I don’t buy it. It always frustrates me when I hear these infamous words from new families joining our unit: “I would get involved with the FRG, but I had a bad experience in the one we just came from.”
I just don’t buy it. I don't believe that one bad experience is enough to ruin the effectiveness of an entire organization. Because with every PCS, one of my main goals is to seek out and get involved with our new FRG (Family Readiness Group).
I guess this is because my very first experience with an FRG was positive. Our first duty station took us an ocean away from family and friends in Kaiserslautern, Germany. My husband’s Battallion Commander encouraged the importance of the FRG. In his experience, FRGs had bridged gaps in communication and strengthened relationships among families.
It didn’t hurt that the commander and his adorable wife made a great military duo. She served as FRG Leader and set the standard high about what to expect from an FRG and FRG Leader. For example, a week before my husband deployed, we received the news we were expecting our first child. This came as quite a shock to us, especially since we were told we would not be able to conceive.
That FRG Leader was the first to show empathy and compassion to our situation. She even accompanied me to my first ultrasound! I no longer felt alienated from family because she showed me I belonged to a bigger military family.
Both my husband and I see the value in having a solid, self-sustaining, and drama-free FRG. These organizations have the potential to carry the entire mission (i.e. positive Soldier and family morale equals healthy work and home environments).
Since I have the gift of gab, I have served as Newsletter Editor in every single unit to which we have been attached for the past eight years. I filled other vacant FRG positions as needed. The most rewarding job was FRG Leader. This was my chance to step up to the plate alongside my husband when he was in command.
I feel that direct communication should be laid out at the inaugural FRG meeting providing clear-cut expectations and goals from the leadership. That way "interpretation" does not rule the roost.
I urge the unwilling not to focus on a negative experience in the past, but to take a chance. Please get involved and give back. I believe that our military families carry the brunt of the hard work on their backs, but let the FRGs carry out their mission and lighten the load.
Take a breath and realize what the FRG was designed to do: provide guidance and assistance to families, not host gossip groups. Sort through your personal hang-ups and get to work – step up and fill a need in your FRG…you just might make a lifelong friend and find inspiration to do more!
Sara Jane Arnett is an Army Spouse stationed in Ft. Eustis, VA and mother of three rambunctious boys. She is the author of the recently released children's book My Daddy's a Soldier and has been a featured speaker at numerous military organizations, events and schools. She serves on Operation Homefront of the Virginias Advisory Board and is a contributing writer for the Military Newspapers of Virginia and The Oyster Pointer. Arnett’s professional career includes working for the United States Peace Corps, American Heart Association and the Red Cross. In 2011, she was selected as the “Heroes At Home” Military Spouse of the Year. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership through Regent University.