By Karl WeiselSeptember 25, 2007
HANAU, Germany - As 1st Armored Division Soldiers deploy to Iraq for the next 15 months, they leave knowing there are a host of resources in place to keep them connected to families here and stateside.
In fact, the Army's online Virtual Family Readiness Group provides a portal to a host of links, information and ways to communicate with those left behind.
However, the one-stop VFRG Web site doesn't only serve married Soldiers; single Soldiers, too, will find a host of useful tools available for reaching back to their parents, grandparents and siblings in the United States, according to 1st Armored Division family readiness liaisons.
"This is the perfect venue for people to get information that's available and to stay in contact around the world," said Sadie Trainor, who, along with India Cook, manages the 1st Armored Division's Special Troops Battalion VFRG website, in their role as family readiness support assistants.
"There is so much information available through the site, and they won't have to go all over to search for it," added Cook, encouraging Soldiers and family members to visit the Web site to become more familiar with its resources and tools.
"It's very easy to access and use the site," said Cook. "We just have to ensure that we have everybody in the database."
A handout available from the 1st AD STB family readiness liaisons describes the process to access the site. In order for a family member to subscribe to an FRG on the Web site, the "Soldier of interest" must be in that FRG's Soldier database. The Soldier must also have included the family member on his or her sponsor list.
"Make sure whatever information you've entered into the database you use to access the VFRG," said Cook, explaining that it's important Soldiers and family members provide a valid email address.
This need not be an Army Knowledge Online address, said Cook, explaining that some spouses and family members may not have an AKO account but still would like to use the secure features of the VFRG to stay in touch and access information.
"VFRG allows spouses to dictate how involved they want to be in the FRG and to access a myriad of resources ranging from bus schedules to R and R news, deployment information to a nurse's hotline and financial information," said Trainor. "You can also email anyone in the FRG through the website." Links to Army-wide and local community resources are also available.
"We designed it so that Soldiers downrange and stateside would find it useful," said Trainor.
Not only Germany-based units with 1st Armored Division are represented on the site but also attached units, such as the 442nd Cavalry Battalion, a Reserve unit from Rhode Island that will serve with the division in Iraq, are included, said Cook.
Upon entry to the VFRG - which is available at www.armyfrg.org - Soldiers and families can browse to their individual unit site by clicking on the "Find an FRG" link on the left navigation bar. First-time registering requires family members to their names, sponsoring Soldier's name and the last four digits of the Soldier's Social Security number. Both the family member's and Soldier's names must appear exactly as originally entered into the database, said Cook.
Once registered, family members can simply log onto the VFRG website and proceed to their individual FRG page.
(Karl Weisel is a member of the USAG Hessen Public Affairs Office)