Why Everyone Hates the FRG


It was a phrase I found myself saying on repeat over the months I was our unit’s Family Readiness Group Leader. “This – THIS – is why people hate the FRG.”

The power plays. The spotlight grabs. The desperate attempts to be the sole provider of information. The attitude that you are somehow better, more worthy, more intelligent, more seasoned, more deserving or more, well, anything than another spouse. The idea that somehow a group of spouses supporting each other and their servicemembers isn’t worth any of your time.

It’s almost as if you got a big group of very different women together, tossed them in a room, closed the door and told them to get along.

Oh, wait.

When I reluctantly took my FRG leader spot mid last year it was with eyes wide open. I’ve been around the spouse support world long enough to have heard the horror stories, long enough to know that not everyone I encountered would be a friend. Yet in the end I loved the job for the chance it gave me to make a different, however small, in the lives of some very young spouses.

But during that time I learned one very important thing: the things people – you, reader — hate most about the FRG are actually the keys to FRG success.

How? By naming what you hate you can figure out how to avoid it or, at least, how to change your attitude about it.

Here are four examples.

I hate the power plays. I hear this one over and over again – that those in charge of the FRG are only there because it makes them feel powerful. They don’t actually do anything. They don’t actually help anyone. They just make themselves look good. And that creates a toxic environment. But the people who act like this are doing so to fill a void in their lives. It isn’t about you or anyone else. So pity them, and step in anyway. You’ll always have to keep in mind that these people will believe that they have to be in control. But it doesn’t mean you can’t assist them, too. Offer to help. Offer to take over whatever thing they seem to hate the most. And see if you can’t make it the thing that is the most loved.

The FRG is a waste of time. Without a doubt that can be true. And if there is one thing in the world that bothers me more than anything else it is people wasting my time.  Who wants to spend an hour watching someone click through a PowerPoint only to have no idea in the end what was said? No one. I figure the FRG has one – one! – opportunity with each family and spouse to show that their time is valued. That means meetings are only held if absolutely necessary, and that they start and end exactly when you said they would. That means the information given is worth showing-up for. Everything else can be communicated by email or a phone call. You can make the FRG something people value by making sure it is NOT a waste of time.

One word: drama. People come with drama – it’s part of the great human condition. Some people have more drama than other people. And in my experience those are the people who need the most help or have the biggest problems. They are the people who need those of us who are level headed helper folks to stand there, nodding, smiling and saying “it’s going to be OK.” Have you ever noticed how often our girl Ms. Vicki refers the drama to Military OneSource for help? (Hint: all the time!). Try doing the same and maybe you can get them some help or some counseling in the process.

Volunteering with the FRG is a thankless job. You’re right. Your hard work will probably go largely unnoticed. A measly volunteer recognition certificate isn’t going to do a lot for you in the end. And you start looking at the whole thing as a chore. But what if you went in to the gig with the decision that you aren’t there for the recognition? What if you went in for one purpose and one purpose along: to serve. Saying “I’m just here to serve” means you don’t care if anyone notices you. It means your reward is in the knowledge that, without your help, that spouse would not have been connected to that Tricare information. It’s knowing that your calm assurance may just be what is getting the spouse on your call sheet through her day. Saying “I’m just here to serve” means you don’t care you runs your ego over, because there isn’t much around to smoosh.

Edit: Adding one — after reading some comments on our Facebook page I can’t believe I failed to put this example in here.

No one ever contacted me, so why should I be involved? The FRG leader and the POCs who help her are in a tight spot. She is supposed to reach out to, or at least add to her email list, every new spouse in the unit. But with its constantly moving parts (people leaving the unit, new servicemembers joining the unit and current unit members getting married) it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the changes. And what’s worse? That person is 100 percent reliant on the commander giving her updated, correct information as well as the Soldiers giving the correct contact information for their wives. That no one has ever contacted you is not personal. It’s not because they hate you. It’s because someone  — likely not the FRG leader — dropped the ball along the way. And bless their hearts, our spouses are not always good at giving our correct information out either. Why my husband decided to give them my junk email address that I rarely check, I’ll never know. So what’s the solution? Don’t wait to be contacted. You contact them. Find out who your FRG leader is and send her a friendly email. “Hi, I’m fairly new to the unit. Here is all my information. Let me know what else you need. Please add me to your information distribution list.” See how easy that was?

What things do you hate most about the FRG – and what can you do to turn them into an action plan?

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

35 Comments on "Why Everyone Hates the FRG"

  1. For me it is the waste of time aspect that is so frustrating. I think FRGs can be great and do a lot of good but I get disappointed really quickly.

  2. Honestly, the FRG seems to be the laughing stock of the Army. Soldiers don't take it serious, the COC doesn't take it serious. I don't know what the point of having an FRG is. You either have spouses who complain because no one contacted them, or you have the ones who don't want anything to do with it. I say we disband it completely and force soldiers to relay information to their spouses.

    I used to volunteer with the FRG (secretary, treasurer and coordinated fundraising and parties) and honestly, we never had enough participation from spouses, because no one really wants to be part of an organization chock full of immature, self absorbed young spouses whose lives revolve around themselves and no one else.

    • I agree. I think we should disband it too. I was only contacted maybe once during my husband's last deployment. I got better and more reliable info from my husband.

  3. And I'm the opposite. I LOVE our FRG and HATE our unit. Those in charge do not support families or family functions, but the wonderful FRG volunteers power on in spite of the command team.

  4. My husband has been in the same unit for 5 years, this is our second deployment and I was a POC for our first. I have not been contacted once this entire deployment. I don't hate the FRG, I just don't have time for something that clearly doesn't care about me.

    • Amy_Bushatz | January 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm |

      But i would challenge you — have you tried contacting them? Maybe the new leader is overwhelmed or was "voluntold" into the job?

  5. Every FRG needs to be assessed individually. Some are crap, and some are outstanding.

    What makes an outstanding FRG is people who care more about people than programs/jobs/reputation/awards. If it doesn't revolve around a truthful assessment of family needs, and then produce programs, projects and events designed to directly address those actual needs – then it's probably an insular institutionalized ball of crap.

    If yours is outstanding, enjoy it and take notes.

    If yours is crap, what are you doing to make it better? Infiltrate and spread new/better ideas. Use your energy to do what others are not doing.

  6. I think the carpentry "hobby" is cool. My husband and I dabble in it and we were just talking yesterday about how we could start out now with a small online presence to get more practice and experience and once he retires go full scale to sort of speak.
    I find it ironic that in that FRG a job was some kind of must. The last one I was in all the working spouses were snubbed. Everything, including monthly meetings were between 9 and 5 , Monday – Friday making it next to impossible for those of us with jobs to attend.

  7. I have found that the FRG like anything else is what you make it to a large degree but it also requires a good FRG leader. She will make or break the FRG. I was in one FRG where I really tried to be involved but we had an FRG leader who couldn't give a poop about doing it. Her husband was the commander and so she just did it (well, minimally so) because he said so. We now have a great FRG leader and it has made all the difference unfortunately as my children are older and I homeschool I don't have the time I used to so I volunteer where I can. I don't go to all the events because they aren't things I'm necessarily interested in but they interest the other spouses. At any rate, my one complaint is that I'd like to see FRG's do more service work. I've been involved in 4 different FRG's and have only done one service activity with the Special Olympics. Amazing opportunity! Ahem, FRG leaders reading these boards :)

    • I am part of a newly starting FRG, the soldiers we support have not had one for 5 years. I have not had personal experience with the Military until recently when my son joined the Army, I do not know much about FRG's. Other people in our group have. From reading all these comments so far I think the people we have in place will grow a good FRG. What are some of the service areas you think we should be involved in?

  8. adoptive momma | January 7, 2013 at 10:54 am |

    I was the FRG leader for our last command for two years, and I can say we stayed relatively drama free, mostly because I made sure our meetings were just that, meetings, not gossip sessions. We came, did our business, ate some food and left. My biggest complaint is the lack of volunteers. It was like pulling teeth to get anyone to help with anything. They were full of ideas, but did not want to execute them, they expected the board to do it all. We had lots of ideas for fun things to do, but in the end, four people can't do it all…

    • That sounds like the OSC I'm on the board for now. They come to meetings and just wait to be entertained with all the work we did in the last few weeks but offer nothing themselves. You have my complete sympathy.

  9. I volunteered as the parent of a single soldier as our FRG kept requesting help. Seems that many spouses wanted to volunteer but found the commitment overwhelming as they were trying to keep their households intact, kids on track, etc. totally understandable. Many times I would call to find phones disconnected, voicemail "full cannot accept any msg" etc. and I personally worried about those NOK but could only follow up if the soldier provided updated info, which is difficult at best downrange. So my experience was that I developed some friendships with folks who relied on my monthly calls, had some members who seemed irritated when I called but I think they may have truly been stressed out due to soldier's deployment, etc. Had some folks tell me they counted on me, which made all of the experience worthwhile. I highly recommend anyone interested to volunteer and "try to be part of the solution" treating your call list with the same kindness and caring you would want to receive. It can be a blessing to the volunteer and to the FRG members, just my opinion and experience.

