By CRYSTAL LEWIS BROWN, Fort Jackson LeaderJuly 16, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Staff Sgt. Anthony Evans, a drill sergeant with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, said his wife knew very little about the Army before experiencing it with him.
But the Directorate of Combat Training has developed a Cadre Spouse Handbook aimed at giving spouses, like Evans', some insight on what to expect before coming to an installation like Fort Jackson.
Col. Craig Currey, DBCT director, said the handbook was developed as a way to inform Soldiers and spouses about the rigors of working in a training environment.
"We've been thinking about this for a long time," Currey said. He and his team surveyed both spouses and Soldiers to find out what they would like to see. "One of the things they wanted was booklet to better prepare drill sergeants' spouses," he said.
He added, "families know the Army, but they don't know (Initial Entry Training). What we tried to do was to give the IET slant on things."
Staff Sgt. Angela Wasson said she and others involved in creating the handbook tried to make it broad enough to make it relatable to any family member. She said the handbook is also meant to dispel misconceptions some may have upon coming to a training installation.
"Families come here to an IET environment and think they will see their (spouse) all the time now because they don't deploy and they don't go to the field," she said.
Currey added, "It can be grueling ... it is just non-stop training."
As a dual military spouse, Wasson thought it was important to include how the IET environment would affect family time. The book focuses heavily on describing those effects, even including examples of daily schedules for company and staff cadre, stay-at-home and working spouses, and even children. The book also includes resources for education, religion, employment and transition tips, among others.
Though the book is aimed at spouses, Currey stressed that Soldiers should avoid simply leaving the spouse alone to look through it.
"It would be beneficial for the spouse and Soldier to go through it together," he said. "Some of it is designed to be interactive between husband and wife."
Evans, a father of four who has been a drill sergeant for 15 months, said his wife thought the book was helpful.
"I showed it to my wife and she asked, 'Where was this book when I came in','" he said. He said the book should be handed out to the installation's newcomers. "They should get a welcome packet when they first come in, and this book should be in there."
The book can be found at http://www.jackson.army.mil/Units/handbook/spousehandbook2.pdf.
Another book, this one aimed at family members of Basic Combat Training and Advanced Installation Training, can be found at http://www.jackson.army.mil/units/ handbook/index.html.
VOICES: A Leader reporter sat down with Jan May, Cheryl Stall and Beth Shwedo, spouses of Fort Jackson's commanding general, command sergeant major and deputy commanding officer, respectively, to get their take on the new Cadre Spouse Handbook.
All three women said the handbook is one of many tools Fort Jackson provides to prepare spouses new to a training installation.
"For me, it's just one tool that a spouse can use to identify some of the challenges and expectations," said Stall.
Shwedo added, "It's helpful in the fact that most people's point of reference is not in a training environment."
May said having a handbook prevents spouses from having to "learn the hard way."
"I think with this, it lays it out step-by-step what is involved. I think it's honest. That is what caught me about that book," she said.
Stall said knowing in advance what to expect allows families to schedule time together.
"We ask a lot of our Soldiers, and by virtue of that, we're asking a lot of our spouses," she said. "It helps to be able to plan. I think some families aren't going to get much time together if they don't plan."
May said the book is also a way to get a lot of information in one place. "(It's) one-stop-shop information in here," she said. "Take your time and digest it. I wish I had it when we came in (the Army)."
Shwedo said having the information at hand can be empowering for spouses, and knowing in advance what to expect is powerful. "The unknown is what can sometimes be scary," she said.
"What's good about this is it touches on every aspect of life."
She added, "The bottom line is ... the Army's looking out for the families to make sure they know what to expect."