Army Needs to Reevaluate FRGs

I hope the military is still lurking on my blog (thanks for that temporary spike in traffic, BTW), because I have something to say.

You need to reevaluate the Family Readiness Groups.

Ultimately, when you rely purely on volunteers, you are going to get uneven results–which is disheartening and unfair to those who not getting the good results.

True, spouses are theoretically adults (although we have a few show up who are 16-19). Still, supporting the spouse supports the mission AND improves retention rates. You want that guy to re-up? Convince his wife first.

This is no longer the 1950s. Not all commanding officers are married. Those who are often have wives who do not have the time or interest to run an FRG. Not to mention some commanders are now women–and, sorry but its true, male spouses just do not get as involved with the FRG.

Technically, the FRG is the commander’s responsibility. He is supposed to select someone to run the group. Assuming he is unmarried or his wife is not available/interested, though, who does he ask?

Obviously the 1st Sgt’s wife, since he is your right hand man and he can update his wife on all of the necessary information from the Company side.

What if she is not available? Hit up the Lieutenant’s and Platoon Sergeant’s Spouses.

Okay, they aren’t available either (or do not exist…most of the Lt’s in our Battalion are fresh out of college).

So, what, you ask? After all, your husband’s rank has nothing to do with you, right? Right. Except that the key information (especially during deployment) comes from the officers/senior NCOs and you get a lot better information out of someone if you are married to that person.

Also, the volunteers are doing this for the spouses and the warm fuzzy of helping people…but ultimately the FRG is the commander’s responsibility. If the FRG leader is not your wife or the wife of a good friend, well…it is harder to expect her to be accountable to you or even care if you look good or not.

So, now what?

Now you are put in a position where you need to locate a spouse who is (A) available; (B) mature; and (C) actually wants to do this (as opposed to is intimidated because of your status as his or her spouse’s commander).

In case you haven’t noticed, rare is the talented, educated go-getter today who does not have interests and obligations outside of his or her spouse’s career. Such creatures exist, but you have to be lucky to find one in a random handful of people.

Not to mention, assuming you find a person who fits the bill, you will have a big responsibility to make sure the lines of communication are open. I cannot even count the times I’ve heard someone complain that their FRG has not contacted them. Well, it is hard for the FRG to contact the spouses if we are not given the spouses’ contact information. Our FRG had to spy, bribe, and cajole to get that info. This is ridiculous. That information should automatically be updated for the FRG leader when new soldiers inprocess…

Okay, so you’ve located the right person for the job. You e-mail that person every week. This can work.

Except that person is now commiting a MINIMUM of 20 hours a month if you have good volunteers. BARE MINIMUM. Most FRG leaders probably spend about 40-50 hours a month, even with a co-leader helping out.

Now, let’s think about other volunteer organizations. Other volunteer organizations (United Way, Habitat for Humanity, etc.) have a PAID STAFF that uses volunteers for specific tasks.

So, the military tested a program this year (at least at this post) with a paid assistant for every Brigade–a civilian. Unfortunately, they did not provide a list of what she could and could not do for us…despite our repeated requests. No doubt future funding will not be approved because the program was “under utilized.”

So, here’s what you need to do, if you are listening:

1. Assign a member of Rear D (not the commander, but preferably a junior officer or senior NCO) to be in charge of the FRG at the Battalion level. This soldier will be accountable to the commander and organize monthly meetings, publish and mail a monthly newsletter, manage the FRG account, and coordinate the volunteer efforts–volunteers can host socials, bring food to meetings, make carepackages, plan kids activities, write articles for the newsletter, fundraise, etc.

2. If a soldier submits paperwork in regards to having a spouse, that information needs to be automatically communicated to the FRG Battalion Liason. That person will make initial contact with each spouse. If that spouse would like FRG contact, that spouse’s contact information will then be passed on to the spouses’ group.

There. Problem Solved. Next!!!

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25 comments

  1. Household6 says:

    FRSA – Family Readiness Support Assistant are actually good things. Your FRSA was given a Position Description, it would have been BN’s issue if they didn’t let you ask her or him for help. The FRSAs were a great help here in Germany. She made the most contact since the Rear-D did absolutely nothing for the families.

