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Life counselor helps more than 250 in Alaska Air Guard family as contract ends

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-CHARDSON, Alaska -- George Stone, a DoD military family life counselor, speaks with a 176th Wing member here Jan. 11, 2015. U.S. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. N. Alicia Halla/ Released.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-CHARDSON, Alaska -- George Stone, a DoD military family life counselor, speaks with a 176th Wing member here Jan. 11, 2015. U.S. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. N. Alicia Halla/ Released.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Hundreds of Alaska Air National Guard members and their families have been helped by George Stone, the 176th Wing's military and family life counselor, who recently wrapped up his term of service with the wing.

The 176th Wing bustles with five missions, more than 1,400 members and frequent deployments. Stone arrived in November 2014 to assist with this operations tempo, responding to the wing Family Readiness Center's urgent request to the Department of Defense for help.

He met with an immediate surge of members, providing free, confidential assistance to 66 individuals, 20 couples and eight families between Thanksgiving and Christmas alone.

"He's here at the right time," Jill Meszaros, the wing's Airman and Family Readiness Program Manager, told the wing staff shortly after he arrived.

A military family life counselor provides short-term, non-medical counseling to members who are working through a wide range of situations, including those relating to finances, grief and occupational friction. Counselors can meet a member or dependent on base or at public facilities up to 50 miles off base.

"I think having in the wing is very beneficial for the service member and their family," said Tech. Sgt. George Lockwood, a member of the 249th Airlift Squadron. "For the service member coming back from a deployment, sometimes it's difficult for them to really come home, and the family has a hard time transitioning."

The military family life counselor program is comparable to the Employee Assistance Program used in many large corporations, according to Stone. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, funds expended on EAPs have documented investment returns in such areas as productivity, work performance, absenteeism, and medical benefits costs.

Stone's military background and more than 40 years of counseling combined with his belief in the program made him a good fit for the job.

"To me, it's an art form and a gift," Stone said. "It gives me a reason for being in the world to help make people's lives better."
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