By Sgt. Darron Salzer, National Guard BureauFebruary 22, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 18, 2011 -- Unit family readiness group members, representing all of the military Reserve components, were recognized during a ceremony at the Pentagon today, in recognition of their outstanding family support programs.
The assistant secretary of defense for Reserve affairs, Dennis M. McCarthy, hosted the 2011 Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Awards presentation, and each of the units received a plaque, a certificate of appreciation and a cash award from the Military Officers Association of America to be put toward furthering their family support programs.
Capt. Angela Bailey, commander of the 1484th Transportation Company, Ohio Army National Guard, said it was an honor to be recognized with an award at this level.
"My family readiness group goes above and beyond what they are asked of and are there for us every single drill weekend," she said.
One thing the FRG for the 1484th Transportation Company did was start a battle-buddy system, an innovative system of information cards that stitched together the unit's Soldiers and families, Bailey said.
This close-knit network of family support helped the unit reach a 100 percent rate of contact between spouses of deployed Soldiers, or a designated family representative.
Coast Guard Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Margita, unit commander of the Maritime Safety and Security Team 91103, said it too was a tremendous honor to have his unit be a recipient of such an award, and during back-to-back deployments in Guantanamo Bay and for Operation Deepwater Horizon, "Our unit did some real out-of-the-box thinking to ensure our families would be well taken care of.
"We worked with fleet services, the [United Service Organizations] and had a family day prior to deployment," said Margita, "and they even created a blog online, to post what the unit was doing while they were away so that family members would know how their loved ones were doing."
It was a great success, and a great credit to our ombudsman, senior Reserve officer and executive officer, he said.
Innovative thinking was abundant amongst the award winners, but it was how quickly the FRG of the 354th Military Police Company, Army Reserve, sprang into action before the unit's most recent deployment.
"We stood-up our family readiness group within two months," said Army 1st Lt. Angela Smith, commander. "They created phone trees, e-mail trees and - with about 15 to 20 percent of our unit being assigned to us from other units - it was just extremely important for them to reach all of those families."
"Without having that kind of support [back home], we would have had a more difficult time focusing on our mission overseas," Smith said.
Representing the Navy Reserve was SEAL Team 18, and Navy Cmdr. Joseph Rehak, unit commander, said it was great to win the award. "I've had very strong support from my ombudsman, a volunteer in the Navy that supports family readiness and communication between the team and their families," Rehak said.
"She set up a phone-in conference call this past year, which allows us to contact our families that do not live in the vicinity of the unit, because about half of my unit members are spread out across the United States.
"We can talk to families from Ohio, Virginia Beach and California. It really mattered to them to be able to talk to us and other family readiness support members, such as chaplains."
An Air Force Reserve unit, and repeat award winners, the 439th Airlift Wing, commanded by Air Force Col. Robert Swain, support not only their unit, but all of the component units in their joint environment.
"Family readiness is not just a program at Westover Air Reserve Base," said Swain, "it's a way of life. As a joint base, we support not only the Air Reserve, but we also take care of family readiness for our Army, Navy and Marine Corps members that are on base.
"We are humbled to be here again, and this is a great program, and a great achievement for all of the winners today."
Other units that also won included Marine Corps Reserve unit, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, commanded by Marine Corps Lt. Col. Christopher Watkins, and Air National Guard unit 157th Air Refueling Wing, commanded by Air Force Col. Paul Hutchinson.
The RFRA ceremony receives support and sponsorship from the MOAA and its president, who currently is retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan.
"Our members our proud to express our thanks and all that you do for our nation," said Ryan. "We want to do whatever it takes to be able to help you get the mission done, so being able to recognize the families is so important to our [organization's] membership.
"We hear you say that when you are overseas, knowing that your family is taken care of helps you to do the mission, and that's what these family readiness groups are doing - keeping the family in mind."
The Reserve Family Readiness Award program was established in 2000 and recognizes the top unit in each Reserve component that demonstrated superior family readiness and outstanding mission readiness.