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Screening Message

February 25, 2013

A couple of my readers have contacted me and asked me about “screening messages.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, a screening message is a notification sent to a military member prior to posting or deployment.

This message details all of the requirements prior to a posting or deployment. For example, a military member must ensure that he/she is up-to-date on all vaccinations. He/She must have passed a recent BFT (battle fitness test), completed first-aid training and passed a PWT (personal weapons test). The member visits health services staff to ensure there are no outstanding medical issues such as pending dental surgery. A social worker will verify that there are no family issues that would prevent the member from performing his or her duties.

If the items on the screening message are not completed, then the member may not be posted or the posting may be altered.

If the screening message is for a deployment, usually the family members have an interview with the social worker as well to ensure that there are plans in cases of emergency. The social worker also provides the family with information about respite care, emergency child care, etc.

There are military bases and stations across Canada and some of them are in remote locations with only small towns nearby. Because the civilian services around these bases may not have the social and medical supports that some military families require, the member will receive a screening message for a posting to these “remote locations”. This is to ensure that systems can be put in place for families that have special needs. (Starbuck’s coffee everyday is not a special need).

Like remote locations, those military families going on postings to foreign countries also get a screening message to ensure that their needs are taken care of outside of Canada. Questions about OUTCAN postings are answered on DND’s OUTCAN FAQ site.

Some of the difficulties with remote and OUTCAN postings that the screening process identifies. Once identified, advice and support is provided to the CF member.

Marital Status and Sexual Orientation
While Canada is very supportive of common law and same-sex marriage, not all places in the world are so open-minded. In many countries common law relationships are not recognized so the partner may not be entitled to the same benefits as a spouse. Sadly, there are many places in the world where homosexuality is banned. (it breaks my heart to even write that).

Extended Family
We are lucky in Canada to have a great health care system and for the most part, CF members can take their extended family members (parents, nieces, nephews) with them on a posting to a remote location. However, if extended family members require special care such as nursing care or educational support, it may not be available in smaller communities. If the CF member is going outside of Canada, that support may not be available at all or the soldier may have to pay for it out of pocket.

Education and Language Training
If children require special education or prefer education in another language, it may not be available in a remote posting or outside of Canada. Children and spouses may have to take second language training prior to moving to the new area.

Spousal Employment
There may be limited employment opportunities for spouses on posting to a remote location and in some countries the spouses are not permitted to work at all. By ensuring that you’re financially stable prior to posting, you won’t go into debt if you can’t find work right away (Easier said than done!).

Culture Shock
You’re probably thinking that culture shock would be experienced when posted outside of Canada but you’d be wrong. Canada is a rich, culturally diverse nation and while I find that very exciting, it can be a challenge to adapt to the local culture especially if the language is different or the climate is different. The social worker will probably ask family members how they adapt to change and what strategies they have to cope.

Learn as much as you can about the area you’re going to before you get there. Learn about the climate, read online newspapers and magazines from the area. If you’re into social media, follow some local “celebrities” on Twitter, or if you’re on Facebook, “like” some pages of local businesses. My favourite is to use Google Maps Street View and drive up and down the streets.

What have you done to prepare for a remote or OUTCAN posting?

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