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NEWS | May 16, 2012

COMPASS: guiding tool for military spouses

By Airman 1st Class Dennis Sloan Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

When people hear the word compass they most often think of a device that assists individuals with direction and the Navy program COMPASS does just that.

Instead of using a needle and the earth's magnetic field, the program COMPASS uses veteran military spouses to help young Navy spouses navigate through military life a little smoother.

COMPASS is a spouse-to-spouse mentoring program that introduces participants to all aspects of the military lifestyle. The program offers military spouses the opportunity to establish a peer network, acquire knowledge and develop skills necessary to successfully meet future challenges of military life.

The program was started by Rosemary Ellis, a Navy spouse, in the early nineties for submarine spouses, but quickly grew into a program for all Navy spouses.

"COMPASS is geared toward Navy spouses and the Navy community, but all military spouse can benefit from some of the topics," said Antonia Wilber, COMPASS team leader and spouse of Chief Petty Officer Keith Wilber.

COMPASS is a three day, 12-hour program with veteran spouses and a chaplain teaching seven separate classes.

The classes are:
· Navigating the Maze- Learning the benefits and services available to military member and their families
· Anchors Aweigh- Learning how to deal with deployments, separation and reunions
· Local Insights- Exploring the local community
· I$ that all there I$?- Learning some personal financial tips
· Changing Ports- Learning the moving process
· Getting Along- Learning healthy communication (Only course taught by a Chaplain)
· U.S. Navy- Learning about the history of the Navy as well as its traditions

"All of the mentors are volunteers who have gone through the course at least once before and have experienced military life for an extended period of time," said Wilber.

Those interested in becoming a mentor in the program need to have gone through the course at least one time, been a military spouse for at least three years and have experienced their husband deploying.

A large majority of the spouses that attend the Joint Base Charleston COMPASS program are spouses of Navy students attending the nuclear training schools on the Weapons Station side of the base.

"We get a lot of spouses whose husbands have just come out of boot camp," said Robin Hastings, COMPASS mentor and spouse of Chief Petty Officer Daniel Hastings. "We want to get them into this program before they go out into the fleet and have to deal with deployments, moves and other aspects of military life."

The program is free and includes breakfast, lunch and childcare for those with children.

"The fact that this program offered free babysitting got me in the seat," said Wilber. "After going through the course I learned so much and continue to pass that information on to my fellow spouses."

A graduation ceremony is held upon completion of the course. During the ceremony, spouses get a little more time to interact than they would in the classroom.

"The program is not all work and no play, but we do focus on the material so the attendees get the most out of the course," said Michelle Taylor, COMPASS mentor and spouse of Petty Officer 1st Class Craig Taylor. "The attendees are going to make a lot of new friends by coming to the program."

The next session is scheduled for July 17 through 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Reagan Center, Bldg. 717 on Joint Base Charleston - Naval Weapons Station.

To sign-up for the COMPASS program, spouses can go to www.gocompass.org and register. Spouses can also email compasscharleston@nsfamilyline.org to get more information from mentors here. The program is funded by Navy Services FamilyLine.

"I highly encourage the spouses to come and try out this program," said Wilber. "It's free and will help you to transition from the civilian lifestyle into the military lifestyle."