Dagger spouses 'sharpen the edge' by honing skill sets
Col. Eric Schacht, left, commander of 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, poses with Soldiers and spouses at an awards ceremony during the unit's Family Readiness Group Conference held recently at Fort Bliss, Texas. Also pictured are, left to right, Amy Schacht, Master Sgt. Terrence Sargeant, Loralee Cantrell, Heidi Kokes, Michaela Dorf, Heather Peterson, Sgt. 1st Class William Peterson and Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Earl. Kokes, Contrell and Peterson received awards for exceptional public service; the rest received certificates of achievement from the brigade. (Photo by Sgt. Richard Hernandez, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, Public Affairs)

FORT BLISS, Texas -- Being a military spouse can be a difficult job, but it is one that many people gladly sign up for. Although Soldiers receive intensive training to make them better at their jobs, where do spouses turn to learn the tricks of their trade?

Recently, several spouses of Soldiers in 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, set forth to teach "the tricks of their trade" during a two-day Family Readiness Group conference here.

"The intention was to bring together wives new to the FRG and the Army. Most of the Soldiers in our brigade are seasoned, but sometimes we forget that their spouses might be new to the experience," said Amy Schacht, wife of Col. Eric Schacht, 5th Armored Brigade commander. "Hopefully, out of these two days, those who are seasoned will sharpen their tools, and those who are new will be able to add tools to their tool box."

During the event, the spouses attended training on a variety of topics ranging from Care Teams, suicide awareness, fundraising, informal funds handling and the roles and responsibilities of the FRG. Although the goal of the conference was to provide training, several other side effects occurred.

"With any new duty station, you worry about the chain of command and if they are Family-friendly," said Varsha Robinson. "It was very warm and welcoming. Coming from Germany, I was nervous to go into a room full of officers' wives as the wife of an E-6, but I loved it. I loved it 10 times over."

The capstone of the conference was the Volunteer Recognition Luncheon, during which Col. Schacht presented seven individuals with volunteer awards. Three of the volunteers received the Brigade Commander's Award for Public Service and the other four received brigade certificates of achievement for their outstanding works in support of the FRG.

Once the official training portion of the FRG conference ended, many of the spouses saw each other again that night as the 402nd Field Artillery and 5th Armored Brigades -- both subordinate units of Division West -- joined forces to put on the second annual Joint Military Ball at the Camino Real in downtown El Paso, Texas. During the formal portion of the ball, Col. Schacht presented Traci French with the Dr. Mary E. Walker Award, which is given to Army spouses whose achievements and performance merit special recognition.

"The majority of [conference attendees] went from the conference to the ball, so really the spouses had two days of bonding, which just really made the ball that much better," said Heidi Kokes.

"I believe these conferences are so helpful because things are always changing in the Army, and it helps to recalibrate and sharpen your tools," Kokes said. "You always leave with more than you came with."

Page last updated Tue June 26th, 2012 at 12:11