  10. let me just say,when we married 13 years ago,our first station very active,before durning and after deployments,without attitudes,i was what they call (KEY CALLER) and ast to FRG LEADER.,none of the things we did ,did you have to go to a class for ,but this was when the ARMY was ran ,WELL.BY THE ARMY.i miss my 3-7 cav ladies…….our second knox,was well they tried but our coc could not stay out of trouble,i asked about FRG, at a eating meeting.the verynext thing i know his COC is knocking on our door to do house check,with us just being there for 3 weeks and first i was in hospital.well didnt settle well with me,well i voiced my feelings and a FRG formed but didnt last long when some ruined it because of drugs……and then there is here.i have been thru 3 FRG'S in 6 years,i think the main prob is all these classes you have to take,its beyond me why i would have to take a class to make a call.idk……most dont have time for that.and yes in some cases you have the IM BIGGER AND BETTER TYPE.but i learned to sway away from it and do other meetings and have met some AWESOME FRIENDS.so for some it works caue you have a great FRG.then all the stipulations for some its just done amonghts themselves……its sad,but its true.and missed my AWESOME VERY ACTIVE FRG.I HAVE SEEN LEADERS TRY TO BE KNOCKED DOWN BECAUSE OF NO ONE INTERESTED.I FEEL IF IT WENT BACK TO HOW IT WAS DONE WOULD BE BETTER.

  11. Our FRG is the corner stone of Family Readiness program in our unit. As an FRSA, I worked closely with our ACS and FRG Leadership insuring their voice is heard. We have a dynamic team of volunteers and together ensure families get timely accurate information from command. When I first arrive our FRG was at ground zero. Within two months I was able to recruit a viable Team that work as a cohesive front in supporting our Family Readiness Activities.

  12. "Be the change you want to see", isn't that how the quote goes?
    I have found most who complain, do nothing to assist. The spouses that need information put out through the FRG, are the ones least likely to attend the meetings. The one's that think the funding should be used on this or that, are actually quite clueless as to how the funding works, and what said funds can and cannot be used for.
    If an FRG is run the way it is supposed to be, as an extension of the command for informational purposes, then it can be a great resources. However, your FRG is NOT a babysitter, not a ride home from your drunken escapades, not to help you move heavy furniture – yes, these are all real life situations. I challenge the spouses that have negative FRG experiences to become more involved IN their FRG. Again, I say: be the change you want to see!! :)

  13. I am male spouse. With a Soldier Wife. The FRG leaves me behind. I have found that there are several men in this same situation. no help, and no simpathy.

    • I'm sorry that this is happening to you! I am my husband's unit FRG leader and one of the best volunteers I have is a male spouse! I always try to convey to the Soldiers that FRG is not just for spouses (male AND female), but is available to anyone the Soldier wants to be updated on the goings-on of the Unit (to include parents, siblings, significant others, etc.). If you don't mind my asking, is there some type of specific support you are wanting that is not being addressed? (I ask due to not having many males in our group and striving to be as inclusive as possible!) Thanks!

    • Amy_Bushatz | January 14, 2013 at 5:54 pm |

      Nathan — can I introduce you my buddy Wayne? Check out his site: http://www.facebook.com/MANningtheHomefront

  14. I’ve been an army wife for 2 years now,i pride myself in really understanding the Army and helping out new spouses but all I can say about the FRG is that I avoid it at all costs! My hubby keeps me very informed of everything going on. I believe it all depends on your FRG leader. My husband is an NCO and we don’t have any kids, I really don’t wanna spend my precious time with my husband at an FRG meeting with kids running around screaming or at an event with kids screaming. Suggestions for events for couples without kids falls on deaf ears. I also don’t appreciate the bottom of all event related emails saying “I know these events aren’t mandatory yet,but come support us!” Mandatory YET? i dont think so! Overly organized yet completely chaotic,mandatory “fun”…..yea no thanks. FRG’s are just pointless information and rumors mills parading around with bake sales

    • Loved reading your post. I can so relate. My husband and I are in our late forties and have only been active duty for four years (he was Army reserve). With our kids grown the FRG is basically useless for me. All their activities revolve around "young" mothers and children. That's great, they should focus on that, but what about those of us with grown or no children. What about those of us that are older and more mature. I have no desire to participate in anything that revolves around small childrens activities. We are in the middle of a suppossed nine month deployment and all the activities i get notices about are all child related. It's tough to be in a new place, husband deploys less than two months after arriving. I feel like I am alone and invisible. I've tried to make friends, but all the wives I meet are young with babies or young children. I am more like "grandma" than just another military spouse missing her husband. I am the odd spouse out.

  15. I always have a strong support system from my church, wherever we go.I like to find out who the FRG leader is and let them know I'm happy to help, but other than making sure they can contact me, I don't use the FRG as a support. Since FRG members are more often women, I wonder how the male spouses feel, if there are any, since I've hardly ever met them. Why go to an FRG meeting when it looks like a girls-only meet? I've seen drama, I've seen an FRG fall apart because of the power-plays. I know it's there, but I still try to be supportive within my parameters
    . The FRG can be good, and it can totally suck. Just be there anyway.

