COMMENTARY: FRG provides information, friendship
May 21, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- When I arrived in Germany almost five years ago, it was my first time out of the country and my first experience with the Army.
Not unlike many military couples, two weeks after our wedding, my husband left for his first duty station. I followed a few months later.
I remember attending my first Family Readiness Group event a few weeks later - a welcome social for the new battalion commander's wife. I left that event with more than just a better knowledge of field artillery - the battalion commander's wife took time to explain to me the difference between a fire support officer and a fire direction officer - I left with the new job of battery FRG co-leader.
I also left with a laundry list of names of women who would become my support system for the next three years.
In addition to the information handed out at our regular steering committee and battery FRG meetings, we also had fun.
When our Soldiers were in garrison, we held family events like a chili cook-off; when they were deployed, there were events like the "She-IB" where us wives were able to earn a spouses version of the Combat Infantryman Badge (as the wife of a Field Artilleryman, I earned the Combat Action Badge) by successfully completing time tests for land navigation, hand grenades, M-16 assembly and more.
These ladies were by my side as we did little things - selling baked goods during a fundraiser, stuffing goody bags - and big things as well, like checking on me after my husband's vehicle was hit by an IED while he was deployed to Iraq. He was OK, but having that support from women who understood what I was going through left its mark.
Although most of Fort Jackson's Soldiers do not deploy, that same FRG support system is here for our families.
The command group has made quality of life for families a top priority, and the recent creation of a post-wide FRG steering committee is proof of that. Even so, many family members are hesitant to jump in and volunteer.
I've heard all the excuses: FRG is a clique. All they do is gossip. Why do we need an FRG if my husband isn't going to deploy. I'm too busy.
My first FRG experience was wonderful - I never heard a single bit of gossip during one of our meetings, only concern for taking care of the families. I know, however, that others' experiences have not been so good. I think that is even more reason to get involved and make the FRG the organization you want it to be.
Although many of our Soldiers will not deploy from here, the FRG is still a great support system. The meetings are a way to have a voice on what Fort Jackson offers families, and with no FRG, we may have no voice.
As for being too busy - well, that's an easy one. Speak with your FRG leader, adviser or battalion commander to find out what you can do to help that fits into your schedule.
With a full-time job and a 4-month-old baby who still doesn't know that nighttime is for sleeping, it is going to be tough to squeeze in one more thing.
But I owe it to my Soldier, and myself, to participate in much of what this post has to offer.
Take a chance, and volunteer with your FRG. You may find that it is exactly what you have been looking for.