We PCS’d to our current duty station back in October and, at the time, I had high hopes of being part of an active FRG (Family Readiness Group). With JD’s unit deploying I just knew that they’d have all of their i’s dotted, t’s crossed, and be "squared away". I really believed that I’d arrive, JD would pass on our info, someone would call, and off I’d go. I would attend meetings/functions, volunteer when needed, and meet other spouses in JD’s unit.
That was, in reality, a fantasy. Nothing more. JD signed into his unit on Oct. 20th and would be here for almost two full months before deploying. His unit deployed in the last days of October, but he was in contact with Rear Detachment on a daily basis. He gave them my name and info on at least two occasions. I waited, somewhat patiently, since JD was still here and I was not yet alone. I did this against the advice of a very good (and wise) friend of mine who told me to be pro-active, pick up the telephone, contact Rear D, and make myself known. Sometimes we all need a little encouragement to be the "I am woman, hear me roar!" type and she gave me that. Temporarily, at least, as I still did nothing. I didn’t want to step on any toes or come off as pushy. I tend to have a loud bark behind closed doors, but I seldom have a bite.
Fast forward to December 13th. JD was leaving and we were at the gym saying our goodbyes. I still had not heard from anyone at his unit. It wasn’t until almost three hours after we said our goodbyes that my cell phone rang and JD was on the other end (in the flight line, ready to load the plane) hurriedly giving me the name and number of my FRG Leader. Now, I must say that I do believe he could have gotten this information for me earlier. However, I think that he, like I, really believed that someone would eventually call. Someone should have called.
Instead, I called her. I knew it was important for someone to know that I would be traveling over the holiday and how to contact me during this time. I left her a message and she called me back the next morning. She was very nice and apologized for not calling sooner. She simply did not know I was here. Her husband had taken command in late September and the unit was gone one month later. "It was a confusing time", is what I think she told me. Yeah, tell me about it.
See, I look at it like this. As soon as that Change of Command was officially complete, he (the commander) should have made a large effort to have his FRG in order. I realize that they were preparing for deployment, but with that said, that should have reinforced the importance of a solid FRG and information channel even more. Aside from the email she sent me that day, I have heard from her only once. And that was in response to my email letting her know that the kids and I were back in TX, safe and sound, after our Christmas break.
Thankfully, I am not a new (or young!) Army spouse. I am okay and I will continue to be okay. I have been doing this for fifteen years and am confident in my coping mechanisms. Yet I can’t help but wonder and worry about the other spouses. How many other new (to the unit) spouses are out there waiting for a call? Longing for some kind of information or opportunity to connect with another adult? For me, it really is just one more social outlet. For someone else, it could be a life line.
I know that the purpose of an FRG is not to fill one’s social calendar. It’s just an added perk I was looking forward to. My real gripe is the lack of communication. I have yet to receive any communication other than that which I initiated. I volunteered to be a key caller and was told she already had one for my "section"(?). Still, I do not know this person’s name or have any way to contact them.
I happen to think that during this deployment calls could be made or emails sent (even if just once a month) to check on people and remind them that their FRG may be able to help them or direct them to help, when needed. Hearing a friendly voice, or receiving a note via email, is sometimes all it takes to make someone feel that they are part of something and that they matter.
Then again, maybe it’s just me. How do you feel about your FRG (or service branch equivalent)? Maybe it’s non-existent like mine or maybe you think they’re a little too busy for your taste. I’d like to hear about it. Whether it’s to vent (like me) or share positive experiences, tell me about it.
In closing, I’d like to say that whatever your experience, remember that there are a great many volunteers out there giving their time and making a real effort to keep people informed and engaged. When given the opportunity, thank them. Depending on the response and participation of it’s members, FRG leadership and volunteerism can often times feel like a thankless job. Someone acknowledging their efforts may be just what they need to hear and give them the encouragement they need to continue giving their time to such a necessary organization.