SAN ANTONIO-Security Service Federal Credit Union isn't sending its lending staff to boot camp, but employees are undergoing training from the U.S. Army to learn what it's like to live in the military.

That knowledge, the CU expects, will help loan officers better understand the unique situations facing members of the armed forces and their families, and get more of them into CU loans. "While we are located on the Fort Carson Army base and have some employees with family in the military, the vast majority of our staff does not have any first-hand experience with military life," explained SVP John Worthington. "They don't know what military families have to deal with, such as frequent relocations, deployments, just a variety of things that the normal Joe and Jane don't have to deal with."

In partnership with USA Cares-a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that helps post-9/11 military families-SSFCU has rolled out that organization's Military Family Housing Education Program to CU employees at its Fort Carson, Colo., facility, with plans to provide the training in all branches that serve a military population. Fourteen staffers have completed the course so far.

Employees don't don Army fatigues; in fact, they don't have to leave the credit union to complete the online training. The program is completed in about three to four hours and staff use downtime or off-hours to take the course. Once the program is completed and passed, the employee receives a Certified Housing Professional designation through USA Cares.


Little Understanding of Military Lives

Worthington said the $6.7-billion Security Service, which primarily serves the military, became aware of the training and thought it would be beneficial for staff and borrowers. He pointed out that most people in the U.S., once the military became a volunteer force, have little understanding of what military life is like. Training teaches how the military functions and the impact it has on military family daily life. It helps make sense of military language and the rank and pay system, outlining what happens when a service member is injured, explaining how his or her pay will continue during hospitalization and treatment. The program also addresses issues around deployment.

"So many people do not realize that with deployment, the family and the enlisted person's lives are on hold," said Worthington. "The soldier goes off to pursue his mission and the family has to find ways to manage things."

No goal has been set for the effort, other than just getting more military members into loans and helping them make the right decisions, even if that is not an SSFCU loan, said Worthington. "Military members may not realize they can tap into the VA loan program, or that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act caps active loan rates at 6% when the individual is on active duty."

Loan officers are on the front line of lending, noted Worthington. "I wouldn't say this training is a panacea, but if we can get our folks to be even more empathetic and understanding of the situations facing military borrowers, and make some good loans, it's good for everyone."

SSFCU has been having a strong year in lending, projecting loan growth to possibly hit 12% by year's end.

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