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Family Readiness Groups – the FRG! (cue the scary music)

June 17, 2010

Alright – Everyone with a horror story about FRGs, right hand up. Everyone with a story about the great stuff that happened in an FRG , left hand up. Wow, lots of “touchdown” hands there, folks!

All of us, and oh boy, am I including myself in this, have the horror story about the awful leader, or the catty spouses, or the lies spread to the guys downrange, the stupid meetings with the dumb games, the lack of anything to do for those with/without kids… there are as many of these stories as there are military spouses. No, I’m not asking y’all to share those with us right now… we’ll open a “get THIS one” page, ok?

BUT, there are as many of us who remember the good things from FRGs, great cookie baking/care package packing parties, with laughter and stories and a little vino maybe thrown in; or the chance meeting with someone who really needed to talk, or was there to listen; or the phone calls just checking on you during deployment [thanks, Mary]

So the latest incarnation of the uber rank conscious/rank pulling abusive FRG leader out of Fort Bragg has started this discussion, again. On Facebook, on various blogs – the questions are flying. What is the FRG for? Who should run it? Are FRSAs working out the way we were told they would? I’m not going to even try to answer these questions. I will say that, from what I’ve seen in both Guard and Active FRGs, it depends on the command. If Command cares, the FRG flourishes. If Command is just checking the box on the evaluation form, the FRG either becomes moribund or self destructs in a giant flurry of hurt feelings, tears, anger, recriminations and now – the news and Army Times.

Is this, maybe, the big scandal that will cause actual change to happen? Is airing our dirty laundry for all civilians to see as well, a wake up call for leadership? Is this what it takes to make the “powers that be” wake up and realize that FRGs, for all their great intentions, are being run by the volunteers who have gone through one deployment too many, funded by cupcakes sales to ourselves? Do we want either paid personnel, spouses of veterans who’ve “been there, done that”, or to keep relying on the volunteers who are sometimes eager and willing to take on the challenge? For some units, would it be better to have a leadership group, not just one person on whom it all ends up falling, and should we get away from the “commander’s spouse” exemplar.

I’ve got a lot of questions, but I will agree with Sue Hoppin; let’s not forget that for all their faults, there have been great FRGs, great FRG leaders (yes, Mary, that’s you) who care about the spouses and families that are part of the unit, and who work tirelessly for those families, within the bureaucracy that has overburdened them with rules, regs and requirements. If you are an FRG leader, a Key Volunteer, ombudsman, stand up, take a bow. We appreciate you! BUT – if you see that you are uncomfortably close to being the Col’s wife in the Ft. Bragg story or Lenore in ArmyWives, step back, step aside. Let the FRG be lead by the person who wants to help, no matter his or her spouse’s rank or leadership in the unit; not to enhance his or her own ego or “assist” the servicemember they are married to.

Right – there’s my take on this latest kerfuffle – what do you think? Any solutions, suggestions?

LAW

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Wishful Bohemian permalink
    June 17, 2010 8:30 am

    My co-leader and I are the wives of E6’s – due to: 1) lack of command spouses over the last two years and 2) no one else would do it. We’ve been SO LUCKY that our BN-level advisors and fellow company FRG leaders have been generous, helpful, so completely lacking in rank-awareness that I sometimes forget who their husband’s are! (Which is good, because my co-leader and I are both new to this and we need all the help we can get!)

    You’re right about command affecting the overall tone – as evidenced by our bachelor commanders who were checking the boxes. But I think my FRG is proof positive that willing volunteers can and should be used in the capacity that needs them, even the inexperienced ones. I don’t have a lot of FRG-specific experience, but Information Distillation and Dissemination happens to be the one thing I’m really good at! I don’t think I can speak intelligently on the rest, because my experience IS so limited (for instance, the only FRSA I’ve ever worked with has been a walking data base of info, and friendly and gregarious to boot), but I agree that old hierarchal attitudes are probably more detrimental than anything else right now. Everyone keeps saying how this war – this Army – is different. Why would the “same” FRG be helpful?

  2. June 19, 2010 10:32 pm

    I agree with you! I’ll spare you my FRG leader from hell story but will share that the three we had before that were absolutely incredible. I think it made our last one seem even that much worse by comparison.

    It is a shame that some FRGs turn down perfectly good volunteers based on rank or some other completely useless metric. But that said, I wholeheartedly believe that FRGs should be judged individually. Just because your last one sucked doesn’t automatically mean the next one will too.

  3. Mad Dawg permalink
    July 21, 2010 6:02 am

    My unit used to have a great FRG. I’m not saying this just because my wife was the FRG Leader/Representative, but because I made it extremely clear to her that she does not wear my rank, I work with all the spouses hubands and to try and involve everyone who comes, to make the wives who stay at home want to show up to the meetings instead of dreading them.

    One of the things about my rank, I’m an E-4. Problem #1 solved. Our treasurer is the wife of an E-3, and our secretary is the spouse of an E-2.

