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Gillian Mussleman, 7, daughter of Staff Sgt. Terrill Mussleman, operations chief, Battery K, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, watches friends race through a bouncy house during the L.I.N.K.S. CAX for Kids program April 25.

Photo by Cpl. William Jackson

LINKS helps families fit in

17 May 2013 | Cpl. William Jackson

The military lifestyle integrates service members into a world of new customs, courtesies and acronyms. Some Marines and sailors may not consider the difficulty of incorporating their spouses and children into the military community.

However, the Lifestyles, Insight, Networking, Knowledge, Skills program helps guide families through the military lifestyle. The program gives families a look into the different aspects of life in the Marine Corps community, like how to read a leave and earning statement, the benefits and services aboard the Combat Center and moving entitlements.

The program began 16 years ago in Twentynine Palms as a way for spouses to mentor each other, and that guidance continues today. The volunteers have many backgrounds and levels of experience in the military lifestyle. The classes can also be held in Spanish to assist participants who may be more comfortable with that language.

“We are an introduction to the Marine Corps lifestyle,” said Amber Bilderain, L.I.N.K.S. program manager. “We teach Marine Corps history, tradition, rank structure, how to move and how to deal with deployment. It’s really just an intro to the whole lifestyle.”

Classes are held monthly and are open to Marines and sailors, their significant others and their children. A 40-person volunteer staff leads the light natured classes; some are even military members or spouses themselves. During the classes, the group discusses how they fit into the community, resources for their family and the importance of taking positive steps in understanding the military life.

“What we do is provide a positive spin on how to make the most out of the life, how to make the most of Twentynine Palms and reasons to be proud of the military and the Marine Corps,” Bilderain said. “We like to instill a sense of pride in what our Marines do. Once you are proud of this lifestyle, it becomes a beautiful life; it’s definitely a great experience.

L.I.N.K.S. offers multiple programs for Marines, spouses, kids, teens, parents and couples. The volunteers often go out to individual units to spread information about the program’s capabilities.

“It’s a leadership tool,” Bilderain said. “If all of the information doesn’t pertain to you, it will pertain to one of your Marines. Whether you are single or married, as a young leader you can answer their questions when they need it.”

During a session, members and volunteers have the opportunity to meet other military couples, families and spouses.

“One way we define our success is if we go out after a session and we see two girls at lunch together the next day, it’s like victory,” Bilderain said. “For us it’s a very social program and it’s definitely an outlet for spouses. We provide childcare for our sessions and it’s a great way to get out.”

For more information on the L.I.N.K.S. program or to learn how to get involved, contact L.I.N.K.S. at 830-1696.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms