GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - For Soldiers and Families facing deployment, preparing for it as early as possible is essential.

Some of the most immediate questions people face are: Where do I get information' Should I contact the Family Readiness Group, the rear detachment commander or Army Community Services' And how much and what kind of help can I expect to receive'

There are several agencies throughout U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr that are available to answer these questions and to guide Families throughout the pre-deployment process.

One of the first places to begin is the unit FRG.

"The FRG serves as a guide for Family members," said Marylou Solorzano, FRG leader for the 535th Engineer Company which is preparing to deploy this fall. "It provides information, and it is a place for support - especially when you are away from home."

Solorzano has been a military spouse for 10 years and will experience her fifth deployment this year. If spouses have questions about pre-deployment and during the actual deployment, she said, "their FRG should have answers or should be able to get them."

Among the FRGs' various responsibilities: supporting Soldiers, providing activities for spouses and children, sending care packages to deployed troops and organizing welcome home events.

Kay Simpkins, Grafenwoehr's Deployment and Mobilization Program manager, called FRG an excellent resource for Families to get timely, accurate information and to stay in the loop.

She added information that streams in from deployed units is relayed to rear detachment commanders and FRGs.

"And the FRG and the rear detachment commander should be informed by a Family member if a problem comes up; they have the team to help the Family member," Simpkins said.

For example, Solorzano explained, if a Family member's car breaks down, the FRG can offer help.

Besides the FRG, a rear detachment staff for a deployed unit remains behind during deployment and is responsible for providing assistance to the unit's Family members, including:
Aca,!Accoordination with on- and off-post agencies;
Aca,!Accommunication with members of the deployed unit;
Aca,!Acseeing mail to deployed Soldiers; and
Aca,!Acdistributing leave and earnings statements.

During deployment, Families need to update FRG and rear detachment members of address or contact information changes, and how they can be reached when away from home for an extended time.

"The FRG, rear detachment, and ACS - it takes all of us to make it work," Simpkins said.

She said the trio pull together but have different perspectives and offer different types of assistance. But one thing they do have in common, she added, is that if they can't answer a question on the spot, they will find the information.

To assist Soldiers and Families with pre-deployment issues, the ACS here recently sponsored a pre-deployment fair at the Vilseck Memorial Gym to connect Families with resources in and around Grafenwoehr, Simpkins said.

Some of the agencies participating in the fair included: legal office; USO; Educational and Developmental Intervention Services; Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System; Army Family Team Building; TriCare; Red Cross; housing; Child and Youth Services; Army Emergency Relief; medical organizations; and ADAC (a European emergency-road-service organization).

Some of the most oft-asked questions during past fairs, Solorzano said, related to vehicle registration, newborn information and Families returning to the U.S. during deployment.

Accordingly, a deployment guide called "The Soldier/Family Deployment Survival Handbook" was distributed at the fair. It covers issues ranging from finances to emergency resources to important contact information.

It also includes a pre-deployment checklist to assist both single Soldiers and Families in organizing the many details.
Simpkins said many agencies here are coordinating to help ease deployment woes, including the library, which will offer books specifically for children of deployed troops.

Additionally, Vilseck's ACS is offering a pre-deployment training workshop and will open a Yellow Ribbon Room with six computers and video cameras set aside for Family members to keep in touch with Soldiers downrange.

ACS is also offering financial assistance, including counseling and debt reduction.

(Bilyana Atova is a member of the USAG Grafenwoehr Public Affairs Office)