DH did not have much time to write at the beginning of OCS. His first few letters consisted of scribbles on whatever paper is available. I felt lucky that he took those few available minutes to write to me.
Still, I wanted more contact and more of a connection. So, I decided it was time for me to take on some responsibilities as the wife of a future Army officer.
I joined a discussion board for OCS grads, future candidates, and their families. They had separate forums for each class and I started to get to know some of the other women better. A woman whose husband was a career NCO involved with training another class was nice enough to post on our thread and offer support and information.
On this board, I learned about the Army’s “Family Readiness Groups” (aka FRGs). The FRG is supposed to facilitate communication for the families and help them become more independent–so the soldiers can concentrate on the mission. Each FRG has a leader (and in many cases, a co-leader) who coordinates FRG efforts. Traditionally the leader is the wife of the commander because she has the experience and she can get the necessary information from the commander.
Helping out AND quick access to information? That sounded perfect. I decided that I would love to become involved with the FRG. Even though I was in New York and the unit was at Ft. Benning, GA, I was sure there was something I could do to help.
A girlfriend of one of the other candidates was also interested in assisting the FRG leader, so, at the urging of the NCO’s wife, we nervously called the Captain who commanded the class.
As it turns out, the commander was not married. Only a handful of wives, those whose husbands would have further training at Benning after OCS and then be posted there, had moved to Georgia. There was no FRG leader to assist–if we wanted an FRG, we WERE the FRG.
The following months became an exercise in the blind leading the blind but we had tons of fun. We mainly communicated through e-mails and newsletters. A third woman (another girlfriend) joined us and we gave ourselves a crash course on Army life and did our best to communicate this information to the other family members.
We also served as a contact for the family members so the commander would not have to answer every single question. Since family members could not directly reach the officer candidates, we fielded a lot of concerns.
If we could take care of the issue we did. One mother, a retired officer, was upset that she was not getting news. We let her know that we would be sending regular newsletters on behalf of the commander.
If it was a non-emergency issue we could not handle, we passed the information onto the commander on a weekly basis.
If it was an emergency, we dealt with it as best we could. A candidate’s grandfather passed away and the family followed the correct procedures for reaching a soldier unavailable due to training or deployment in an emergency: they contacted the Red Cross. The Red Cross told the family that this was not enough of an emergency. I gave her the number for her local Red Cross and suggested she try again. Then I contacted the Commander. He was pretty steamed. He said that it was up to him to determine whether or not it was an emergency–the Red Cross is just supposed to pass along the message to him.
Some people we could not help. One thing we could not do was pass along news about individual candidates. Some family members, especially mothers, wanted information we simply could not give them.
Although this was a unique FRG, operating without a geographical base, I had a great first experience in my new role as an officer’s wife.