Archive for Resources

What to Expect When You Are Expecting a New Soldier: Ft. Benning Graduation (Ask Molly)

A Reader Asks:

Hi, I saw your blog you posted a while ago about being an army wife. I was looking on google to find information on family day and graduation. My fiance is in Ft Benning right now at basic. When do you first get to see them? While you are sitting in the stands or before that? And then after they are dismissed on family day, how long do we get to spend with them. Also, do they get to spend the night with us, or do they have to go back that night? Then after graduation the next day, do we get to spend the day with them? Or even a couple days? I hope you can answer my questions. I would really appreciate it. Feel free to say anything else also. Thank you

Like everything else with the military, your mileage may vary (YMMV). A lot depends on the AIT your husband is attending, when it starts, and the specific command.

I would not expect any overnight passes. However, I have heard tell of some soldiers receiving 36 hour passes following graduation when their AIT was not set to begin right away. Do not count on it though, most likely he will be in transit to AIT the day after graduation.

Soldiers with visiting adult family members will get day passes (meaning they have to be back that night) following both family day and graduation–please note, however, that to the Army you do not yet qualify as a “family member.” So, a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian would have to sign your soldier out.

You may want to read my experience of family day and graduation. I describe when I first saw him and how much time we had together and where we spent our family time. Keep in mind this was about five years ago and my husband was going on to an OCS class that did not start for a while. My guess, though, is that your family day and graduation ceremony experience will be very similar.

Visit military family forums, like the forums hosted by Military.com, and you may find someone with a more recent experience to relate.

In terms of advice, I would recommend getting a hotel room for at least both nights because you’ll probably want a private place to sit and relax and your soldier may even want a short nap. Ft. Benning has good, inexpensive lodging, (Ft. Benning Lodging) but sometimes it is difficult to reserve a room. They were in the process of renovating and the rooms they had already fixed up were quite nice–one time I got a room with a sitting room and efficiency kitchen. They do keep some rooms available for “day of” walk-ins, but you’ll want to make sure you have a back-up plan.

The key is to avoid staying on Victory Drive. Victory Drive is that unsavory main road that seems to be located near almost every military post. Don’t choose a hotel on Victory Drive and you should be fine.

I found the La Quinta in Columbus, GA, to be very adequate and one of the closer, decent but inexpensive choices. There are plenty of decent options off the highway a few exits north of the central Columbus area.

There is also a very nice Marriot, that does sometimes offer military rates, right in the small, historic center of Columbus, GA, and some bed and breakfast places if you are looking for something more luxe. However, keep in mind that there is a good chance your soldier will not be able to stay overnight with you.

Your soldier will probably be most interested in you, a nap, caffeine, and a good meal. Let him take the lead about how he’d like to spend his little bit of free time.

I’ll leave you with the official word from one of the Basic Training commands at Ft. Benning (I bolded some of the text):

Family Day
The day before graduation, normally Wednesday, the battalion commander meets with friends and family members at their unit to discuss your soldier’s recent experiences and answer your questions. You will also meet the drill sergeants that trained your soldier and observe some demonstrations of soldier skills. Most importantly, you will meet with your soldier.

That afternoon graduating soldiers with visiting adult family members (spouse, parents, grandparents or legal guardians) may receive an on-post pass on Family Day and following graduation until a time determined by the chain of command. While on pass soldiers must remain in uniform and are not allowed to drive vehicles, drink any form of alcoholic beverages or use any tobacco products.

Graduation Day
Graduation is the following day, usually on Thursday at Pomeroy Field. The ceremony is at 10:00 a.m. from October through March and 09:00 a.m. from April through September. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will take place at the Regimental Chapel and the time schedule may change to accommodate more than one ceremony.

Day After Graduation
The day after graduation soldiers will usually not be allowed to go on pass. This day is designated as a travel day for their follow on Advance Individual Training (AIT).

Class Schedule
Army Training Requirements and Resources System (ATRRS) manages class schedules.

* FY 2008
* FY 2009

Note: Graduation dates shown here are subject to change. Soldiers are afforded the opportunity to contact families with actual graduation dates/times for travel planning purposes.

Give us a Buzz!

I’m blogging on a new site for MilSpouses, courtesy of Military.com:

So come on by, give us a buzz!

Ideas for Deployment Pregnancies

I thought I would share some of the things that DH and I have done and some other ideas we’ve used to stay close through the pregnancy though we are separated by thousands of miles. There are lots of great sites for soldiers to stay in touch with their children, but few that I have found that talk about pregnancy.

Please add to this list in the comments, and I’ll update and put a permanent link up to the post on the main page:

For Momma:

  • E-mail or mail weekly pregnany updates, using a site like Storknet or Baby Center; add your own comments about how these summaries apply to your pregnancy.
  • Take a profile “belly picture” in shape-hugging clothing (such as workout clothes) or with bare belly (if you are comfortable with this) each week to show your growing belly. E-mail every week and/or assemble into a photobook once you are showing. DH says that it is like a “flip book” that shows my belly growing.
  • Place a large piece of paper on the wall and trace the outline of your belly every week. Once baby is born, decorate and send.
  • Keep a pregnancy journal or calendar and record important milestones–I felt baby kick for the first time!
  • Take video/photographs at important milestones in the pregnancy and/or holidays; e-mail to your soldier and also print and put in a photobook to send. If you live on or near post, ask around to see if an agency or your FRG will allow you to record and burn a DVD for free. We even had a vendor at a local mall offer this service for free at Valentine’s Day.
  • Involve Daddy in all of the big decisions!!!

For Daddy:

  • Record your voice (read your favorite children’s story or sing a song) so baby and Momma can listen to you and pretend you are close by.
  • Pregnant women use lots of pillows to get comfortable at night. Take two soft pillowcases and keep them close to you for a week (AFTER you shower, guys, not when you’ve just come back from a mission in 120 degree heat). Seal them in ziplock bags. One is for momma and the other is for baby if you are going to miss the birth.
  • Tell Momma some of the things you would do during pregnancy to pamper her, and provide suggestions/reminders as to how she can pamper herself–make sure you check your father-to-be books so you don’t suggest something that is off-limits or not advisable in large quantities during pregnancy (like a bottle of wine or deep tissue massage).
  • If you have ready internet access, consider sending mom something to help her take action on your suggestions: candles, pregnancy-safe herbal teas, a CD of relaxing tunes, a gift certificate to a local spa that offers pregnancy massages, comfy maternity pj’s, etc. If you aren’t sure what to send, try a site that has pregnancy gift baskets, or ask her friends who have also recently been pregnant. I’m sure they will be happy to help.
  • Write letters or keep a journal specifically for Momma and baby–something baby can read years later and know what you were doing while Momma was pregnant.
  • If writing isn’t your style, take photographs of yourself in various places and add thought bubbles about your positive feelings about the pregnancy. Make sure to date the photos.
  • Show an interest in, respond to, and ask questions about the information Momma is sending to you!!!

PSA: Remember to Check your Credit Annually

You may have heard about the theft of a computer from a VA employee, who had taken records home contrary to VA policy.

Originally the theft was thought to include the Social Security numbers of only Veterans. Recently, the news has reported that this information also includes active duty, guard, and reserve personnel.

So, ALL military personnel are urged to take measures to protect themselves from identity theft.

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!!!