HEIDELBERG, Germany - Are you the spouse of a deployed Soldier, new to the community, or even new in Europe' A Family Readiness Support Assistant can provide you with support and resources available in your community and can help you to stay connected with other families in a similar situation.

"Basically, our job is to assist and provide support to unit commanders with family and Soldier resources...," said Danitza James, FRSA for the 18th Military Police Brigade.

"We are kind of a link to the community. We have contacts to the community through Army Community Service, Child, Youth and School Service, and Child Development Centers, for example, to provide resources for the families and coordinate events such as pre-deployment or re-deployment," James said.

The history of the FRSA program began in 2003, when a need to further address family readiness during times of rapid deployments became apparent. The stress of deployments on existing resources, combined with the diminishing numbers of available volunteers, motivated the creation of this program.

"The FRSA takes off the burden of all the administrative tasks for the FRG and supports the commander in all FRG programs," said Sandra Hernandez, FRSA for U.S. Army Europe and V Corps Special Troops Battalion. "Besides the FRG leader, the FRSA is the first point of contact."

The FRSAs are a link between the unit commander, the families assigned to the unit, and the community resources available to the Soldiers and their families. An FRSA is not meant to solve a problem, but to connect the families to the appropriate services within a community. Although an FRSA is available for all families, they play a major part in deployment organization, such as re-deployment briefings or supporting FRGs during welcome home ceremonies.

"As FRSA, I went through four welcome home ceremonies where my husband was not in, until he finally came back (from his 15-month deployment to Iraq)," said James. "You feel the happiness of being able to help spouses who are also going through the same things."

A lot of the FRSAs are also spouses of deployed Soldiers, which helps them to understand what families experience during deployment.

"My husband is deployed for the fourth time in the eighth year of marriage. I understand the challenges a family needs to face," Hernandez said.

According to Hernandez, the most important aspect about the FRSA program is the concept by itself - the concept of helping the families and helping the unit during a time like deployment.

"If I put a smile on somebody's face, it's an accomplishment," James said. "It is really nice to know that you are part of the whole group that makes a deployment successful - that makes a unit be successful while assisting their Soldiers and their families."

FRSAs profit from the support of volunteers and the more volunteers a unit has, the easier it becomes for the deployed Soldier, James said.

"By volunteering you are providing to your own Soldiers, you're helping out the unit," James said. "It makes a deployment easier for Soldiers to know that their families back here are taken care of by members of the FRG and the unit and it makes time goes by faster."

As a military spouse and former service member, James experienced herself what impact the work of volunteers, FRG leaders and FRSAs has during deployment.

"When I was deployed to Iraq and we got a box of something, it was such a great thing," she said. "I know what the Soldiers feel and how they feel when they know that their family is being taken care of."

An FRSA is a unit's hub of information and takes care of the needs of all families, whether their spouse is deployed or not, Hernandez said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16