Class serves as 'passport' to Army culture
July 26, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (26 July 2012) -- It was time for some serious fun and learning.
So the group of 12 Army Family Team Building Level I students formed a circle and tossed around a 10-inch red rubber ball. On the ball were little stickers each with an Army acronym. When a student caught the acronym ball and their thumbs covered a sticker, they had to say the full meaning of the acronym.
"CO -- commanding officer!" shouted a participant.
"LES -- leave and earnings statement!" exclaimed another.
"DEERS -- um, um," someone said.
"Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System!" chimed in an Army wife.
The ball criss-crossed through the group like an electron circling an atom, as acronyms and giggles flew out faster than bids at an Oklahoma livestock auction.
"One of the things that is intimidating to a new spouse is the language of the military," said Lisa Jansen-Rees, Army Community Service Prevention Team lead. "We say Soldiers all speak in code." The purpose of the activity was to learn acronyms in a fun environment.
Military acronyms and terms was one of the subjects covered at AFTB I, aka Army 101, July 21 at the AFTB facility in Building 2719, Bragg Road.
The seven-hour Army Community Service course also reviewed military essentials such as family readiness groups, the chain of command, customs and courtesies, and benefits and entitlements. It also hit upon life skills including financial readiness, child education and basic problem solving. Presenters included volunteers at AFTB, directors and the Fort Sill commanding general and first lady.
Buffy Nino, AFTB team leader, who led the group, said the course's goal was to get people accustomed to the Army culture.
"We want them to get familiar with the Army and find a little more comfort in their environment," she said. The class was open to family members, active-duty, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers; retirees and DA civilians.
AFTB I also served as a resource, Nino said. In addition to organizations and services already available on post to Soldiers and families, the course covered some of the agencies outside the fence.
An objective of the course was for the family member to be able to better to communicate with their loved one in uniform, added Jansen-Rees.
"The Soldier goes to school or basic training and the spouse doesn't, so when they get home it's kind of hard to talk to each other about what happened during the day because they're speaking a different language," she said. "So we want to increase communication."
AFTB I is the first in a series, Nino said. If people want to go further, they can attend level II, which covers personal growth. And Level III is leadership training.
In her welcome, Fort Sill First Lady Connie McDonald described the course as a passport into a foreign land of Army culture with its own language, values and beliefs.
"It will draw you in like a magnet, and carry you up with a pair of wings to a place few understand," she said.
Tammy Walton, AFTB instructor, presented "Introduction to Family Readiness Groups." She said one of her activities was having the group brainstorm about what FRG was and was not. It's not a bank, it's not all about social work, but a way to get out information. Those were some of the comments, she said.
"One of the things I heard was 'It's a tool,' and that's a really good answer," she said.
Brenda Spencer-Ragland, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director, covered child education services. She spoke about the child development centers on post, as well as the Lawton Public School system, and the role of Fort Sill's School Liaison officer.
Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, met the class members and thanked them for attending. He then spoke about ranks, and the structure of the chain of command.
Presenter Henry Walton Sr., AFTB volunteer, instructed on the six steps of basic problem solving: identification, analyze, develope solutions, select and plan the solution, implement the solution, and then evaluate the solution.
He said the methodology can be used on any problem, whether it's financial or a relationship difficulty. Like any skill it must be used regularly to be effective, he said.
Cindy Lopez has been an Army wife for three months. She said she took the course to learn more about the Army.
"I wanted to be able to look at a Soldier's rank and know what it is instead of asking my husband (a Basic Officer Leader Course student)," Lopez said.
Lopez said she learned about a lot of programs that she didn't even know existed, and that she is sure she will use some of them, such as the family readiness group.
"When my husband gets a permanent duty station I may volunteer for that (FRG)," she said.
Lopez said she plans on taking the AFTB Level II class.
Sgt. Austin Percival, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery, said he took the class for his personal and professional edification.
"I have a lot of Soldiers new to the Army, and I think this class will help me to be a resource for my Soldiers," he said.
The class covered a lot of information and one particularly enlightening topic was the FRG, he said.
"The FRG is responsible for a lot of things that Soldiers may take for granted, like fund raising, and keeping spouses informed about what the Soldiers are doing," he said.
Percival said he would recommend the class to his peers and family members.
"A lot of times the spouses' only connection to the Army is through their Soldier and if the Soldier doesn't tell them, then they don't know," Percival said. "The class gives you a lot of information."