    Our FRG leader did a great job considering she has a 4 year old and works fulltime. She called us personally about once a quarter. Otherwise we heard mostly by email from our key callers.

    The only problem with making a soldier do FRG coordination is that its not their normal function. Yes its the Commanders responsibility to take care of the families but it is outside the soldier’s regular duty.

    I can recommend that you ask BN what her PD says she can and can’t do as well as ask them to either have a sensing session at the end of the deployment or as an FRG turn in your own AAR (After Action Report).

  2. Household6 says:

    FRSA – Family Readiness Support Assistant are actually good things. Your FRSA was given a Position Description, it would have been BN’s issue if they didn’t let you ask her or him for help. The FRSAs were a great help here in Germany. She made the most contact since the Rear-D did absolutely nothing for the families.

    Our FRG leader did a great job considering she has a 4 year old and works fulltime. She called us personally about once a quarter. Otherwise we heard mostly by email from our key callers.

    The only problem with making a soldier do FRG coordination is that its not their normal function. Yes its the Commanders responsibility to take care of the families but it is outside the soldier’s regular duty.

    I can recommend that you ask BN what her PD says she can and can’t do as well as ask them to either have a sensing session at the end of the deployment or as an FRG turn in your own AAR (After Action Report).

  3. Household6 says:

    FRSA – Family Readiness Support Assistant are actually good things. Your FRSA was given a Position Description, it would have been BN’s issue if they didn’t let you ask her or him for help. The FRSAs were a great help here in Germany. She made the most contact since the Rear-D did absolutely nothing for the families.

    Our FRG leader did a great job considering she has a 4 year old and works fulltime. She called us personally about once a quarter. Otherwise we heard mostly by email from our key callers.

    The only problem with making a soldier do FRG coordination is that its not their normal function. Yes its the Commanders responsibility to take care of the families but it is outside the soldier’s regular duty.

    I can recommend that you ask BN what her PD says she can and can’t do as well as ask them to either have a sensing session at the end of the deployment or as an FRG turn in your own AAR (After Action Report).

  4. Household6 says:

    FRSA – Family Readiness Support Assistant are actually good things. Your FRSA was given a Position Description, it would have been BN’s issue if they didn’t let you ask her or him for help. The FRSAs were a great help here in Germany. She made the most contact since the Rear-D did absolutely nothing for the families.

    Our FRG leader did a great job considering she has a 4 year old and works fulltime. She called us personally about once a quarter. Otherwise we heard mostly by email from our key callers.

    The only problem with making a soldier do FRG coordination is that its not their normal function. Yes its the Commanders responsibility to take care of the families but it is outside the soldier’s regular duty.

    I can recommend that you ask BN what her PD says she can and can’t do as well as ask them to either have a sensing session at the end of the deployment or as an FRG turn in your own AAR (After Action Report).

  5. Household6 says:

    FRSA – Family Readiness Support Assistant are actually good things. Your FRSA was given a Position Description, it would have been BN’s issue if they didn’t let you ask her or him for help. The FRSAs were a great help here in Germany. She made the most contact since the Rear-D did absolutely nothing for the families.

    Our FRG leader did a great job considering she has a 4 year old and works fulltime. She called us personally about once a quarter. Otherwise we heard mostly by email from our key callers.

    The only problem with making a soldier do FRG coordination is that its not their normal function. Yes its the Commanders responsibility to take care of the families but it is outside the soldier’s regular duty.

    I can recommend that you ask BN what her PD says she can and can’t do as well as ask them to either have a sensing session at the end of the deployment or as an FRG turn in your own AAR (After Action Report).

  6. I’m trying to keep things general because (A) I don’t want to pick on anyone who isn’t “here” to defend themselves; (B) You never know who is “listening”; and (C) I really believe it isn’t individuals that are the problems…I think it is an institutional issue.

    We’ve asked EVERYONE for a job decription. The FRSA (ours is a different title, but it sounds like a similar position), the Battalion CO, the Read D CO, the Brigade FRG advisor…etc., ad nauseum.

