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What the Heck Is an FRG?

A Family Readiness Group helps keep spouses connected during a deployment.
A Family Readiness Group helps keep spouses connected during a deployment.

If you're new to the military world, you're probably wondering what an FRG is and what role it will have in your life. In fact, when we asked our readers about their FRG experiences, we found more than few seasoned spouses who weren't entirely sure what an FRG is or how to get involved with one.

Don't let that be you.

First, let's demystify the lingo. FRG stands for "Family Readiness Group," and it is the focal point of family readiness in the Army and the Navy.

In the Air Force, it's known as the Key Spouse program; the Marine Corps has the Family Readiness Program; and the Coast Guard has the Work-Life Program.

No matter what the name, the groups are all there to serve the same purpose: to keep you informed and supported during your spouse's time with a unit, especially during that unit's deployment.

FRGs became a central part of military life as the involvement in formal spouses' clubs began to decline. Without that organized, reliable support network, spouses needed a place to turn for information: When is the boat leaving? When do we need to be on base for the farewell? Who am I supposed to turn to for information about employment resources at our installation? How does the whole commissary thing work?

Military life can spawn more questions than you have the answers to, and that's why your FRG exists. While the details vary between branches, the mission is the same. The FRG is all about helping you navigate military life in your spouse's particular unit.

What an FRG Does

How your FRG operates will depend on which branch of service your spouse is in, but all of them will try to:

  1. Distribute any relevant command information to the family members of the unit.
  2. Act as a support and communication bridge between the command and the families of the unit.
  3. Help connect you to and advocate for the community resources at your disposal.
  4. Help you solve problems that arise while your spouse is affiliated with the command.
  5. Make you feel as ready, resilient and connected as possible.

A great FRG will get in touch with you, but because many are staffed by volunteer spouses balancing the same family and military stressors as you, you may find that you don't get contacted as quickly as you would like. If that happens to you, take the initiative to reach out and get connected.

Many FRGs are more than just support systems for deployments and training. They are social centers for a unit and offer lots of activities, mixers and events for the families and spouses in a unit. From networking opportunities to wine tastings and kids' days at the bowling alley, your FRG may offer a wide array of activities to try to appeal to all types of people.

Why You Should Get Involved

The one universal truth of all FRGs is that they are what you make of them. While you may walk into a unit with a fabulous, active FRG, you also may find yourself attached to one that has rumors of snooty, cliquey wives, or completely inactivity.

The only trick to making sure you have a good FRG is to be a part of what makes it worthwhile. Volunteer to serve as a treasurer, key spouse or welcome person. Take initiative to meet and befriend all the new spouses as they join the unit.

If there are events you wish your FRG would host, get involved and plan them. Be the change you want to see in your FRG, and don't give up. Chances are high that if you want something more of it, so do other spouses. Make it happen.

Because volunteer spouses play a key role in the success of a great FRG, there are plenty of ways to get involved with your group, no matter what your skill-set. Consider becoming the FRG leader, secretary, treasurer or a committee chairperson.

For example, in an Army FRG, there may be opportunities, depending on your unit, to be on the phone tree committee, phone tree point of contact, newsletter editor, special events committee, hospitality/welcome committee, publicity committee, fundraiser committee, and childcare committee. Contributing your time and energy to your FRG will not only help you feel connected to the other spouses in your unit, it will also help build a program that will help your peers navigate tough times ahead.

While the FRG exists to support you on the homefront, its importance to your service member cannot be undervalued either. Knowing that you have the support you need while you navigate the inevitable Murphy's Law moments during deployment will allow your spouse to stay mission-focused.

No matter how long you've been married to the military, you WILL have questions at some point that you need answered. Maybe you need to know about how to jointly file your taxes while your service member is deployed. Your child might get sick and end up on a non-formulary prescription you have to fight with Tricare to cover. You may have to PCS by yourself, get the kids enrolled in new schools, or find yourself struggling to cope if things get scary.

When that happens, the FRG is there to support you. When your service member knows that you are involved and have that support system in place before deployment, he or she can breathe a sigh of relief when gone. Getting involved in the FRG isn't just about you. It's about them, too.

Ready to join? Here's how.

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