FORT LEE, Va. (April 27, 2017) -- Nearly 40 Fort Lee spouses assembled for a full day of informative workshops and activities during a first-of-its-kind Spouses Leadership Forum April 19 at the Army Logistics University.

Frenchi Watts Kemp, Army Family Team Building program manager, along with Army Community Service staff members and AFTB volunteers organized the forum. The event offered a free lunch and attendees received a handbook “The Once Over Lightly,” which teaches practical military protocol.

The forum started with an ice breaker activity and, afterward, spouses chose which breakout session they wanted to attend. Topics included military family preparedness, customer and courtesies at social functions; master resiliency training, volunteerism, and hunting the good stuff – a promotional program related to Army Resiliency efforts.

At the end of the breakouts, spouses presented questions to a panel of senior spouses. The senior members were Myra Williams, Pamela Bartee, Janie Fogg, Stacy Myers, Camille Davis and Nikki McMillan.

The first question brought up was whether it’s appropriate to network with senior spouses in your service member’s command group – for example, asking for references for job interviews?

The responses varied. One panel member said they must know the individual on a personal level. Another spoke of a Family Readiness Group leader who oversaw their work and had personal knowledge of skills through the FRG. It was fine for them to write a reference letter based on what they knew.

Susan Loden, Army Volunteer Corps coordinator, ACS, asked the group what they learned from the customs and courtesy class, and if anything surprised them.

Williams mentioned a time during an indoor ceremony when she was confused about saluting the flag. She wasn’t sure if she was supposed to stand at attention or cover her heart with her hand.

“They just stood there, and I’m thinking ‘do I put my hand over my heart or just stand here like everyone else.’ I didn’t know what to do. I was worried someone would be watching me and saying, ‘you didn’t salute!’ I had a debate with another senior spouse if we should or not. If you’re not sure, it is best to cover yourself and to make sure you are never wrong by asking.”

Bartee said she always looks at her spouse and if he salutes, she salutes by covering her heart.

Fogg spoke on a time when someone corrected her publicly on what side to wear a nametag and it offended it her. The way they handled it was wrong, she said.

“If you have a choice of being right about something or being kind, always choose to be kind.” Fogg said. “Always treat people with respect and kindness. If correcting a spouse over nametag placement or what fork to use, they may not ever come back again if they feel like they’re being insulted. We always want to feel welcomed, whatever their wealth of knowledge is. We want you to feel valued as a human being just the way we want to feel.”

Preparing for retirement and transition from enlisted to officer were among other topics discussed.

The panel stressed to the guests about getting involved and giving the Fort Lee Army Spouses Club a chance.

Bartee also said to the spouses, “Fort Lee is a great place to learn everything you need to know. Take advantage of the FLASC because you can learn a lot. If you are planning on staying in the military, take advantage of all the classes ACS provides. You might not get the same services at a bigger post, because you might be just a number on the wall. For people who are continuing their career, this is the best place to gain a lot of knowledge.”

Chanita Thompson attended the forum and said “it was an awesome opportunity to find out what protocol we are supposed to do in different events and what we are supposed to wear at semi-formal and formal events.

“It’s the little simple things that you don’t think about for example – what side to wear a nametag, which is on the right side,” she said. “I didn’t know that until today. Everything was great.”