FORT LEE, Va. (July 14, 2011) -- Family Readiness Groups are as diverse as the people and the mission they support. Far removed from the gossip galleries of yesterday, today's FRGs are supported by all levels of command and Army programs.
Fort Lee's FRGs cater to cadre families within the Training and Doctrine Command units at Combined Arms Support Command, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade, 59th Ordnance Brigade and the 71st Transportation Battalion. The 49th QM Group also has FRGs - although with a much different mission than others across the installation since its units deploy on a fairly regular basis.
When units deploy, like the 109th QM Company did from June 1, 2010, to June 1, 2011, the spouses banded together to fight the loneliness, the hardships of single-parenting and the long days of deployment. The FRG kept meeting places entertaining so they would be a treat and something to look forward to, said Trudy Hinton, 109th FRG leader.
"We'd meet over dinner at the Olive Garden or other places where we could enjoy ourselves and take a break from the pressures at home," she said. "The USO office helped out during the holidays providing crafting materials to decorate a stocking for each of the deployed members of the unit."
TRADOC units may not face the long months of deployment, but they are not without their challenges Gone are the campaign hats of drill sergeant duty but the long hours and unpredictable schedules remain.
Within Fort Lee's training units, the chores and demands of the household fall squarely on the shoulders of the spouse not tending to a demanding training schedule.
Tiffany Gallucci, the 266th QM Battalion FRG leader, credits active leadership with getting and keeping families and volunteers involved.
"Col. Johnny W. Sokolosky (commander, 23rd QM Bde.) and Lt. Col. Eric J. Sloughfy (commander, 266th QM Bn.) are active and make sure that each and every family member feels welcome and involved in our FRG," Gallucci said.
The battalion holds quarterly events that include holiday activities, fund raising and informational meetings, she said.
"We invite organizations from all over the installation to join us for our meetings," Galluci said. "We try and have Army Community Service, Child, Youth and School Services, Family Housing, and others join us so our members can get important information that is valuable to everyone, especially newcomers."
Vikorita Green, the FRG leader for CASCOM's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, credits the group's volunteers with their successes.
"We have great volunteers who understand FRG's history and importance, and are willing to give our FRG their time, work and support," Green said. "I am so thankful for their commitment and constant support."
FRGs today aren't limited to the phone trees that once served as the main line of communications between unit leaders and family members. Social media plays a big role in keeping families connected, said Green.
"Our FRG leverages social networking and the Army's Virtual FRG site where members can build avatars and meet in the café," she said. "We also utilize the Army's voice messaging system."
The automated system contacts members by telephone and informs them of meeting changes and any pertinent information between regularly scheduled meetings.
"Of course, we are still using old fashioned email and telephones," Green said.
Whether or not an FRG is active and successful greatly depends on the satisfaction of its members who are often the volunteers.
Hinton said her most challenging obstacle was the families that left the community during the deployment or requested not to be contacted by the FRG.
"It was difficult because I feel that besides being a way to keep families informed, the FRG can also be a great way to meet others in the same situation as well as build lasting friendships," she said.
Military spouses, although unquestionably strong, don't always experience an immediate connection when arriving at a new unit. Despite the best efforts and good intentions of all volunteers, some spouses fall through the cracks.
Kelly Fuewell, a family member in the 262nd QM Bn., has missed interacting with the FRG since her arrival two years ago. She said she would be a willing participant if she had information about upcoming FRG events and scheduled meetings.
"I miss getting together with other spouses to discuss common interests and family activities," she said. "I like to learn about the community and share information I have about the area."