    Without going into detail, it just has not been a resource for us.

    We were told that the position would not be continuing anyway…but I just saw an add for another one.

    Basically, one big brick wall.

    That’s great that yours has been helpful…I wish I could say the same…but the program is neither universal (my understanding is ours was just temporarily funded) nor consistent. That’s really what the FRG program is missing in general–consistency across the post and units. Our company FRG leader has worked so hard…but I’ve seen other companies suffer because of no available family leadership.

    The AAR is a whole ‘nother can of worms.

    As to my suggestion about having an FRG liason–I know that soldiers are not currently responsible for FRGs…it was a suggestion as to the direction the Army needs to move if it is serious about Family Readiness.

    Edited By Siteowner

  7. I’m trying to keep things general because (A) I don’t want to pick on anyone who isn’t “here” to defend themselves; (B) You never know who is “listening”; and (C) I really believe it isn’t individuals that are the problems…I think it is an institutional issue.

    We’ve asked EVERYONE for a job decription. The FRSA (ours is a different title, but it sounds like a similar position), the Battalion CO, the Read D CO, the Brigade FRG advisor…etc., ad nauseum.

    Without going into detail, it just has not been a resource for us.

    We were told that the position would not be continuing anyway…but I just saw an add for another one.

    Basically, one big brick wall.

    That’s great that yours has been helpful…I wish I could say the same…but the program is neither universal (my understanding is ours was just temporarily funded) nor consistent. That’s really what the FRG program is missing in general–consistency across the post and units. Our company FRG leader has worked so hard…but I’ve seen other companies suffer because of no available family leadership.

    The AAR is a whole ‘nother can of worms.

    As to my suggestion about having an FRG liason–I know that soldiers are not currently responsible for FRGs…it was a suggestion as to the direction the Army needs to move if it is serious about Family Readiness.

    Edited By Siteowner

  8. I’m trying to keep things general because (A) I don’t want to pick on anyone who isn’t “here” to defend themselves; (B) You never know who is “listening”; and (C) I really believe it isn’t individuals that are the problems…I think it is an institutional issue.

    We’ve asked EVERYONE for a job decription. The FRSA (ours is a different title, but it sounds like a similar position), the Battalion CO, the Read D CO, the Brigade FRG advisor…etc., ad nauseum.

    Without going into detail, it just has not been a resource for us.

    We were told that the position would not be continuing anyway…but I just saw an add for another one.

    Basically, one big brick wall.

    That’s great that yours has been helpful…I wish I could say the same…but the program is neither universal (my understanding is ours was just temporarily funded) nor consistent. That’s really what the FRG program is missing in general–consistency across the post and units. Our company FRG leader has worked so hard…but I’ve seen other companies suffer because of no available family leadership.

    The AAR is a whole ‘nother can of worms.

    As to my suggestion about having an FRG liason–I know that soldiers are not currently responsible for FRGs…it was a suggestion as to the direction the Army needs to move if it is serious about Family Readiness.

    Edited By Siteowner

  9. I’m trying to keep things general because (A) I don’t want to pick on anyone who isn’t “here” to defend themselves; (B) You never know who is “listening”; and (C) I really believe it isn’t individuals that are the problems…I think it is an institutional issue.

    We’ve asked EVERYONE for a job decription. The FRSA (ours is a different title, but it sounds like a similar position), the Battalion CO, the Read D CO, the Brigade FRG advisor…etc., ad nauseum.

    Without going into detail, it just has not been a resource for us.

    We were told that the position would not be continuing anyway…but I just saw an add for another one.

    Basically, one big brick wall.

    That’s great that yours has been helpful…I wish I could say the same…but the program is neither universal (my understanding is ours was just temporarily funded) nor consistent. That’s really what the FRG program is missing in general–consistency across the post and units. Our company FRG leader has worked so hard…but I’ve seen other companies suffer because of no available family leadership.

    The AAR is a whole ‘nother can of worms.

