The saving grace to the newbie or not spouse, however, is that you won’t be alone. And, if you choose to be an active member of a Family Readiness Group (FRG), you may find that all your military life experiences, good and/or less than ideal, are all the richer for it.
Interested to know more? Read on for the basic have to know details.
A long time ago, in a military far, far away (certainly before the Internet) if you wanted to know what was going on in your spouse’s unit, you had to have an “in.” You had to know someone or know someone who knew someone to learn all the important details potentially affecting your life.
The First Sergeant or the Commander’s wives were usually the best venues for such valuable information, if you could manage to establish a relationship with them in the first place. The better your relationship with one or both, the more privy you were to the unit’s dirty details.
Thankfully, those covert days ended and information itself became more fluid for military families thanks to what we know today as Family Readiness Groups (FRGs).
According to the Army FRG Leader's Handbook, the Family Readiness Group, formerly known as the Family Support Group (FSG) until June 2000, were first formally organized among Army families who saw the benefit in joining together in times of war, overseas duty assignments or other isolated duty stations with the basic idea to provide information, moral support and social networking opportunities.
Because of its effectiveness and popularity (and just maybe because we are a nation at war), it is no longer just an Army program but has been adopted by all the services.
It has been, in a word, successful.
Members of FRGs include married and unmarried service members, spouses and other family members, civilians, community volunteers, extended families, fiancées, retirees and significant others.
In theory, and more times than not in practice, FRGs are all about keeping the lines of communication flowing in a given unit throughout its mission, be it at home or deployed. Providing genuine family support when and where it is needed is at the very heart of the purpose of an FRG.
In a perfect world, they offer support and outreach, promote unit and family member involvement and prevent you from feeling all alone when your significant other is living large far away from home or working 24/7 in support of those who are.
Serving a multitude of functions, FRGs may exist as a referral venue and many organize and host social events for fun and networking purposes.
While they are designed to ensure family readiness (and likewise mission readiness), well run FRGs end up being so much more as the people you meet often become your own extended family, where friendships formed are lasting and true.
The actual success of an FRG depends on the level of commitment provided to it by the command, the family member and civilian volunteers who make it up. No two FRGs may be exactly alike in practice.
Some offer classes, workshops and volunteer recognition. FRGs often organize unit send-off and welcome home festivities. They may meet regularly and offer unit newcomers a structured sponsorship and orientation program.
Bluntly put, some are better run than others.
To be clear, you are not required to participate in your unit’s FRG. It is a good idea however, to do so. You may even consider a leadership role within the group as well. Not only is this a good idea for the unit as a whole, but it doesn’t hurt your resume either.
Now you know, in theory, what the purpose is of an FRG. In future columns, we’ll hear directly from FRG leaders and volunteers. We’ll learn how to enhance your own FRG experience by how to avoid or diffuse destructive behaviors within your unit’s group. We’ll hear about the great ideas used by some FRGs and how you can help your own unit accomplish similar successes.