Raider Bde. FRGs, rear detachment are valuable tools
By Capt. James Simpson, Rear Det., 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div.
Through the course of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Family readiness groups have evolved into productive support systems for the 4th Infantry Division.
Commanders realized early the importance of strong rear detachments and capable FRG leaders to care for the U.S. Army’s Families.
“Genuine concern for Families yields lasting benefits to forward leaders and Soldiers alike,” said Maj. Philip Secrist, rear detachment commander, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div.
The commanders and Rear Detachment cadre of the Raider Brigade were carefully chosen to reflect this focus, Secrist said.
“Our impact on parents, spouses and children benefits the morale of deployed Soldiers and can make lasting impressions,” he said.
Successful FRGs are built over time, Secrist said.
Good planning, hard work and commitment to the organization can result in growing participation from Family members, he added.
First-rate FRG events held before deployment are a good step toward building a core of volunteers that will ensure good events during the deployment, said Valerie Adams, Family readiness support advisor, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div.
For example, leaders, Soldiers and Family members of the 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., deployed in support of Multi-National Division – Baghdad, held an organization day before deploying in early March that resulted in maximum participation across the battalion, Adams said.
The event helped to spark a sense of identification among the unit’s Families that lasted throughout the deployment, she said.
“We keep the Families busy and inundated with knowledge of current events,” Adams said.
From 1st STB’s barbecue parties to 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div.’s Back to School Bash at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, Raider Families came together to make strong bonds, Adams explained.
“These events were good opportunities to welcome new Families and disseminate information,” she said. “Due to the commitment of many volunteers, these events were also a lot of fun for children and adults.”
One such volunteer, Sylvia Mellot from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st BCT, continually worked behind the scenes reaching out to Families.
Quality FRG events are now common in 1st BCT, and often have as many as 200 Family members, Adams said.
While quality Family fun events are important, they are only one part of the FRG mission, she said.
Many Families may have just one interaction with the FRG, and its usually during a Family emergency, Adams said. These emergencies can range from car problems to a death in the Family.
People often rely on those close to them in these circumstances and having strong relationships developed through FRGs can be rewarding, she said.
“During the deployment, numerous housing problems, financial hardships and medical emergencies were overcome with the help of FRGs and Rear Detachment,” Adams said.
FRG leaders and other volunteers are the foundation of a good FRG, Secrist said.
The time they spend with Families and their continual support of the Rear Detachment are very important, he said.
A collective commitment to the unit and to Families helped the 1st BCT improve its FRG.
“Commanders throughout the Brigade will return to find a ‘Family friendly’ atmosphere,” Secrist said.
“There is still room to grow; a persistent effort should be made to reach out to Families and to find the volunteers of tomorrow,” Secrist added.
With continual support, Family readiness groups throughout the division can remain a valuable tool for commanders and will successfully care for Families during future deployments, he said.
Caption: Before his deployment to Iraq, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Jones, brigade master gunner assigned to HHD, 1st STB, 4th Inf. Div., cheers on a tug-of-war competition, for ages 5-8, during the Phoenix Battalion "Fun Day,” Oct. 26, 2007, held at Veterans of Foreign Wars Lodge No. 3892 in Harker Heights. Jones is currently deployed with the 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., in support of MND-B and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since then, the Raider Brigade Rear Detachment and Family Readiness Groups hosts several Family fun events such as cookouts and outdoor activities for Families of 1st BCT Soldiers deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. David Hodge, 1st BCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.)