    As to my suggestion about having an FRG liason–I know that soldiers are not currently responsible for FRGs…it was a suggestion as to the direction the Army needs to move if it is serious about Family Readiness.

    Edited By Siteowner

  10. I’m trying to keep things general because (A) I don’t want to pick on anyone who isn’t “here” to defend themselves; (B) You never know who is “listening”; and (C) I really believe it isn’t individuals that are the problems…I think it is an institutional issue.

    We’ve asked EVERYONE for a job decription. The FRSA (ours is a different title, but it sounds like a similar position), the Battalion CO, the Read D CO, the Brigade FRG advisor…etc., ad nauseum.

    Without going into detail, it just has not been a resource for us.

    We were told that the position would not be continuing anyway…but I just saw an add for another one.

    Basically, one big brick wall.

    That’s great that yours has been helpful…I wish I could say the same…but the program is neither universal (my understanding is ours was just temporarily funded) nor consistent. That’s really what the FRG program is missing in general–consistency across the post and units. Our company FRG leader has worked so hard…but I’ve seen other companies suffer because of no available family leadership.

    The AAR is a whole ‘nother can of worms.

    As to my suggestion about having an FRG liason–I know that soldiers are not currently responsible for FRGs…it was a suggestion as to the direction the Army needs to move if it is serious about Family Readiness.

    Edited By Siteowner

  11. Household6 says:

    Opps I hope I wasn’t picking on anyone either, at least it wasn’t my intention. I was trying to offer different avenues of where you might be able to get the PD. (or I am reading you wrong). These positions are temporarily funded, usually through GWOT funding. If its a GS position I can show you a public website to get the PD if you like.

    Yes you are right things are not consistent. Our FRSA was an asset as well as the FRG leader where our Rear D was not, but one unit over the hands of the FRSA & FRG leader were tied by the Rear D keeping the contact info under lock and key.

    If you haven’t had your AFAP confrence for the year yet, I suggest you put in this concern. (Army Family Action Plan). It would be a good point to bring up, especially since at least for Europe they tried to ease the volunteer burdon by hiring the FRSAs.

  12. Household6 says:

    Opps I hope I wasn’t picking on anyone either, at least it wasn’t my intention. I was trying to offer different avenues of where you might be able to get the PD. (or I am reading you wrong). These positions are temporarily funded, usually through GWOT funding. If its a GS position I can show you a public website to get the PD if you like.

    Yes you are right things are not consistent. Our FRSA was an asset as well as the FRG leader where our Rear D was not, but one unit over the hands of the FRSA & FRG leader were tied by the Rear D keeping the contact info under lock and key.

    If you haven’t had your AFAP confrence for the year yet, I suggest you put in this concern. (Army Family Action Plan). It would be a good point to bring up, especially since at least for Europe they tried to ease the volunteer burdon by hiring the FRSAs.

  13. Household6 says:

    Opps I hope I wasn’t picking on anyone either, at least it wasn’t my intention. I was trying to offer different avenues of where you might be able to get the PD. (or I am reading you wrong). These positions are temporarily funded, usually through GWOT funding. If its a GS position I can show you a public website to get the PD if you like.

    Yes you are right things are not consistent. Our FRSA was an asset as well as the FRG leader where our Rear D was not, but one unit over the hands of the FRSA & FRG leader were tied by the Rear D keeping the contact info under lock and key.

    If you haven’t had your AFAP confrence for the year yet, I suggest you put in this concern. (Army Family Action Plan). It would be a good point to bring up, especially since at least for Europe they tried to ease the volunteer burdon by hiring the FRSAs.

  14. Household6 says:

    Opps I hope I wasn’t picking on anyone either, at least it wasn’t my intention. I was trying to offer different avenues of where you might be able to get the PD. (or I am reading you wrong). These positions are temporarily funded, usually through GWOT funding. If its a GS position I can show you a public website to get the PD if you like.

    Yes you are right things are not consistent. Our FRSA was an asset as well as the FRG leader where our Rear D was not, but one unit over the hands of the FRSA & FRG leader were tied by the Rear D keeping the contact info under lock and key.

