By Sgt. Justin Naylor, 2nd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.May 19, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas- For a family that is new to the Army, preparing to have a spouse, parent or loved one leave for a deployment can be difficult, and unexpected challenges seem to appear around every corner.
For Pvt. Jared Knutson and his wife, Jenni, an upcoming deployment to Iraq will be the families first, but thanks to a strong tie with the brigade's family readiness group and a lot of time spent preparing for Jared's departure, the couple feels ready to face it.
Both Jared and his wife have been heavily involved in the FRG.
According to Jenni, the FRG has given her the chance to talk with other spouses that have been through deployments. The FRG will also give her an outlet while her husband is gone and allow her to spend time with other spouses that are experiencing the same difficulties.
"My husband and I have both used a lot of resources from the FRG to prepare for this deployment," said Jenni.
For Jenni, the FRG has also given her a window into her husband's world.
"I think one of the biggest hurdles to overcome as a new Army family is the disconnection from the Army the wife can feel," she said. "That is why I think the FRG is extremely important; it closes the gap between spouses and the Army. I always tell my friends and family back home that being involved with the FRG gives me a place in my husband's world."
"I feel that you have to accept the Army as not only a career, but as a way of life," she said. "I do not think that my transition from civilian life to Army life would have gone as smoothly as it did if it were not for the FRG."
"I think it's great," said Jared about his wife being part of the FRG. "She gets to meet new people and she has people there that definitely support her."
In addition to the FRG, the family has focused on spending as much time as possible together, and Jenni, who will be staying in Texas while her husband is gone, has made it clear to Jared that she can handle the home-front so he can keep his mind on the mission.
"I try to make sure that he knows I fully support anything he has to do, and I will be waiting here for him when he gets back," she said. "That is the main reason I decided not to move "home." Besides all of the amazing opportunities for our children [here], I want him to know that he is not in this alone. While he is working hard over there, I am working hard here. If I were to move home, I think my life would be too easy."
"With her here, I can focus on what I'm doing and not have to worry about what's going on back here," said Jared.
Jared and Jenni also spent time putting together a plan for their finances, which will help make sure that all the bills are paid and that money is being saved while he is gone, he explained.
But the most important thing the couple said they did in preparation for this deployment was getting their children ready.
"Our main focus in preparation has revolved around our children," said Jenni. "We read them books about deployment and talk about what daddy's job entails."
"I've been talking to [the children] about the deployment," said Jared. "They know that daddy is going to be gone for a little bit."
Although neither Jared nor Jenni are looking forward to being apart, both are confident that the deployment will be a positive and strengthening experience.
"Of course I would rather my husband not have to deploy; but I am looking forward to the challenge," she said. "I think this deployment will strengthen our bond and help us grow stronger, both as individuals and as a family."
"She will handle it well," Jared said confidently about his wife.
Jenni has already made plans with other FRG spouses for day trips around central-Texas and will continue to volunteer her time with FRG while attending school as a political science major.
"Add two small children into all of that; I do not think I will have any problem remaining busy. Now, staying motivated is a different story," she joked.
Although the deployment is still a scary idea with many unknowns lurking in the shadows, the couple is confident that through preparation and planning they have done everything they can to prepare their family to face any challenge.