More support classes and assistance are available to families at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni with a major influx of new funding from the service, according to base officials.

The Family Team Building program, which helps military families through difficult times such as deployments and links them with community services, was expanded from two personnel to seven since last summer and will cut the ribbon on a newly renovated office this month, according to Marine Corps Community Services Iwakuni.

The upgrades are part of a servicewide retooling of family programs that have suffered in recent years from a lack of funding, insufficient personnel, inconsistency and generation gaps, the Marine Corps found after an analysis and a survey of 9,000 servicemembers and their families.

Last year, the Corps announced it would bump up overall funding for the programs from $5 million annually to $40 million.

"More employees and a better facility equal opportunity to offer more classes, workshops and services," Iwakuni Marine Corps Family Team Building Director Nina Woods said in an e-mail response to Stars and Stripes.

The Family Team Building programs are available on most bases including facilities on Okinawa. They were designed to help families connect with their communities and better transition during changes of station, deployments and even after deaths.

In June, the program had only two personnel but this month staffed seven positions, including a Japanese-language trainer for spouses, Woods and the MCCS reported.

The additional funding was included in the program’s budget last year for remodeling its classroom and offices, including the addition of a play area for children, and hiring more workers.

The new staff means the program can now provide specialized Lifestyle, Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills classes — a primer on life and family success in the Marine Corps.

The classes were only geared to spouses in the past but have branched out to include servicemembers, parents and children, Woods said.

New trainers also are available for deployment help and life skills lessons.

Meanwhile, the program’s Yujo Hall offices and classroom were renovated to reduce distractions, create a more comfortable atmosphere and facilitate learning, Woods said.

The changes include a large flat-screen television for classroom presentations, new couches and chairs, new flooring and new wallpaper, she said.

The program is now fully staffed and all services are up and running. A reopening ceremony is scheduled for April 15.

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