214th Fires Brigade focuses on FRG training
September 12, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Family Readiness Group leaders from the 214th Fires Brigade along with the brigade's commanders, command sergeants major and first sergeants attended training to ensure their FRGs are optimally trained Aug. 29 and Sept. 4 at various locations around Lawton and Fort Sill.
The two days of training started with the civilian FRG leaders meeting Col. Andrew Preston, 214th FiB commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Aaron, brigade CSM, family readiness support assistants, and others involved in FRGs. They spent the day hearing from many sources on how to improve their groups and further their own knowledge on how to assist Soldiers, units and families through family readiness.
The command teams from each level met Sept. 4 attending similar courses.
The day began for both groups with Preston and Aaron speaking about how today's Army needs to always be ready, especially FRGs.
"FRGs reduce the stress of Soldier's lives and allows them to focus on the mission at hand," said Aaron.
Following the discussion with the leadership, icebreakers launched dialogue on how to get the word out about events and meetings.
"Email is something we are always bombarded with and is easily deleted. A personal invite in the mail or a phone call can really make a huge difference in how included families feel," said Carol Herrick, a presenter from Operation Homefront.
After Herrick's class, FRG teams deliberated on how they could make their own meetings better attended and successful. Various ideas such as inviting guest speakers, advertising in advance and arranging child care were covered. Strategies were presented to help everyone understand and implement the keys to success.
When it was the command team's turn to talk about strategies, they presented some different ideas.
"Never do I just talk at the meetings," said Capt. Joshua Wade, 609th Forward Support Company commander. "The way to get people to come is to hold events such as bowling. We go over official stuff for a little bit, but then the pizza comes out and the families have a great time as the bonding begins."
Amanda Alexander spoke to both groups about the new brigade care team. Previously, there were battalion care teams but due to the success and essential need, they have combined to form a brigade level initiative.
"The mission of the care team is to an Army family during life altering events," said Alexander. "It can be very scary to think about what we do, but from someone who had an incredible team assisting me during the loss of my husband, I can tell you, by volunteering, you can make a substantial difference in a family's life when they are going through a heartbreaking time."
Alexander mentioned how the care team helped her last year when she was faced with tragedy.
"An unknown spouse without a care team would be so confused as I had so many decisions to make in so little time. You get that knock on the door and are immediately making life's hardest decisions," she said. "The care team protected me from the media and helped me with the small things such as arranging child care and providing food."
Capt. Minoru Sorensen, B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery commander, said the brigade care team is a great resource to help spouses build strong relationships.
"[These help] them to assist anyone in their time of need with anything," said the captain.
Following more training such as common FRG pitfalls, how to recognize and appreciate great volunteers and other subjects like informal funds and building relationships with command teams, Lt. Col. Damon Wells, brigade deputy commander, spoke to the classes about readiness.
"You cannot create an FRG group in 21 days," Wells said. "You need to build trust, relationships and reach out to families, and it must be done with full effort as the FRGs are essential to unit readiness."
The command teams ended the day breaking out into groups and planning FRG events for the next quarter. This enabled teams to talk about what has worked well with one another and build a calendar ahead of time, ensuring they could get it out to the families fast.
"In December we should host classes about holiday savings and also taxes," said 1st Sgt. Samuel Kauer, 609th FSC. "Soldiers are the first ones in there to get their taxes done. They don't wait until April, they want their taxes done as soon as possible."
Budgets were a hot topic for the planning phase. Because the teams had planned their events in advance, the teams were able to properly plan out how to best use their money, making sure they left enough for the end of the year.
By day's end key FRG volunteers and command teams left more knowledgeable about resources available to help Soldiers and their families.
"Because problems will happen, as a leader you have to know at least a little about all agencies that can help," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Snow, 2nd Battalion, 4th FA CSM. "Today's guest speakers showed us where we can get assistance and if you know what an agency can do for your Soldiers, you can direct them on the right path to solve the issue fast and effectively."