In 1973, when Air Force Lt. Col. John Terino was stationed at Hampton, Va., his younger son was diagnosed as "learning disabled and emotionally disturbed," largely as the result of the many moves the family had made.

Terino and his wife Barbara quickly enrolled the child in a special education program, but three years later, just as the boy seemed to be making progress, the Terinos were transferred to another base.

The Terinos considered the special education program at their new location severly inadequate and applied for a transfer to an area better equipped to deal with their son's problems.

They sought and, more importanly, got help from the Air Force. After a series of reviews and re-views, the Terinos were transferred to Washington two years ago, and their son, now 14, is enrolled at the Accotink Academy, a special school in Occoquan. Fairfax County, where the Terinos live, pays the tuition at Accotink, and the Air Force pays 80 percent of their son's psychiatric bills.

"It's a blessing," says John Terino, a public affairs officer at the Pentagon, "because we couldn't afford the $200 a month (for pyschiatric care). So the system works and the Air Force does take care of its people."

Last year, John Terino was ordered to report to Japan. Because psychiatrists had urged that their son stay in one place at least three or four years, Terino was reluctant to accept the assignment.

Again, the Air Force was there to help, by approving Terino's request for a humanitarian deferment of the Japan assignment. The icing on the cake came when Terino was given a new assignment that will keep him here four more years.

The Terino family -- and the help they got from the Air Force -- is just one example of the new emphasis in the armed services on the needs of the entire family.

According to the Defense Department, there are slightly more than 2 million military personnel today. And there are 2.9 million dependents -- 1.1 million spouses, 1.7 million children and 103,000 dependent parents.

"There is increasingly strong evidence that family considerations significantly influence the service member's decision on whether or not to re-enlist," Vice Adm. Robert B. Baldwin told the White House Conference on Families last year. "Retention of skilled technicians and mid-level managers is essential in that losses of trained personnel severely affect the Navy's ability to fully execute its role in the national defense."

Baldwin's remarks are resoundingly echoed by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine officers in charge of operating and implementing programs for the modern military family.

"We have a saying that you recruit the soldier and re-enlist the family," says Col. Dick Iverson, director of community support for the Army. Iverson adds, as do his counterparts, that satisfying the soldier means taking care of the family so the soldier can concentrate on his or her job. "Everything we do is specifically linked to the readiness of the Army." j

What the armed services have found, after a series of studies and conferences, is the medical, PX and commissary benefits that traditionally have been prized perks of military life are no longer enough to lure and keep personnel. As a result, the armed services in recent years have made conscious efforts to expand, upgrade and better coordinate the myriad of military (and civilian) services they have always made available to families.

When translated into actual programs, the results have ranged from the Navy's computerized Family Service Centers to the largely volunteer Army Community Service programs.

The Navy has established eight Family Service Centers, with plans to expand to 60, while the Marine Corps has 16 service centers. The Air Force plans to open three Family Support Centers this year (one in Europe, one in the Pacific and one stateside), and the Army operates its Community Service program at every base in the world.

The programs are designed to do everything from directing families to financial and legal help to telling them where to borrow pots and pans when belongings don't arrive on time. And the list goes on: counseling services on marriage and alcohol and drug abuse; housing and employment; how to cope with transfers or find special schools for handicapped or disturbed children.

Officers in charge of the programs say the changing military family is one reason for the new focus. Nearly 55 percent of all military personnel are married, with the number closer to 80 percent in the officer ranks. The traditional nuclear family still dominates, but there are also more single-parent families, joint military marriages and military women with civilian husbands.

And the women's movement has had an impact, as a Air Force study notes: "Younger wives are not as likely to dutifully follow their husbands when transfers are mandated. Nor are younger husbands likely to assume their wives will alter their own work and family schedules to accommodate their Air Force responsibilities."

But a major factor, members of the armed services agree, has been the economy.

"Family needs and programs are not brand new," says Col. Lawrence Foley, of the Air Force Family Matters program. "But in recent years (family problems) have become aggravated because of economic conditions."

The Army, for example, has found that a large majority of its personnel seeking help, particularly in the lower-paid ranks, traced their problems to financial difficulties. As an indicator of the times, Army Emergency Relief, a private organization, reported that last year it spent nearly all of $8.4 million on no-interest loans or outright grants to military families.

The unexpected high cost of living in this area, coupled with the younger, less worldly soldier attracted to the all-volunteer Army makes some military men and women "terminally ill" financially before they even come in for counseling, says retired Lt. Col. Allen Samuel, a volunteer financial counselor in Fort Belvoir's Community Service program.

Several years ago, military officialssay, many service men and women might have sought aid from a chaplain, a "human affairs" officer, a higher ranking officer in their command or even a neighbor. Any of these people might have advised the person on what was available, if they knew.

The role of the chaplain is still indispensable for spiritual counseling, officials say, and because some military personnel are reluctant to discuss personal problems with "outsiders." But the armed forces have determined that they need a more centralized, coordinated "help" system, one that can tap the vast resources of military and civilian services.

"We have expertise, but there are times when we think (other) expert help is needed, and we certainly don't have any reluctance to refer people to other agencies," said Col. Clyde M. Aiken, a chaplain at Fort Belvoir.

The Family Service Centers, as operated by the Navy and Marine Corps, and the Family Support Centers, as envisioned by the Air Force, are designed as one-stop facilities where active or retired military personnel and their families can get help.The centers essentially function as an information and referral system, helping to cut through the red tape families sometimes encounter.

"We are trying to formalize an informal structrue," said Marine Col. Warren H. Wiedhahn, who oversees all manpower requirements at Quantico in Northern Virginia where a service center was set up a year ago. "What we want is for people to be able to go to one single place and . . . have that problem solved without having to go to several different places to get the right help."

Capt. Travis Jardon, of Quantico's human resources department, and Lt. Steve Darnell, who runs the Quantico service center, emphasize the information-referral nature of the center. As is the case for other branches, the Quantico center does not attempt to become a social service agency duplicating federal, state or local programs.

For example, Jardon and Darnell say, some problems might be handled by a military counselor or program. Other problems, like food stamps, would be referred to the appropriate agency in Fairfax or Prince William counties or to a private agency such as the Red Cross or USO.

Eventually, the Quantico center will be the central referral station for every stateside base east of the Mississippi. To prepare for that and to better serve local personnel now, Quantico plans to install a massive data bank, where information on hundreds of agencies and services will be just a touch-of-the-computer away.

"We eventually would like to be able to say to people (seeking help), 'Give me 30 seconds,' rather than 'Call me back in two hours,'" Jardon said. '

To operate the 16 Marine centers that eventually will be set up will cost about $800,000, according to May. Jack Gimber, who oversees the entire program.

The model for the Marine program was the Navy's Family Service Center project. In addition to the eight centers already in operation, the Navy plans to open 14 more centers this year. Each center will have an annual budget of nearly $300,000. So far, the Navy centers appear to be the most sophisticated in the military.Its two model centers, at Norfolk and San Diego, already are computerized, making it possible to draw on a list of nearly 400 available services or agencies in seconds.

"We have the responsibility to provide support for our people who are serving our Navy and our country in a lifestyle that is extremely demanding," said Rear Adm. Fran McKee, assistant chief of naval personnel for human resources management. "I don't view our family programs only as an aid to retention, which is a significant factor in the Navy right now because we are short of people, but also as philosophically something that should be done."

The Army, the largest service branch, has 775,000 soldiers scattered at 162 posts throughout the world. Like their colleagues, the Army brass is concerned about luring and keeping well-qualified women and men.

"The leadership has become more and more aware of what constitutes the force in terms of the human element, what makes it tick, what makes it go," said Col. Lanny Standridge, who is stationed at the Pentagon and is chief of the Army's quality of life program.

As a result, Standridge said, the Army plans to establish a family liaison office at the Pentagon, a 24-hour telephone information and referral system, a job skill bank and other features.

But the Army Community Service program, established in 1965, still serves as the daily contact point for most families, according to Col. Iverson, the Army's community support director. The program, relying largely on volunteers, offers services such as information and referral, financial planning, relocation services and assistance for "exceptional" children.

The program had a $5.5 million budget last year, but funds were not easy to come by.

"We have had to make a concerted effort to convince Congress of the need and responsibility of the Army in providing these services," said the community support director, Col. Iverson.

And, citing the usual guns-or-butter argument, Iverson added, "If you want an all-volunteer force, you've got to bite the bullet (and fund) some of these programs."