By Erin Murray, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 3, 2011
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Army Community Service and Army Family Team Building hosted a successful first session of Rucker Experience, Army Learning, or REAL, a new monthly class intended to make the transition into Army life easier by covering topics like acronyms, ranks, etiquette and customs, July 27.
“I expected it to be really boring,” said Tiffany Sprague after the first few hours of activities, “but it’s really interactive and makes it a lot easier for me to learn.”
The turnout for the class was high, with nine out of 12 slots in the class filled.
Leaders of the class attribute the high attendance to interest by Family readiness groups and word of mouth promotion among members of the community.
The event began with breakfast and continued with exercises and presentations, then concluded with a bowling trip for instructors and attendees.
Many of the exercises were aimed at making learning about Army life fun, including every spouse being required to adopt a rank and use only military time.
According to Nathalia Fowler, these exercises helped her distinguish ranks and uniform patches, as well as the meaning behind commonly used acronyms.
Much of the class was devoted to discussing the unique experience of Army spouses, from the benefits to the disappointments.
“Military spouses are the smartest, strongest and most persevering,” said instructor Sarah Geraci during her lesson on the rewards and struggles that all spouses face. “It’s a good, hard life.”
Many of the spouses at REAL discussed their personal experiences with the Army lifestyle, adding warmth to the atmosphere of the class.
Through fun and interactive lessons, Geraci said that she hoped that each spouse would leave with “at least one new piece of information” and hopefully “make new friends.”
REAL is not only a resource for teaching common terms, but a resource to get spouses involved in the community through ACS and AFTB opportunities.
“AFTB is a great way for people to get out. This is good for those who can’t attend two to three days of classes.” said instructor Samantha Kasper, who hopes that the REAL concept block will help supplement much of what is taught in other AFTB classes.
Kristin Skaggs agreed that attending REAL made her more interested in other AFTB opportunities. “Now that I’ve attended this class, I’ll be more likely to attend other ones.”
The leaders of Get REAL, Christin James, Kasper and Geraci, were also enthusiastic about their first session.
“I was definitely super pleased,” said Geraci, who explained that her experience as a new Army spouse led her and two other spouses to start Get REAL as a way to give back to the Fort Rucker community.
“The longer I lived here, I realized how many spouses don’t take advantage of the AFTB courses,” she said.
She met both James and Kasper in her FRG group, and they decided to propose the class as an interactive approach to AFTB Level 1 classes.
One very important lesson was the need for flexibility, a point ACS AFTB program manager Shellie Kelly discussed in depth, adding stories from her 26 years as an Army spouse.
Kelly said that the flexible “never get broken or bent out of shape,” a lesson that she hoped would benefit all the spouses in the class.
“I didn’t think there’d be as much personal input. I like that it’s open,” said Skaggs of the atmosphere of the class, which was primarily comprised of members of her FRG.
This personal input made asking questions and discussing concerns much easier, added Sprague.
Skaggs and Sprague were both glad to have an opportunity to network with other spouses, as well as learn more about life in the Army.
According to Kelly, one benefit of attending Get REAL is that it covers much of the first day of AFTB Level 1 in a few hours.
In addition to acronyms and ranks, James, the AFTB volunteer program manager, led a discussion that involved proper etiquette and customs in social situations, ranging from informal gatherings to Hail and Farewell dinners.
Attendants were surprised at how much they had learned about events they would attend or host as Army spouses. James also touched on another lesson in her presentation, “Spouses do not have ranks.”
Sprague said that after the lesson on etiquette, she’d be more likely “to branch out, especially to higher ranking officers and their spouses.”
Anyone interested in learning more about Army life is encouraged to attend the next session of Get REAL on Aug. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at The Commons in Bldg. 8950. Registration is required. For more information, call 255-2382.