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NJNG to mentor troubled vets
Photo and story by Wayne Woolley, NJDMAVA/PA

New Jersey has embarked on a pioneering endeavor to help veterans who get into trouble with the law.

And the Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard will be at the forefront of the effort launched in December through a partnership between the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the Judiciary and the Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health Services.

The Veterans Assistance Project will attempt to identify every former and current service member who enters the criminal justice system.

Judge Louis Belasco, presiding Atlantic County municipal court judge, discusses the criminal justice system with Veterans Assistance Project mentors. The fledgling program will allow New Jersey National Guard Airmen and Soldiers to mentor veterans who have run into legal trouble.

In most cases, the veteran will be assigned a mentor from the Army Guard or Air Guard. The mentors will work with the veteran to ensure they are able to get access to mental health providers, drug and alcohol counselors and benefits specialists to tackle the underlying problems that may have contributed to the legal trouble in the first place.

“This is not a free ticket,” said Col. James Grant, Director of the Joint Staff. “But this tells a veteran, ‘You just did a service for your nation. We realize this may have caused changes in your life.'”

The mentors will be able to offer empathy to a troubled vet because they wear the uniform themselves.

The program has already launched in Atlantic County and should expand to Union County early in 2009 and the rest of the state after that.

Recently, about a dozen senior officers and enlisted members of the Army and Air Guard underwent a day of training at the Atlantic City Armory.

They got a crash course on New Jersey’s criminal justice system from Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury, Jr. and Municipal Court Judge Louis Belasco. They also got a rundown on the services available to veterans.

Master Sgt. Richard Roswell, the primary trainer, led the volunteers through a number of practice scenarios. Topics included ways to motivate reluctant veterans to get the help they need to technigues for handling a phone call from a suicidal veteran.

Roswell said the program will ultimately also assist National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who may not have yet had contact with the criminal justice system but are at risk.

Patch of their own

Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth patches Sgt. 1st Class Jeron Verrett as Staff Sgt. Bryan Addo waits his turn. The 21st Civil Support Team - Weapons of Mass Destruction, New Jersey National Guard at Fort Dix held a Patch Ceremony on Nov. 25. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark Olsen, NJDMAVA/PA.

At the home for the holidays

Senior Master Sgt. Michael D. Monteith, Tech. Sgt. Donald L. Griffin and Senior Master Sgt. Edgar F. Newell joined other 177th Fighter Wing and the 108th Air Refueling Wing Airmen along with Linwood elementary students and sang for the residents at the Veterans Memorial Home at Vineland on Dec. 17. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark Olsen, 177FW/PA.


Table of Contents
Volume 34 Number 3 Staff / Information
(c) 2008 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs