Family Readiness Groups, Key to support, information
John Pennell | Fort Richardson PAO | Alaska e-post on line | 4 July 2008
With the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division’s return to Iraq this fall and the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division’s scheduled deployment to Afghanistan in the spring, the importance of Army Families and Family Readiness Groups will again take center stage.
“FRGs not only offer camaraderie and support, but are most importantly a communication network for spouses to receive official information regarding their Soldiers, especially during times of deployment,” explained Claire Murphy, manager of the Family Readiness/Mobilization and Deployment Program for Army Community Service at Fort Wainwright.
Murphy said FRGs have fundraising activities to promote social opportunities and boost morale for Soldiers, spouses and children. Plus, at meetings they receive important information from Army agencies regarding health and safety awareness, financial matters, legal concerns and other government resources available to them.
Rick Caswell, Murphy’s counterpart at Fort Richardson, said one goal of the FRG is to help spouses become more reliant on themselves and to help each other solve their problems at the lowest level.
“FRGs also promote various essential Family preparations before the deployment, and how to utilize the plethora of programs designed to improve the quality of life during and after deployment,” Murphy said. “Many young, first-term spouses have never been on their own and are unaware of the many agencies and programs available to them, and the connections made through the FRGs help them understand all the existing support.”
As a component of the commander’s Family readiness program, Caswell said as long as there is a strong command team communicating with the FRG and it’s being treated as a true FRG and information is being put out, Families feel like they’re part of the organization.
“They’re not left alone to deal with things on their own. If the Family’s happy, if things are being taken care of on the home front while the Soldier is deployed, the Soldier feels better about leaving their Family,” he explained. “They’re never going to feel totally great about it, but they’ll feel better with less stress and anxiety about it.”
Caswell said military and Family life consultants are available to train with FRG leaders on about 20 different subjects, ranging from dealing with stresses of deployments to preparing for reunions. FRG leaders pick topics and schedule subject matter experts to come to meetings and present classes for the Families.
Despite their potential, Murphy said an FGR is only as good as its volunteers.
“Volunteering is extremely important to an FRG – they cannot function without the strength of volunteers,” she explained. “There are many different jobs available within the FRG, with varying degrees of time required and responsibilities. Volunteering not only enhances job skills, but increases their work experience which is valuable for obtaining paid employment.
“It is never too late to get involved with your FRG, meet new people or give your time to help improve the Army quality of life,” Murphy said. “You should take the opportunity to get to know the other members within your FRG, especially key volunteers such as the FRG leader and key callers. Being proactive and taking the steps to become involved will enhance your growth experience during deployment.”
For more information about Family Readiness Groups, contact your local FRG leader. If you need help making contact with a group representative, call Murphy at 353-4374 or Caswell at 384-6736.