Commander’s wife banned from brigade [EXCERPTS…Click Title for Full Article]
…The confrontation between Leslie Drinkwine and Jenio was emblematic of an environment within the 4th Brigade, particularly its family readiness group, that was so toxic that it triggered an investigation by a three-star general.
Leslie Drinkwine’s influence was “negative, divisive and harmful,” several FRG advisers told investigators.
What’s more, the investigation concluded that the 4th BCT’s commander, Col. Drinkwine — who told battalion commanders “my wife speaks for me” — was his wife’s “key enabler.” Col. Drinkwine not only failed to dispel the perception that his wife “held a level of authority that resembled command authority,” he worsened it, the investigation concluded.
The findings — accompanied by more than two dozen sworn statements many of which describe Leslie Drinkwine’s allegedly abusive manner and widespread use of her husband’s rank to harass and bully the brigade’s officers and their wives — led 18th Airborne Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick to ban Leslie Drinkwine from any and all contact with the FRG and the rest of the brigade.
In his sworn statement, Col. Drinkwine denies any wrongdoing by himself or his wife and attributes the FRG’s dysfunction to “the inability of a few ladies to work professionally with one another.” Leslie Drinkwine strongly denies her influence could affect careers and says that she “felt humiliated, her reputation defamed and slandered” by an earlier decision to remove her as FRG adviser.
Both Col. and Leslie Drinkwine declined to be interviewed for this story. […]
Now, I do not know any of the people involved. The letters section of the most recent Army Times includes several letters or online postings from people who claim to have known Mrs. Drinkwine and vouch for her as an ethical and concerned FRG leader. Without having been there, I can’t say whether or not the allegations are true. If they are, certainly the actions were completely inappropriate.
Without making any judgments in this particular situation, I wanted to give my community a chance to discuss some of the issues raised.
I have never heard a spouse threaten another spouse’s soldier’s career. However, I have heard from some spouses that they feel that their participation (or lack there of) as an FRG volunteer could affect their soldier’s career negatively.
There is also the issue of officers’ wives pulling rank. The only case I ever personally came across was when one of our key callers was screamed at by an NCO’s wife because, as the wife of “just a specialist” she had “no business” calling an NCO’s wife to share information. Again, however, I have heard plenty of second and third hand stories about officer’s wives who seem to think they have command authority.
I’ve also witnessed a conflict of personality between FRG leaders and a senior commander’s wife–but this was kept between these wives and did not spill over into the rest of the FRG or affect anyone’s career.
On the one hand, I think it is important to remember that FRG leaders are unpaid volunteers. They have demands placed on them from the command structure (who in turn have demands placed on them from their superiors) and the families. They work the equivalent of a part or full time job for free. Perhaps this sort of position attracts petty dictators but I would have to imagine that the majority volunteer because they care deeply about the family’s in their soldier’s unit.
The spouses of senior commanders also tend to be older and have more experience as military spouses. So, it is natural that they have some level of authority within the structure of the FRG–but this should not translate into command authority.
On the other hand, there is no excuse for the sort of nasty behavior alleged in the article.
I think that incidents like these argue for a professionalization of the Family Readiness Group. There should be Battalion level, paid FRG coordinators for any unit that has received deployment orders. Volunteers can help with making phone calls, writing articles for the newsletter, running bake sales, etc.
Have you ever encountered a spouse who has “pulled her husband’s rank”? How did you handle it? How can the military overhaul the FRG structure to make it more professional? (Please, do not use anyone’s full name in your comments…use pseudonyms or first names only.)