By Will King, Fort Leavenworth LampJanuary 28, 2010
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -A,A Spouses of field-grade officers at Fort Leavenworth learned about possible expectations and opportunities for them at the Field Grade Spouse Seminar "Putting the Pieces Together" Jan. 22 at the Army Education Center.
The seminar was presented by Army Family Team Building and Army Community Service, and included topics such as leadership in a supportive role, the family readiness group, crisis and caring, Army Strong and survival strategies.
Seminar coordinator Beth Nelson, who has taught the seminar since 2008, said the goal of the seminar is to introduce spouses to new opportunities, and possible expectations, as spouses of field-grade officers. She described the seminar as a daylong snapshot of opportunities that provides a base of information for spouses to use at Fort Leavenworth or their next duty station.
"We want them to think ahead of time, 'What am I able to give, and what opportunities are available'' and to start thinking about those expectations," Nelson said.
She said one of the biggest changes for new field-grade officer spouses is going from leading a family readiness group as a company-grade spouse, to transitioning to more of a mentoring role under the battalion-command spouse.
Nelson, who has been an Army spouse for more than 16 years, led a panel discussion at the seminar with other long-time military spouses. From the discussion, the things the spouses were most interested in were expectations of them as a field-grade officer's spouse, military career paths for their spouses, and methods of staying connected in case of deployment or separation.
Lisa Pagel, one of the spouses in the seminar, has been married since July 2009 to Maj. Thomas Pagel, an engineer officer in Intermediate Level Education class 2010-01. She has been at Fort Leavenworth since September and said living on post with other military families has given her a sense of community.
"I'm really enjoying it - being on post has been a terrific experience for me," Pagel said.
She said she has taken a number of Army classes since becoming a military spouse, but is still struggling to learn all the acronyms. Pagel said she hopes the Field Grade Spouse Seminar will help her understand what is expected of her as her husband's career advances, and her role and expectations during a deployment.
"It's been a nice opportunity to reinforce some things I already knew, and to get a better understanding of how this place works and what I might expect," Pagel said. "This is a great way for me to play catch-up coming out of a very different environment in the working world, and nonmilitary and very civilian-oriented existence."
Her advice to new Army spouses is to have patience, be open, and volunteer or get involved with unit and community activities.
"Go into any situation, because they will all be different, with an open mind, and knowing what they have to offer," Nelson advises new field-grade officer spouses, "and then being observant about what the needs of that new unit or organization are, so that they can plug-in where they are needed.
Nelson said the Field Grade Spouse Seminar is offered about six times yearly, with the next seminar being spread over three evening sessions March 4, 11 and 18 from 6:30-9 p.m. She said the seminar is open to all spouses, men and women, and hourly child care is available through the Child Development Center.