Fort McCoy FRG helps deployed Soldiers focus on military mission
November 14, 2008
By Tom Michele
The Family Readiness Group (FRG) at Fort McCoy and at every unit in the U.S. Army is in place and functioning so deployed Soldiers can focus on their military mission and not worry about the trials and tribulations their families are going through at home.
That is the way Kevin Herman, Mobilization and Deployment Readiness Program manager at the Fort McCoy Army Community Service (ACS) office, explained the FRG program.
"Every unit in the Army, company level and above, is mandated by Army Regulation (AR) 608-1 to have a Family Readiness Group, whether the unit is deployed or not," Herman said. "'Far Apart, Near at Heart,' is one of the slogans used by the FRG. The FRG is designed and implemented to ensure all family members are aware of the variety and multitude of programs and resources available nationwide to family members, wherever that spouse, child, parent or sibling of the Soldier is."
"The FRG is the 'front line' for family members to help deal with issues that happen when their Soldier is deployed," Herman said. "The FRG better prepares the family so the Soldier is reassured that they don't have to worry about the furnace and refrigerator that malfunctioned, the car that quit, the kid that is sick, legal services, even a death in the family. That support that the FRG provides helps to create a higher level of morale for the Soldier so can they can better accomplish their Army mission. It also reaffirms to the deployed Soldier that their families are not left alone."
Herman explained nationwide FRGs link family members with resources available on the homefront, including appropriate businesses, services, Web sites and programs. Two Web sites are Operation Homefront and Military Onesource.
Operation Homefront, http://www.operationhomefront.net/, is a nonprofit community supporting troops by helping the families they leave behind when the active-duty or Reserve servicemember deploys. Operation Homefront provides emergency assistance and morale to troops, to the families they leave behind and to wounded warriors when they return home.
Military Onesource http://www.militaryonesource.com/skins/MOS/home.aspx provides a 24/7 hotline for Soldiers and families to call for assistance for a wide variety of issues from home maintenance, dealing with depression, budgeting a checkbook, PCS moves, parenting and relationships just to name a few.
FRGs are an organization of family members, volunteers, Soldiers, and civilian employees belonging to an Army command. They provide support, assistance and a network of information among their members, the unit, and community agencies. Unit FRGs consist of all assigned and attached Soldiers, their spouses, and children.
Although a family member automatically becomes a member of the FRG when their Soldier becomes a member of the unit, participation in the FRG is voluntary. Extended families, fiancAfAes, boyfriends or girlfriends, retirees, Department of the Army civilians, and even interested community members, often are included as well.
For spouses and family members, being active in the FRG will help give a sense of belonging to the unit and the Army community - the Army Family. It also will provide family members a way to develop friendships, share important information, find needed Army resources, and share moral support during any unit deployments.
The Soldier's chain of command ensures that the best information on what Soldiers are doing is available to the FRG, which has its own network for contacting people. The FRGs help every family to keep up-to-date on what is going on, and, in addition to sharing information, the group chooses goals and activities centered on supporting Soldiers and families.
FRGs are a great way for families to learn about their Soldier's unit and their co-workers, to obtain accurate and up-to-date unit information, to meet with other spouses, and to enjoy planned social activities.
In many organizations, the FRG meets regularly, and some commands distribute newsletters to keep everyone informed.
Becky Wapp Sawyer, Fort McCoy ACS director, said, "Because of the Army Family Covenant, the Army recognizes the need for more family services and support programs. As such, the Army recently funded and gave us two more positions in the Fort McCoy ACS office, and Kevin is one of them. The other is Lori Enghusen, an Information and Referral Program manager."
That sets the ACS staff at 11 employees. One of those 11 is a mobilization specialist at the Soldier Readiness Center (SRC), and that specialist is Laurie Hamilton.
She gives a 20-minute briefing to Soldiers going through the SRC processing in the first few days of arrival at McCoy when they are going through the mob training scenario in preparation for deployment to support Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom.
Sawyer said much of the FRG's mission is to put family members in touch with appropriate resources and services.
"FRGs are in place to support Soldiers and their families and to take care of the families so Soldiers may concentrate on their mission."
"The FRG is important so that a family member may sit down with other FRG members and be able to relate to each other, other people going through the same trials and stresses," Sawyer said. "People are more comfortable being in groups with other people who are in similar situations like the ones they are going through."
Sawyer said the ACS office maintains a spreadsheet of all units mobilizing through Fort McCoy and redeploying back to McCoy.
"We also add other units to the spreadsheet that didn't deploy or re-deploy at McCoy, or those units that are already on alert, so we have pertinent information available for family members."
"When a family member, usually a parent, although it is also often a fiancAfAe, calls us in need of information about their Soldier, we can connect the family member with a contact person in the Soldier's unit," Sawyer said. "Those calls are often moms of single Soldiers asking if the mother's mail got through to their Soldier because the Soldier hasn't written back."
The ACS organization and office is a Soldier and family support center that usually is centrally located within the post. It provides Army Families information, guidance, assistance, or problem solving in personal or family matters that are beyond the family's own resources. Most services provided by ACS are free of charge to ID cardholders.
Another aspect of Herman's and Sawyer's work at ACS is to train FRG and also Rear Detachment Commanders (RDC). "The RDC is a Soldier responsible for the operation of the FRG and who has been left in the rear office or armory when the unit is deployed," Sawyer said.
"The Rear Detachment Commander is the communications link between the family and the unit when the unit is deployed," she continued. "The RDC relies on the FRG to ensure information is flowing to the families and also from the Soldier and unit to families. FRG's are authorized to utilize office equipment, supplies, government vehicles and space at armories so they may conduct business in accordance with AR 608-1 Appendix J-3."
"We provide training for both FRGs and RDCs at our office at McCoy," Sawyer said. Both the FRG and the RDC classes are two days each, eight hours a day, and are conducted quarterly. "We get family members and Soldiers from a multi-state area for these classes. The Soldiers range from specialist to lieutenant colonel."
Information is available by contacting Herman at 2111 S. 8th Ave., Fort McCoy, WI 54656; telephone (608) 388-3540 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Michele is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)