Spouses 'at ease' with grassroots group
May 28, 2009
FORT JACKSON -- Military spouses generally have to be able to adapt to new situations every few years, often leaving careers, friends and family behind at the last duty station.
For women whose husband's new assignment is as a drill sergeant, the adjustment can be especially difficult.
"There's not a lot of community, because husbands -- or spouses in general -- are gone more often than they are at a regular post," said Tiffany Moss, mother of five and wife of a drill sergeant.
Moss has been on Fort Jackson since October and initially had a hard time coming to terms with her new environment.
"I kind of was in a funk for a while -- real bad," Moss said. "I didn't want to do anything for a while."
But instead of suffering quietly, Moss decided to host dinners at her house to get to know other women who were in the same situation.
"One morning, I was in the parking lot of the preschool, and a woman walked up to me and said, 'Are you Tiffany ...' Can I bring some of my friends to your dinner''" Moss said. "And I realized very quickly that it was much bigger than what I could handle in my house."
Moss contacted the Installation Chaplain's Office, which was able to help out by providing facilities and offering child care. In February, the first meeting of the "At Ease" group -- Attending to Every Army Spouse Exclusively -- took place.
Moss admits that the group initially was meant to be a support group for drill sergeant spouses, but soon it became evident that the need for fellowship stretched beyond that specific demographic.
"We have found since starting the group, it doesn't really matter what your husband looks like," Moss said. "All the wives feel the same here."
The first meeting was attended by almost 50 women, and since then, the group's roster has doubled. Amy Scarpulla, Moss' neighbor and also a drill sergeant's spouse, has been involved with the program from the beginning.
"I felt that there was a need to help the wives and spouses come out and see, 'Hey, you're not alone,'" Scarpulla said. "There are other people out there going through the same thing that you're going through."
Moss said she knew that the meetings had to fulfill three requirements to be successful: Child care had to be available; the meetings had to be free; and there had to be food.
"It doesn't need to be a Bible study, because there's a group doing that. It doesn't need to be a spouses' club, because somebody's already doing that," Moss said. "We need something that gets these women out of their houses so they can find out about everything else."
Scarpulla added that a relaxed environment is important to the success of At Ease.
"You don't have to worry about, 'Am I behaving correctly'' You don't have to worry about who wants to be next to you," Scarpulla said. "It doesn't matter. We're all the same."
Moss said that the informal atmosphere attracts spouses to the meetings that are reluctant to participate in other on-post groups. "Somebody told me that we are able to reach the unreachable with this group," Moss said. "Women who would not necessarily go to some things come to (At Ease)."
However, Scarpulla and Moss hope that through their involvement in At Ease, spouses will be encouraged to participate in other community groups as well. Scarpulla is also involved in her battalion's family readiness group and in the Fort Jackson Spouses Club. She said the different organizations have different things to offer and encourages spouses to be involved in as many organizations as possible.
"If your unit does not have an FRG, start one," Scarpulla said. "Look what we did. Anything's possible at Fort Jackson."
**Fort Jackson Campaign Plan focus: Programs for military spouses are recognized in the Fort Jackson Campaign Plan as a major objective (6.6 on the strategy map). Family life and religious education programs are recognized as an important aspect of quality of life, one of the campaign plan's three lines of operation.**