    If you haven’t had your AFAP confrence for the year yet, I suggest you put in this concern. (Army Family Action Plan). It would be a good point to bring up, especially since at least for Europe they tried to ease the volunteer burdon by hiring the FRSAs.

  15. Household6 says:

    Opps I hope I wasn’t picking on anyone either, at least it wasn’t my intention. I was trying to offer different avenues of where you might be able to get the PD. (or I am reading you wrong). These positions are temporarily funded, usually through GWOT funding. If its a GS position I can show you a public website to get the PD if you like.

    Yes you are right things are not consistent. Our FRSA was an asset as well as the FRG leader where our Rear D was not, but one unit over the hands of the FRSA & FRG leader were tied by the Rear D keeping the contact info under lock and key.

    If you haven’t had your AFAP confrence for the year yet, I suggest you put in this concern. (Army Family Action Plan). It would be a good point to bring up, especially since at least for Europe they tried to ease the volunteer burdon by hiring the FRSAs.

  16. I didn’t think you were picking on anyone…just explaining why I don’t want to go into details that might clarify the specific situation beyond the fact that it has not been helpful for us.

    I would like to see the PD (although it may be a moot point since the titles are slightly different and we’ve been “told” that the position is disappearing soon) out of curiousity. Does it SPECIFICALLY list what the FRSA can and cannot do? I saw a description when they sent out ads for additional positions, but they were very general.

    I am DEFINITELY planning to put this as an AFAP issue next year. I was a delegate last year and after seeing what it is all about, that was the first thing I thought of!

    There needs to be a total Army solution to this over-reliance on volunteers.

  17. I didn’t think you were picking on anyone…just explaining why I don’t want to go into details that might clarify the specific situation beyond the fact that it has not been helpful for us.

    I would like to see the PD (although it may be a moot point since the titles are slightly different and we’ve been “told” that the position is disappearing soon) out of curiousity. Does it SPECIFICALLY list what the FRSA can and cannot do? I saw a description when they sent out ads for additional positions, but they were very general.

    I am DEFINITELY planning to put this as an AFAP issue next year. I was a delegate last year and after seeing what it is all about, that was the first thing I thought of!

    There needs to be a total Army solution to this over-reliance on volunteers.

  18. I didn’t think you were picking on anyone…just explaining why I don’t want to go into details that might clarify the specific situation beyond the fact that it has not been helpful for us.

    I would like to see the PD (although it may be a moot point since the titles are slightly different and we’ve been “told” that the position is disappearing soon) out of curiousity. Does it SPECIFICALLY list what the FRSA can and cannot do? I saw a description when they sent out ads for additional positions, but they were very general.

    I am DEFINITELY planning to put this as an AFAP issue next year. I was a delegate last year and after seeing what it is all about, that was the first thing I thought of!

    There needs to be a total Army solution to this over-reliance on volunteers.

  19. I didn’t think you were picking on anyone…just explaining why I don’t want to go into details that might clarify the specific situation beyond the fact that it has not been helpful for us.

    I would like to see the PD (although it may be a moot point since the titles are slightly different and we’ve been “told” that the position is disappearing soon) out of curiousity. Does it SPECIFICALLY list what the FRSA can and cannot do? I saw a description when they sent out ads for additional positions, but they were very general.

    I am DEFINITELY planning to put this as an AFAP issue next year. I was a delegate last year and after seeing what it is all about, that was the first thing I thought of!

    There needs to be a total Army solution to this over-reliance on volunteers.

  20. I didn’t think you were picking on anyone…just explaining why I don’t want to go into details that might clarify the specific situation beyond the fact that it has not been helpful for us.

    I would like to see the PD (although it may be a moot point since the titles are slightly different and we’ve been “told” that the position is disappearing soon) out of curiousity. Does it SPECIFICALLY list what the FRSA can and cannot do? I saw a description when they sent out ads for additional positions, but they were very general.

    I am DEFINITELY planning to put this as an AFAP issue next year. I was a delegate last year and after seeing what it is all about, that was the first thing I thought of!

    There needs to be a total Army solution to this over-reliance on volunteers.

