and opportunities that are available and we just hope that people who come to this event walk away knowing that there really is a lot both in the military and civilian communities for them to be involved with.”
Before making a transition from military to civilian life, Jones hopes that the active duty service members and their families take advantage of things like Infopalooza because, according to Jones, the civilian community is “a whole new world” and can take people by surprise.
“ A lot of resources exist ... that people just don’t know about,” Jones said. “And if they are transitioning, they need to arm themselves with as much information as possible that way they can hopefully not run into any issues when they get out. By being spun up on what’s available hopefully people can avoid that.”
Recently named the Marine of the Quarter for Headquarters and Support Battalion, administrative clerk Lance Cpl. Dakota Hulsey, 20, of Camp Lejeune said he attended the event so he could bring more information back to his Marines that couldn’t attend. According to Hulsey, knowing about important resources is essential for Marine leaders to effectively lead their Marines so they can advance their careers in turn helping you advance your own career.
As the volunteering coordinator for his unit, this event showed him resources such as The United Way, the USO of North Carolina Jacksonville and the American Red Cross which accept volunteers and utilize them throughout Onslow County.
“ There’s no excuse for people not knowing about things,” “They are made aware of the event and afforded the opportunity to go so there should be no reason why they aren’t here trying to advance their knowledge. As Marines we should take advantage of everything we can.”