ARLINGTON, Va. – The recent deployment of their active duty and reserve military members to possible duty in the Middle East has not had a serious impact on military based credit unions, but it has meant stepping up their day-to-day operations, some credit unions report. "Many people may not realize that Navy Federal is helping its members deploy and come back from deployment all the time," said Loren Moeller, spokeswoman for the $17 billion dollar institution based in Vienna, Virginia. "It's just a little more intense right now." Roughly 43% of the credit union's 2.2 million members, drawn from the Navy and Marine Corps, are deployable, she said. The continuing cycle of deployment and return which make up the day-to-day life of a service member and Navy Federal member means that the credit union already has the procedures and training in place to help members being deployed as part of the current build-up of forces in the region, Moeller explained. For the Navy Federal member, the key to a smoother deployment, at least in terms of finances, has to do with preparation, said Lee Gound, vice president of field operations for the credit union. The credit union focuses on keeping contact with its members, particularly those on ships and within reach of the Internet, electronically. That means that the members need to make sure they make the necessary arrangements to handle their transactions electronically before they deploy, he explained. To that end the credit union provides employees who can help brief groups of Navy and Marine Corps personnel as part of their deployment procedures, Moeller explained. The credit union also strives to provide complete information through its site on the World Wide Web and through its publications, she said. Common details that need to be attended to include making sure that spouses or parents left behind have the right powers of attorney they need to handle financial affairs; making sure that automatic transfer payments are established for credit cards and other bills, and making sure that any forgotten Personal Identification Numbers are re-issued. The issues sometimes need careful explanation. Navy Federal publications, for example, remind the members that different powers of attorney do different things. Durable power of attorney allows someone to act on the member's behalf if they are incapacitated or found to be missing in action, the publications said. A general or specific power of attorney will give the designated person a lot more freedom to act on the member's behalf, the credit union pointed out. Much of the same "can do" attitude can be found at the Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union, a $146 million institution based on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home to the Army's 82nd airborne division, though the deployment is liable to have a much larger impact. "About 42,000 of our 55,000 members are probably eligible for deployment," said David Elliott, credit union CEO. Like Navy Federal, Fort Bragg relies on electronic communication to help keep in contact with its members overseas and has set up systems for its members to use to make transactions via e-mail and through the credit union's Web site. The credit union has also been briefing its members in groups before their deployment and helping them attend to details like bill paying and powers of attorney, he said. He also said that the credit union had to remain sensitive to some of its employees whose spouses had been deployed and, thus, have gone from two-parent households to being single-parent households, Elliott noted. Reservists being called up and away from civilian jobs have still different needs, he noted. They need to be reminded of the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, which allows them to have lowered loan rates for the time they were deployed, he pointed out. Ironically, in car loans at least, the reduced loan rates the Act mandates are actually higher than the loan rates that many credit unions offer, Elliott noted. Elliott said he was disappointed that the credit union was not able to offer its members the insurance products that it had offered them prior to previous large deployments, such as those for the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations. After September 11 2001, Elliott reported, the credit union's insurance provider said it would no longer write policies for the credit union members without an exclusionary war clause. "We haven't found any insurance provider who would," he said. "We are very disappointed in our insurance industry." The $5.1 billion Pentagon Federal Credit Union, based in Alexandria, Virginia, draws the bulk of its membership from the Army, Air Force and National Guard. Like the others, Pentagon FCU reported that it has been educating its members about their electronic banking opportunities and the preparation needed to take advantage of them. But unlike the other two, Pentagon Federal puts a lot of a stock into its call centers, which are open and available and staffed for their members 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to Kevyn Myers, vice president of the credit union's service center in Eugene, Oregon and the executive who oversees the credit union's overseas operations. "We have an arrangement where a member can call us from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, toll free, and know they are going to get a human voice on the end of the line," Myers said. "They won't get a voice mail asking them to call back during business hours stateside." The potential conflict in Iraq also means the credit union has had to make contingency plans for its staff in a branch at the Incirlik air base, in Turkey. Forces based at Incirlik are expected to play a direct role in an Iraqi conflict and the branch's proximity to those operations has meant having to coordinate with the armed service leadership on evacuation plans and operations, Myers said. Keeping a high level of communication with the armed forces is a must for all the military credit unions, no matter if their branches are based in the continental United States or overseas, said Roland "Arty" Arteaga, CEO of the Defense Credit Union Council, particularly as the levels of security on bases rise in advance of the deployment. "If they have not already done so," Arteaga said, "I have urged our members to contact their Liaison Officers, Public Affairs Officers, Base Comptrollers, Military Police, and Base Commanders. We are to support the mission of the military overall, the base and our members and communications is vital." [email protected]

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