By Don Robbins, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsAugust 14, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Volunteer instructors guided more than 20 military spouses through the ins and outs of Army life during an Army Family Team Building (AFTB) class at the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Academy, here, Aug. 4.
The military spouse 101-style course, titled "Welcome to the Jungle," provided a basic introduction to military life.
The course navigated newcomers to the Army through the maze of terms, entitlements, customs and courtesies, finances and resources that Soldiers learn throughout their careers.
Regularly taught at Army Community Service (ACS), the daylong level one course at the NCO Academy has been attracting more participants whose Soldiers are enrolled in the Warrior Leaders Course taught at the academy, said Catherine Baldwin, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii (USAG-HI) AFTB program manager.
The juxtaposition of the courses allowed spouses to have lunch with their Soldier that day and an opportunity to share their experiences.
"The AFTB class helps spouses become family team leaders and assists in the accomplishment of their Soldiers' mission," said NCO Academy Command Sgt. Maj. James M. Fraijo of the ACS and NCO Academy partnership.
Volunteer program manager and Army spouse Shelly Hinzman said AFTB has been operating for about 16 years and started after Desert Storm, "to give us as families a chance to educate ourselves and to learn more about the Army, so we're better prepared."
"I learned a lot of acronyms and learned about the LES (Leave and Earnings Statement)," said newcomer Jessica Francis, wife of Sgt. Zachary Francis.
Learning about community resources also proved to be of value to Francis who has a 5-month-old son.
"Knowing where ACS is and what it is will help tremendously," she said.
The level one course covered basic military benefits and entitlements, school-related issues, community resources, introduction to family readiness groups (FRG), handling finances, and basic problem solving.
Student handouts and discussion subjects included expectations and impact of the Army mission on family life, military abbreviations and terms, chain of command, and military customs and courtesies.
Students learned that an FRG is a mutual support linkage of family members, volunteers, retirees, Soldiers, civilian employees and interested friends belonging to a unit or organization. However, an FRG is not a babysitting service, coffee group or club, instructors said.
"It actually taught me things I didn't know before, and I've been an Army spouse for two-and-half years," said Alyssa Breighner, wife of Spc. William Breighner, 58th Military Police Company.
"All the different programs that ACS offers, I had no idea that they offered half of that," Breighner added. "You just go in and it's free. They can help you with everything."
Baldwin says any spouse can master the military environment or sharpen survival skills by continuing his or her learning at an AFTB Level II or III course offered at various times throughout the year.
The next AFTB Level I class is scheduled Aug. 25. Call 808-655-1703 to reserve a seat. For information about AFTB Level II and III classes, call 808-655-4227. The next AFTB instructor class is scheduled Sept. 1-4.