Why can’t I find the same kind of camaraderie in my military Family Readiness Group that I found in the exercise group I joined a few years ago? The people aren’t all that different – most of us are Army wives and moms. And we all share a commonality much like we do in the FRG, though instead of rallying around family support we are gathered around health.
So why does one work so much better than the other for me?
Two years ago, I hesitantly went to my first group fitness class. I began this journey to get back in shape after having my two boys. After a few weeks of burpees, switch lunges and crunches I began to enjoy myself and the ladies around me. This was the first time in my life that I was surrounded by a group of women who were all in similar stages in life. And we all had similar goals -- to better our health and set a good example for our children about living a happy, healthy lifestyle.
So what makes this group different than other “military wives” groups?
This one is voluntary.
I found my fitness group through an internet search. I chose to give it a try and decided to become a paying member of the group. I didn’t join out of obligation or because it was the right thing to do for my husband’s career – I joined for me. True, I want to get my money’s worth if I have paid; but there is another draw, another aspect that pulls me out of bed in the hot, in the cold, in the wind – day in and day out – to push myself to exercise.
Thanks to this group I really understand camaraderie for the first time. This is the type of camaraderie my husband talks about – a bond that pushes me to do my best, to support my friends, the girls “to my left and to my right” as my husband would say when talking about his Ranger buddies. I am not saying that my exercise group is the same caliber as the military. My excerise group members do not lay down their lives for each other.
But you know what we do? We offer an amazing and supportive atmosphere for one of the most overlooked groups in the military -- the supporters, the wives of those soldiers who do lay down their life for this country.
We have successfully built this camaraderie because we are all on a level playing field. There is no rank among us – this isn’t about the military. We strive to be good at fitness, great mothers, and friends. We have healthy competition between us that drives us to perform better and at the end of the day, we are all proud. We are proud of the woman next to us for her accomplishments, proud of ourselves for working as hard as we can, and proud of the group as a whole because we are a team.
Is there a way to copy the camaraderie we feel as an exercise group to family support or military spouse groups? For some people, maybe. But just like if you were to force women to participate in our fitness club, the enjoyment level would go down, spouse groups will never work for every single person.
My fitness group is my voluntary, guilt-free military spouse support. And that’s OK.