    We live in Korea, and command sponsorship has just started getting big over here, so a majority of the soldiers here didn’t bring their families. My CO came by himself, as well as a majority of our leadership from Battery level on up.

    Recently, we went through the yearly change of command to another great Commander, and he brought his family with him. All the married soldiers were pretty stoked that he wouldn’t have us work too late anymore, cuz he had his family here, too.

    Anyways, His wife joined the FRG and has had some pretty good ideas, but lately it’s become a bit of a power struggle. She consistently uses the phrases,
    “What Captain X wants, Captain X will get.”

    “This isn’t a democracy, you guys can’t vote on anything.”
    “The Commander wanted to give a gift to all the families and soldiers, so here’s the bill so the FRG can pay us back, we already bought the items.”

    It reminded me of the situation at Fort Bragg. Overseas, the single and geographic Bachelors have BOSS, whereas the Families have FRG, which is the way it’s been told to me by Majors and First Sergeants. They don’t believe the FRG should ever spend money on ‘Just’ the soldiers. If it was a co-sponsored event, I don’t think they’d have a problem, but it was said at the last meeting that ‘The Commander’ wanted to get coffee and donuts for the soldiers one day in the future.

    Is that allowed? I thought that’s what Unit funds were for? Before the Commanders spouse got involved, if a fund raising idea or a gift idea(For Anniversaries/Birthdays/Births etc.) would be put out by someone, the FRG group voted and if it passed, the commander was right there on the spot to give it his support or not.

    The CO’s wife shows up in his stead, speaking for him. Again, with her ‘intimate’ knowledge of what the Captain wants, she says tis is how it is, and this is how the FRG money will be spent.

    Is there any way to know if she over steps her bounds, any documentation other than the FRG Leaders Handbook that can help guide it away from a One Woman Show and back to the nice functioning little group it was?

    Out o the 20 or so Command Sponsored soldiers that we have in our unit, only 4 are above E-5. My wife loved working for the FRG, but lately, she’s just been getting upset and wanting to quit.

    DO any of you have any suggestions about what I can do to keep my wife involved? It’s one of the few things she’s able to actively participate in over here, since she’s unable to get a job because of the SOFA laws.

  4. Carol Robbins permalink
    August 15, 2010 12:21 am

    Help! I was the FRG leader for our Battery for a few months bc of lack of vols. I loved it. Once we got a new 1SGT his wife decided she wanted to be in my position. The way she went about getting there was very immature and now she is ruining our FRG. Is there a way for the other POC’s and I to “overthrow” her. Possibly get her relieved of her position? I have been hunting for a pub on the FRG and can’t seem to find it. Our BC (CO) is not active like he should be and could really care less about the FRG and how well its functioning. My soldiers have been deployed since April and bc of our leader we have not been able to send them any care packages as a group bc she wont organize it and bc of my history with her she is pretty much trying to cut me out of helping (but im not letting her..lol) Does anyone have any suggestions.. I could use the help! BOLDSTEEL

  5. Ruth permalink
    November 8, 2010 12:48 am

    HELP!!!!! I am trying (and have been for the past 5 years) to be involved in, what I’m finding to be, a non existant FRG. Oh wait, maybe I misspoke since the Family Readiness box is checked on the paperwork it means there is one. I’m just not privy to it I guess. I have spent the last 2 consecutive battle assemblies at my husband’s unit to express my interest in becoming our unit’s FRG Leader only to be met with a response from command that it is “not high on the list of priorities”. I am so frustrated with the entire thing. I have called, emailed, typed letters to the command, met in person and sent messages through my spouse but nothing seems to help….not even raising the issue of AR 608-1 (the Army regulation governing the managing and funding of the Family Readiness Group). I’ve been studying. I really would like to know what my options are at this point when the unit command doesn’t seem to be interested in the families that belong to the unit. As a reserve unit, are we under a different set of regulations or is it Army wide that they must follow AR 608-1? Any info pointing me in the right direction would be oh so appreciated.

  6. Anna permalink
    June 30, 2011 2:34 pm

    I would be willing to help answer any of these questions. Please email me at raours@frontiernet.net. I am a seasoned FRG leader, who may not always have the answers, but I do know where to look. As a FRG leader, I have to say I’m so sorry for all of you who have had the “horror” stories. I remember when I took over for my last unit, that one of the Soldiers asked me not to call his parents and tell them he had died!! That’s not even in our lane!!
    As a FRG leader, one of our toughest struggles is to remind the Soldiers and family members that the FRG is an important part of the unit. It’s our job to educated family members, and by family members I mean spouses, parents, siblings, significant others (ect), how to be self sufficient while their Soldier is deloyed, But they also need to be aware that the FRG is not “just for deployement”. In the same way a Soldier wouldn’t train for a couple months before a mission, a family member can’t learn all they need to know in that same time frame. My favorite saying: Soldier Readiness+Family Readiness =Unit Readiness

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