By Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsFebruary 4, 2020
CAMP ZAMA (Feb. 4, 2020) -- Staff Sgt. Anuluk Chanthalyxay has been in the Army for more than eight years, and in that time he has developed an appreciation for Soldier and Family Readiness Groups and how they can improve unit cohesion.
"I'm a big believer that we should get together, even if it's a barbecue and we play games," Chanthalyxay said. "You start building that trust and camaraderie, and then that's when you slowly build that relationship to becoming a unit that's ready for anything."
Chanthalyxay was among 25 Soldiers and civilians who work for the 78th Signal Battalion's Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and Network Enterprise Center Camp Zama who met in a classroom here Jan. 31 for the foundation-level Readiness Essentials for Army Leaders, or REAL, training.
Mary Wanjohi, a deployment specialist with Camp Zama Army Community Service, conducted the roughly two-hour training, which provided Soldiers and civilians information about how they can run an effective SFRG and encourage participation.
Formerly known as Family Readiness Groups, SFRGs are unit commanders' programs that form a network of support and assistance for Soldiers and family members. They also help commanders to meet military and personal deployment preparedness and enhance readiness.
Wanjohi said one of the reasons she encourages commanders to schedule the training is because although SFRGs are a good way to help prepare units for deployments, their benefits, especially in Japan, can reach even further and help with overall readiness.
"It doesn't have to be a deployment," Wanjohi said. "It's just everyday things. Every day we have to be ready in Japan. We do have natural disasters, so it doesn't have to be deployment. We have Soldiers go [on temporary duty]. We have Soldiers go [temporary change of station]."
Capt. Jason Zoeller, commander of the NEC Camp Zama, said he organized the training for his unit because he wanted Soldiers, civilians and family members to understand the components of what makes up an SFRG.
Although the training has a more detailed version for first sergeants and commanders, Zoeller said he wanted Soldiers of any rank to take the training so they could learn the basics of SFRGs.
"Some of these junior Soldiers are going to be future leaders, so it's better to give them a little bit of that education now while they're still thinking about it," Zoeller said. "Maybe they will want to reach out to someone who is in their own position in the future."
Zoeller agreed with Wanjohi that SFRGs can be key to helping Soldiers, civilians and family members feel comfortable and supported in Japan.
"In the environment that we're in, it's important because we're away from a lot of the things that we take for granted that make up our culture," Zoeller said. "… It's OK to also include the traditions of the community around us, but because most of us don't come from that community, it's still somewhat foreign to us. So we just want a little comfort of home."
Wanjohi said the Army added "Soldier" to the FRG name because single Soldiers also need the support the groups can offer.
"It feels more welcoming to the unit for them," Wanjohi said.
Chanthalyxay said adding the "S" to FRG was a little confusing to him at first, but it makes a lot of sense.
In the past, Soldiers often viewed FRGs as for married Soldiers, leaving single Soldiers to wonder, "Oh, what about us?" Chanthalyxay said.
"It's kind of good because it's showing everybody that we're all one family as a unit, so we can all bond together and build that camaraderie and esprit de corps," Chanthalyxay said.
Chanthalyxay, a communications specialist for the NEC Camp Zama, said he appreciated the opportunity to take the training.
"I thought it was really good that we brought in the lower enlisted as well as the senior enlisted, the staff sergeants and sergeants first class, because it kind of opened our eyes more to what the program is, what it has to offer and what it's about," Chanthalyxay said.
Wanjohi said she is available to provide both levels of the REAL training, which include a detailed version for first sergeants and commanders and the foundation level for all ranks.
To schedule a training, contact Wanjohi at (DSN) 315-263-4572 or (COMM) 046-407-4572.