  21. Chaotic Mom says:

    I agree this is a tough issue. I’ve been around the military for 16+ years, have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Many FRGs (used to be FSGs…). I think each one is VERY unique, lead by the military and volunteer leaders. You can have two companies in a BN with very different FRGs, one great and one very pathetic. I don’t know if the need for an FRG should be reevaluated as much as the emphasis on the commander to make certain it’s meeting the needs of the family members.

    I’m working my tail off right now to assist the CREATION of FRGs in our newly formed unit. And I’m taking the good experiences I’ve had, along with the yucky times, to help form our groups with as positive an attitude as possible. And tons of GRATITUDE for the volunteers, too.

    And I look forward to having a FRSA for support, to help take off the burden of paperwork on my family-stretched time. Hopefully we’ll get a good FRSA, fingers crossed…

  22. Chaotic Mom says:

    I agree this is a tough issue. I’ve been around the military for 16+ years, have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Many FRGs (used to be FSGs…). I think each one is VERY unique, lead by the military and volunteer leaders. You can have two companies in a BN with very different FRGs, one great and one very pathetic. I don’t know if the need for an FRG should be reevaluated as much as the emphasis on the commander to make certain it’s meeting the needs of the family members.

    I’m working my tail off right now to assist the CREATION of FRGs in our newly formed unit. And I’m taking the good experiences I’ve had, along with the yucky times, to help form our groups with as positive an attitude as possible. And tons of GRATITUDE for the volunteers, too.

    And I look forward to having a FRSA for support, to help take off the burden of paperwork on my family-stretched time. Hopefully we’ll get a good FRSA, fingers crossed…

  23. Chaotic Mom says:

    I agree this is a tough issue. I’ve been around the military for 16+ years, have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Many FRGs (used to be FSGs…). I think each one is VERY unique, lead by the military and volunteer leaders. You can have two companies in a BN with very different FRGs, one great and one very pathetic. I don’t know if the need for an FRG should be reevaluated as much as the emphasis on the commander to make certain it’s meeting the needs of the family members.

    I’m working my tail off right now to assist the CREATION of FRGs in our newly formed unit. And I’m taking the good experiences I’ve had, along with the yucky times, to help form our groups with as positive an attitude as possible. And tons of GRATITUDE for the volunteers, too.

    And I look forward to having a FRSA for support, to help take off the burden of paperwork on my family-stretched time. Hopefully we’ll get a good FRSA, fingers crossed…

  24. Chaotic Mom says:

    I agree this is a tough issue. I’ve been around the military for 16+ years, have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Many FRGs (used to be FSGs…). I think each one is VERY unique, lead by the military and volunteer leaders. You can have two companies in a BN with very different FRGs, one great and one very pathetic. I don’t know if the need for an FRG should be reevaluated as much as the emphasis on the commander to make certain it’s meeting the needs of the family members.

    I’m working my tail off right now to assist the CREATION of FRGs in our newly formed unit. And I’m taking the good experiences I’ve had, along with the yucky times, to help form our groups with as positive an attitude as possible. And tons of GRATITUDE for the volunteers, too.

    And I look forward to having a FRSA for support, to help take off the burden of paperwork on my family-stretched time. Hopefully we’ll get a good FRSA, fingers crossed…

  25. Chaotic Mom says:

    I agree this is a tough issue. I’ve been around the military for 16+ years, have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Many FRGs (used to be FSGs…). I think each one is VERY unique, lead by the military and volunteer leaders. You can have two companies in a BN with very different FRGs, one great and one very pathetic. I don’t know if the need for an FRG should be reevaluated as much as the emphasis on the commander to make certain it’s meeting the needs of the family members.

    I’m working my tail off right now to assist the CREATION of FRGs in our newly formed unit. And I’m taking the good experiences I’ve had, along with the yucky times, to help form our groups with as positive an attitude as possible. And tons of GRATITUDE for the volunteers, too.

    And I look forward to having a FRSA for support, to help take off the burden of paperwork on my family-stretched time. Hopefully we’ll get a good FRSA, fingers crossed…

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