By Ms. Marie Berberea (TRADOC)September 21, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- When a Soldier takes command oftentimes his or her spouse feels the same pressure of responsibility. Growing Spouses Army Strong is a class that's unique to Fort Sill, and it's meant to teach spouses the ways of the Army so they can support their Soldier and be a resource for other families.
"You made a commitment to your spouse you're behind them 100 percent and when all this is happening to them it's happening to you too," said Amy Heebner, Growing Spouses Army Strong instructor.
Heebner said her husband took command of a battery shortly after they were married, and she had no previous experience with the military. So, she had to quickly find her footing.
"I was brand new. My family wasn't in the military so I had no clue about it. One of my biggest mentors when my husband took command was the first sergeant's spouse," said Heebner. "She took me under her wing and said let me just teach you what you need to do, but I had to be open to that."
GSAS is taught quarterly throughout the year at times when the most spouses are available to take the class. It teaches the basics from Army ranks to ceremonies to organizing and running a family readiness group. The class is four days long, and it's taught while the Soldier is going through either the Field Artillery or Air Defense Artillery Captains' Career Course.
"The course is to prepare them, give them knowledge, skills and confidence to know what's coming when they're going to be part of a family leadership team. It's not a course to say they need to fit into a specific mold. It's just to make them aware of the different experiences and options available," said Heebner.
GSAS teaches spouses how to be prepared for the unexpected, especially during deployment. Army Community Services, Survivor Outreach Services and chaplains from post visit with the group to make sure they know where to find help if they need it.
On the last day of class a leadership panel comprised of the battalion commander, sergeant major and their spouses and the battery commander, first sergeant and their spouses answer any questions the students have.
"You don't have another job in the world really where not only do you have to accomplish missions and get that part of the job done, but then when you're commanding people you're having to take care of them and their families and that's the commander's responsibility," said Heebner.
Each GSAS instructor is a spouse whose Soldier is either in command or has already served as a commander so they have a fresh perspective.
If any of the spouses ask a question that is beyond their experience level, Connie McDonald, Fort Sill's first lady, and other command spouses are available to share from their experience. This GSAS class even got to meet Jeanne Chandler, wife of Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III.
"I think it all depends on who reaches out to you. It might be the wrong people telling you the wrong information and giving you unnecessary stress. That's one of the reasons we do this course. We catch them at the time they're in school before they go into the experience to let them know this is really what you need to do," said Heebner.
After the leadership panel, the students go through a graduation ceremony and some are deemed "G.I. Jane" or "Patty Protocol" by their peers. Then they go to the Sherman House for a potluck luncheon. Their Soldiers are asked to attend as well as other leaders from on post.
"What I love is when we go through the course and at the graduation luncheon the Soldier will say their spouse is a whole new person," said Heebner.
"One of the main things you hear when they come in is, 'I'm so scared, I don't' know what to do and I'm so scared of this experience.' Now, she's all gung-ho and ready to do this. In turn, [the Soldier] can go to work and feel confident he or she has that support at home. That's one less stress off of him or her."
For more information on GSAS, visit their Facebook page or if a Soldier is going through the Captain's Career Course, their spouse can contact Maria Bowens, for field artillery at 442-3849, or Lisa Villarreal-Hughes, for air defense artillery, at 442-3547.
Editor's note: Next week the Cannoneer will look into Family Readiness Groups.