Naval Support Activity South Potomac's Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) in Dahlgren recognized 20 volunteers at a May 9 ceremony for their work helping service members. The volunteers helped meet the needs of service members in three vital areas: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), serving in the Retired Activities Office (RAO) and as Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) coordinators.
Frank Furtado, FFSC director, welcomed guests and thanked the volunteers for their service. "We are here to recognize invaluable service and contributions of our volunteers, who graciously give us their time and talents while performing duties as retired activities officers, volunteer income tax assistants and sexual assault victim advocates," said Furtado.
"The programs they support would not be as successful without the generosity of these individuals that we honor today."
Capt. Peter Nette, NSASP commanding officer, praised the work the volunteers perform in all three areas. "First I'll touch on the Retired Activities Office," he said. "I appreciate all the support and assistance you guys do out here."
The RAO provides service members with guidance about all manner of military retirement benefits, such as social security, burial benefits and pay allowances. All six men recognized for service at the RAO are themselves retired service members.
"You have served," Nette told the volunteers. "Now, you advocate [about retirement benefits] and it's greatly appreciated."
Retired Army Col. David Gallagher, retired Army Col. John Huber, retired Navy Capt. Ellsworth Plump, retired Lt. Cmdr. Richard Rowland, retired Navy Lt. Larry Wheaton and retired Chief Petty Officer Dario Cadena volunteered 327 hours serving 42 people in 2011.
Preventing sexual assault is everyone's duty in the military, but NSASP's SAPR coordinators go above and beyond that call, volunteering their time, energy and emotional strength to assist victims.
"It's become a big topic in the military across all services," said Nette. "[Sexual assault] is an unfortunate occurrence in our military, specifically the Navy. There's a lot of work that goes in to preventing sexual assault and these advocates provide an immediate response to explain reporting options and the culture of the military. They accompany victims during medical evaluations and investigations and help victims sort out the challenges. That's not an easy job... and I commend you on that. Thank you."
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Tim Alburg, Chief Operations Specialist Aundre Carlton, Lt. Col. Tracy Hunter, Yeoman 2nd Class Jeffery Johnson, Yeoman 1st Class Hershel LeMaster, Culinary Specialist 1st Class Corey Mills, Maj. Ted Rieth, Tara Roane, Joanne Trout and Master at Arms 1st Class Sarah Wood were all recognized for their service as SAPR Coordinators.
The last awards went to four individuals with a knack for something most people despise: tax preparation. The VITA volunteers put those skills to use to not only save service members money, but keep them on good terms with the taxman. "Everybody likes that," said Nette. "It puts money back into service members' pockets."
The amount of money VITA helped service members onboard NSASP save was much more than mere pocket change. In 2011, the volunteers brought in
$1.5 million in federal refunds, saving 753 service members an estimated $145,000 in tax preparation fees. The VITA volunteers gave 1,419 hours of their time during tax season. "That is significant," said Nette.
"It's a lot of savings, especially for our young service members..."
Carol Allison, Chief Intelligence Specialist (Surface Warfare/Air Warfare) Darin Kroft, Carol Sparbel and Steve Wisener were recognized for the outstanding service they provided as part of VITA.
Nette reiterated the valuable service provided by volunteers of all three programs. "I commend you and I thank you for everything," he said.