Spouses who donated significant time in 2011 and 2012 to support Families connected with the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School were honored during a ceremony April 12 in Kennedy Auditorium on Fort Bragg, N.C.
The ceremony, held to recognize and award the women who have helped build and improve SWCS support to Families, gave the command's leaders a chance to formally show their appreciation for the volunteers' service, said Joyce Sacolick, a Family volunteer who helped organize the event. Mrs. Sacolick is the wife of Maj. Gen. Bennet S. Sacolick, the SWCS Commanding General.
"These volunteers have donated their time, and they have stepped up when needed," Mrs. Sacolick said. "It's wonderful to have the volunteers help us do what we have to do so that we represent our unit very well in the community."
With support from the spouses of SWCS students and staff, the command has formed Family readiness groups for its individual training battalions, Mrs. Sacolick said. Additionally, spouses have volunteered their time to help with Red Cross events on Fort Bragg, speak at orientation meetings and hold a self-defense class for SWCS Family members.
"Everyone can participate, and that way we can build friendships and camaraderie," Mrs. Sacolick said. "It's healthy to have someone you can pick up the phone and call, or somewhere you can go where people with similar concerns can help you find resources and help."
Due to the length of the Special Forces, Civil Affairs or Psychological Operations qualification courses at SWCS, students are generally authorized to move their Families to Fort Bragg in order to conduct training, which includes language and culture classroom training and various field exercises. The Special Forces Qualification Course, for example, takes at least a year to complete - and even longer for Soldiers assigned to attend advanced language classes, medical training or the Detachment Leader Course.
"I tell the Families when they first come in that it's almost as hard for the spouses to go through the course it is for their husbands," said Nicole Young, whose husband is attending the Special Forces Qualification Course. "They don't deploy [during the course] but they're still away from home. They're here, they're there; it goes by at the blink of an eye but it's chaotic while it's going on."
Young was awarded the Commander's Award for Public Service during the ceremony in recognition of her work in helping to form a Family readiness group specifically for SFQC students, who are assigned to 4th Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne) throughout the course.
"Our purpose in the FRG is to disseminate important information and keep other people up-to-date, but we also try to help people socially and emotionally and help them get through the course while their husbands are getting through the course," Young said.
SWCS holds eight SFQC graduation ceremonies each year, meaning approximately every six weeks there are new groups of Family members coming in and out of the 4th Battalion FRG. With about 2,500 students attending the SFQC at any given time, and about 1,500 spouses that the FRG is aware of, Young said managing the group's roster is practically a full-time job.
"Every six weeks we get new blood, so people don't burn out, but at the same time we're always losing some of our great volunteers," Young said, pointing out a few nearby volunteers who will soon leave the FRG when their recently-graduated husbands report to one of the Army's operational Special Forces groups. "We're always losing and gaining people."
"Because this is a transitional situation for most people, I find a lot of spouses don't make a lot of effort to get out and acclimate themselves with the community because they know they're going to be moving on to another group," Young said. "We try to encourage spouses to get out of the house and get involved because it will make them feel better."
Young said Family involvement may give spouses an opportunity to compare notes on their Soldier's performance throughout the course.
"Yes, the way your husband is acting is normal," Young said, repeating conversations she's heard between Family members during events. "Yes, he's having nightmares in another language. Yes, he's studying 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Yes, this is how he acted when he came home from [Search, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training]. Don't worry."
"We just try to support each other as much as we can."
Eighteen Family volunteers were recognized by-name during the ceremony for their contributions with certificates of appreciation: Lillian Anderson, Ashley Becker, Abby Billington, Brittany Collins, Samantha Collins, Michaele Guerrero, Laurin Hardwick, Stacie Hansen, Tiffany Lockett, Wendy Jorde, Sarah Klimoff, Michelle Lally, Casie Nay, Katie Nichols, Arwen Sunday, Young, and Janna Warburg, wife of Col. Robert A. Warburg, the SWCS Chief of Staff.
"A good organization accomplishes its mission in an efficient and effective manner, but a great organization goes above and beyond by taking care of its people and their Families," said Maj. Gen. Sacolick during the ceremony. "I'm not suggesting that [SWCS] is there yet, but we're working at it, and these volunteers are hugely important to that."
For more information about SWCS Family Programs events, or to volunteer your time, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org or keep an eye on the SWCS Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jfkcenterandschool