By Angie Thorne, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerSeptember 20, 2010
FORT POLK, La. -- Stressed out' Have your finances gone haywire' Computer troubles got you down' How do you learn to deal with these and other daily dilemmas and still find time to be romantic, cook new dishes, work out or just have a little fun' Army spouses deal with these challenges on a daily basis.
Grasping the ins and outs of these topics and more was the purpose of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk's 2010 Women's Conference held Sept. 15, hosted by Army Community Service.
The theme of the conference was "Heroes Behind The Heroes," which recognizes the fact that Soldiers don't complete their missions alone. In celebration of the silent partner in the Army Family team, the conference pampered spouses with a variety of classes at the Fort Polk Education Center meant to teach and support.
"This conference gives spouses an opportunity to learn new things and a chance to meet, visit, talk and make friends with people that will extend beyond the classroom. We are coming up on a major deployment and people are going to need their own personal support group. This is our way of trying to help them make those connections," said Pamela Evans, Army Community Service director.
She said it's an opportunity to honor spouses. "They might not go into battle, but they have the their own battles right here at home and this is a way for us to make them feel good about themselves," said Evans.
The event was divided into four sessions with a variety of classes offered in each. The sessions lasted from 8:30 a.m.-noon. Cathy Scott, ACS program specialist, helped organize the event. She said getting the classes lined up wasn't too hard because it was a win-win situation for everyone involved. The people teaching classes were able to get their message out to the Fort Polk community while spouses learned valuable skills or gained knowledge from them.
"We have a pretty wide variety of talent on post, so it wasn't really that hard to get people to do a class and share their expertise. We also have some people from out in the community that were willing to share their knowledge such as the Vernon Parish Tourism class that highlighted things to do in Louisiana. That was a big hit this year," said Scott. "I think everyone is enjoying the classes. We've had good participation."
One of the most popular classes was a Cajun cooking class taught by Steve Humphries. Spouses put on aprons and took turns stirring, chopping and taste-testing the decadent recipe Humphries brought to demonstrate during Cajun Cooking: Delightfully Sinful. He said he loves intermingling with the spouses. "I'm a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and this is a community service activity we enjoy performing. We take pride in the fact that we are invited back year after year to teach the spouses how to cook. I have a good time teaching the ladies the recipes we cook at the VFW and they've always enjoyed learning them," said Humphries. "This is a significant day for these women. It recognizes their part. I'll tell you as an old retiree combat veteran, my wife is my partner and my best friend."
Some spouses, like Tiffany Lotz, had never been to a women's conference. "We've been at Fort Polk for five years and I've always wanted to come, but I've been too busy. This year I was determined to make time and it has been everything I could have hoped for. The conference has been both interesting and informative. I signed up for the Cajun cooking class. That was really fun. I also took finance and computer classes," said Lotz.
Other spouses keep coming back for more. "I went last year and there were a lot of interesting classes, so I wanted to do it again. It's a great day for spouses and other women in the community to get away, regroup, reconnect and meet new people. Today has been full of fun activities. I took classes in computer survival, stress and relaxation and investment. I've been interested in learning about investments and that class gave me some great information to get started. I really worked on me today. It's been a great way to focus on relaxing and trying to find what it is I want to do as a women and working mother," said Valencia McFayden.
Once the classes ended, spouses attended a luncheon at the Warrior Community Center. The fine dining experience included a keynote speaker, Dianne Campbell, spouse of retired Gen. Charles C. Campbell, former commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command. Campbell said she was grateful to the Fort Polk spouses for giving her the opportunity to share in their Woman's Conference.
Her keynote address focused on volunteering. She spoke about how military spouses can make every place they move to a better place through volunteering. "I would challenge you as volunteer leaders or members of a volunteer organization to have a vision because volunteerism is about people and understanding what they need. To do this you need a sense of purpose, worth, belonging and confidence," said Campbell. An Army spouse can be empowered by becoming a volunteer leader, she said.
Campbell then thanked the spouses for everything they do to support their heroes. "Spouses are America's heroes and I think it's wonderful that Soldiers are stepping up and coming to understand and appreciate the support and contributions that spouses make. I want to thank you for all you do to care for your Soldiers and Families, but more importantly what you do in support of one another. I also want to thank you for caring for the extended Army Family -- those in your units, command, spouses club and Family Readiness Group. Most importantly, I want to thank you for the huge sacrifices you make such as long and repeated separations," said Campbell.