Archive for Support

Don’t You Feel Special?

Apparently it is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. And here is one of the ways the Army is showing its appreciation:

Uppercasing ‘Families’ highlights support – Apr 24, 2007 – BY IMCOM-Europe Public Affairs

“The acting secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of the Army have emphasized that Army Families are a key component of our readiness,” noted Lieutenant General James L. Campbell in a recent message.

Army Families “shoulder a great burden of sacrifice, supporting their Soldier and often enduring long periods of separation from their loved ones,” Campbell said, adding that top-notch care and support of Army Families demonstrate “our sincere appreciation and gratitude for their many contributions.”

Therefore, Campbell directed that the word Families now be capitalized.

For the Army in Europe, this rule applies to all documents in various medium, not just correspondence, said Dwayne Viergutz, chief of Installation Management Command-Europe, document management branch. Examples include: briefing slides, executive summaries, forms, information papers, publications and Web sites.

The support bulletin board I visit is (rightfully so) laughing at this latest “PR” move. Let’s increase the length and number of deployments–but we’ll capitalize “Families,” so it is all good.

Seriously, do they even think before they put this out? Or are they trying to be funny? Really, with a few more sentences, this could be on The Onion (a satire weekly with fake “news”).

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!

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!!!

Free Food and an Award–and STILL they won't show up

Tonight we had the Brigade Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony. Last thing I need is another certificate and pin, but I went to honor the other ladies in our Battery and Battalion.

Of course, hardly anyone in our Battalion showed up–just a handful of others who, like me, already have volunteer of the month and/or year awards from the Division, and just came to honor the others.

At least the ceremony was brief and I got a different pin this time. They gave us a heart pin…to add to the Battalion, Brigade, and Division pins. I need to get a gold-toned charm necklace so I can wear them all without feeling like a soldier (with my resume pinned to my chest).

Ways to Support Our Troops

Friends and family often ask what they can do for me and DH. We appreciate their thoughts and prayers and are thankful that we are blessed with a wonderful support network.

While there are always things that might make DH’s deployment easier and more comfortable, both of us want for very little.

So, these offers of help always makes me think of the soldiers who do not have such a large, loving group of family and friends.

Remember that our troops are adults who volunteered (or at least re-enlisted or continued their commitment) during wartime. Even so, these warriors who fight for our nation deserve our support (regardless of our political beliefs).

The Soldier You Know

If you know a soldier, many soldiers are comforted by news from home, well wishes from friends and family, and images of their home town.

Take some pictures and get everyone to write a message on the back of the photograph. Gather up some local products that will ship well and send a care package.

If you do not know a soldier, there are programs that will match you with soldiers (such as Any Soldier or Soldier’s Angels).

Send Letters and Packages

Regardless of whether you are offering your support to an old friend or a new friend you found on a website, do not underestimate the value of a simple letter. Soldiers like to know that we are behind them and appreciate their loyalty and their sacrifices.

Postage is the same as sending anything to a domestic destination. Letters and packages tend to arrive more reliably (anecdotally) through priority mail. Priority mail is not much more costly than regular 1st class and can make the difference in your package arriving and arriving in a timely manner. Packages may take up to 20 days, but I spoke with a postal worker whose son is deployed and he said most packages arrive in 10-12 days.

Since some will want to send more, there are a number of websites that provide suggestions and possible theme ideas for CARE packages.

Iraq now has a number of P/X (Post Exchanges) that sell most of the items soldiers need. So, as per this article posted at The Patriette, sending specialty or local products is more in need now than razors and baby wipes. At the same time, some soldiers are not near a P/X and would still appreciate those essentials. Soldiers also share and any care package will be put to good use. When in doubt, just ask!

Pressurized items should not be sent through the mail and some items are prohibited to our troops in theater, such as alcohol or pornography.

Baking

For the bakers out there, Nestle has some Tips for Sending Baked Goods. Others suggest adding a slice of bread to absorb excess moisture and wrapping in tin foil. I’ve also heard that Pringles containers make for good packaging. I have bought a food sealer to use for our Family Readiness Group (FRG)–I am the co-leader.

Remember that chocolate does not survive well in the Middle East.

Agencies and Organizations That Help

If you are still unsure of what to purchase, USO Operation Care Package takes the guess work out of sending a care package. You donate money and they pack and ship and you can still send a personal message with your package.

If you have a company or an entire school or town who would like to maximize your donations, consider Adopting a Platoon.

Beyond the Mail

If Care Packages are not quite your cup of tea, there are a ton of other ways to help. Remember when donating to a charity to do your research:

Operation Hero Miles allows you to donate your unused airline miles so troops can fly home free and family members can visit wounded soldiers for free.

Valour-it provides wounded soldiers with voice-activated laptops while they are hospitalized.

The Fisher House is a home-away-from home for the families of seriously ill or injured soldiers receiving treatment.

Beyond Active Duty Troops

Please also do not forget the children of our fallen warriors and our veterans.

Donate to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or send a Valentine to Any Veteran.

Here are some more ways to help.

As you can see, whether you have prayers, time, or money to spare, there are a variety of meaningful ways to support our troops.

Updates:

Cell Phones For Soldiers: They hope to provide as many soldiers as possible with prepaid calling cards for now, with an ultimate goal of providing banks of satellite phones, video phones and VOIP communications. Through generous donations and the recycling of used cell phones from drop-off sites across the country, they have already distributed thousands of calling cards to soldiers in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.