WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 14, 2008) - Every Monday night at 8 p.m. a group of Army wives gathers to hear news, relationship advice, parenting tips and deployment support, but this isn't your traditional readiness or support group.

Most of the women haven't met and don't even know each other's names. But over the Internet radio waves and blogs, "Army Wife Talk Radio" founder and host Tara Crooks tries to help Army Families and empower Army spouses.

"I just wanted to mention how much fun I had yesterday rocking out to last month's AWTR shows on my Ipod! It was like doing housework with friends keeping me company," said Kim P. on the "Loving a Soldier Blog," which is run by AWTR.

"There's a common denominator that holds us all together," said Crooks, a Fort Stewart, Ga., Army wife of 10 years. Her husband just returned from Iraq and she had their second daughter during his deployment, an experience she said that she is still surprised she survived, and attributes it partly to the help of AWTR listener support.

"Part of what really makes this work sometimes is I think that I need you as much as you need me. I remember talking to Star Henderson, my business partner, when I was pregnant and I was sobbing and I said, 'Star, I'm not going to make it through this. How can I motivate people when I can't even get out of bed in the morning'' And she was like, 'You're going to do this, and you doing this is going to motivate other people.'"

Also available throughout the week via the Internet and podcast on www.armywifetalkradio.com, AWTR celebrated its third anniversary April 7. It was born late one night while Crooks' husband was on another deployment and has grown from 37 listeners to about 1,500. Crooks says while she once had to scramble to find guests, now experts on deployment, relationships and parenting eagerly pitch their ideas and the show is booked through July.

Dr. Gary Chapman, author of "The Five Love Languages," recently appeared, and Monday's show will feature Maj. Gen. Elder Granger, deputy director of TRICARE, and one of TRICARE's customer-service representatives, who will be available to answer listener's questions.

"I've really had an amazing response with doctors and authors and speakers and people who want to get their word out to the military folks and somehow -- I don't know, maybe because it's a podcast, it's grassroots, it's where all the younger spouses are right now, it's on the Internet -- we've caught on and we have that audience. We're able to bridge the gap between these resources and this information available to these military Families and the military Families they're actually targeting and that they need to reach and a lot of times they don't," Crooks said.

She had expected most of her listeners to be fairly new Army wives who needed a source of information, but a recent viewer poll found that even experienced Army wives are tuning in.

"It's definitely a support group," she said. "Some of those girls say that their Monday night is like their date, to show up on Monday nights for live shows."

That's especially evident on the Loving a Soldier Blog, where women commiserate over extended deployments, laugh and cry over daily struggles and celebrate homecomings together.

In addition to the radio show and blog, AWTR sponsors a book club and often has give-aways on the air. Crooks and Henderson also write columns and travel to Army posts conducting 'Field Exercises,' events teaching Army wives how to make the most of their benefits and combat problems.

"Some day I'd like to say, oh look, someone stayed in because we helped them, and we can help the retention efforts somehow and build a stronger Army. I truly believe that Army Families are the key to having a stronger Army," Crooks said.

Army Wife Talk Radio can be heard at www.ArmyWifeTalkRadio.com. To participate in AWTR live shows recorded weekly on Mondays at 8pm EST, visit www.BlogTalkRadio.com/.