  16. I don't like the mandatory part- but I will go with my husband when he has to go. The disorganization is difficult. I also don't like feeling bullied into voluteering- I work, so can't I just volunteer when I have the time? It is also weird to have fundraisers but not know where the money goes to- "the FRG" is not enough information.

  17. My husband is currently on deployment almost halfway. The command FRG was just started brand new. Attended the first couple of meetings and stopped attending because all of the activities/events agreed upon are no longer in the plans to do. Every month they have an FRG meeting and a spouses night out. No activities for kids besides a craft at the meetings. In my case the only thing available for my teens is the option to babysit at the meetings. I've requested budget and minutes to the last meeting I missed (kids have band practice the same day as meetings and I cant attend) and now three weeks after request and have not gotten anything yet. I have participated in FRG before, been military 19 yearsmm and have never experienced such disorganization and almost a feeling of being out of place at meetings. To the extent that in a way glad that I am busy on meetingnights because I am made to feel out of place and very uncomfortable. We are pretty new to this command which is nothing new but I have never before made to feel like an outsider not welcomed. We are all bew at some point and I have always been proud of how welcoming FRGs have been in the past. I thought in my experience that a budget is supposed to be presented and if we voted for things to be done that the board couldn'tjust xancel those plans and do their own thing or in this case nothing. Also thought it stood for Family Readiness Group not Spouses gone wild. Although I have teens they also could use an event to socialize with kids in their situation and it wowouldn't be fair for the adult to have a ni by t out every month leaving the kids behind. Is this the new thing and maybe I'm just old school. Is it really that much trouble just to get the minutes of the meetings just so I can stay updated?

    • Hey Becca — I just read this comment with great interest because I dont know that Ive ever been a part of an FRG that actually kept minutes. I did a quick google search before commenting here and I see that there are plenty that do — but I'm wondering if this is standard across the board. Maybe that's why you haven't received minutes … there aren't any.

      Maybe they are disorganized because they are, well, disorganized. Perhaps the leaders is new and young and doesn't know what she's doing. Maybe she was "voluntold" into the position and is now in above her head? Maybe she's so young that she can't see far enough out to understand that there are people in the unit who are not in the same life place she is, just like you.

      My rule of thumb is this: assume the best. You've been around 19 years so you know things aren't always as they appear. Can you jump in and offer to help people in your position feel more welcomed?

  18. How do you go about handling a difficult person in the frg who thinks they run it?

  19. Could you please email me at this email address? I posted about difficult people. Thank You.

  20. Cravinginformation | October 21, 2013 at 10:10 am |

    This is all true. I am 6 months new to the army life and our unit. When I first arrived here I quickly figured out how to get in touch with my FRG leader via email. I asked her to add me to the email list and said that I would love to be actively involved with the FRG – and this was my fist experience with any FRG. She responded a week later (Ok, maybe she was busy) and said she would add me to the list and that there was a meeting coming up. Unfortunately, I had to work. She kind of guilt tripped me and said how important it was to go so I responded asking if they usually send notes/highlights because I'm sure not all spouses can go. The meeting was cancelled. No email. I emailed her again asking to be put on the list because I had no idea the meeting was cancelled. I almost took off work until my husband updated me. The meeting was a week later and was a grand total of 3 MINUTES long. I almost took off work for this? And I was pressured to take off work? And I had no information at all. The leader also called me by an incorrect name. I introduced myself after the fact and reminded her that I'd love to be more actively involved and just wanted some information on how. Of course an email was promised and never received, so I sent her a friendly reminder, no response. We have no newsletter or updated phone tree. I just found out there is a meeting today yesterday via facebook. Recently, the new commander took her aside and my husband walked in on the meeting. He was immediately jumped on and she exclaimed if I wanted anything I could just call her and we should have coffee sometime in her town (25 minutes from post). She also mentioned she had no idea that I wanted to be involved and pretty much said I wanted to be FRG leader – the commander must have brought my name into things. My husband had no idea of this and just said all he knows is that I want to get involved, and I've been trying. Since then I've emailed her with no response. I'm so frustrated because I feel like I'm either being pinned for mutiny or not being heard. Isn't that the point? I wasn't trying to be FRG leader, but it seems like a game is being played. I'm not playing games I just want to know what's going on with my husband and want the same for everyone else. What would you do?

  21. Jennifer D. | June 19, 2014 at 9:44 pm |

    I have never read this blog until today, it never occurred to me that I should look for one. I am a former military spouse, FRG leader and former soldier. I, as many people, have had several life changes that have effected whatever my current "status" was at the time. Throughout all my experiences with the military and the FRG programs I have seen and in some cases personally experienced many of the things you have all described. Today, I encountered something completely new to me and have been so moved by it that I cannot suppress my desire to share it with others. I am currently unmarried and in a very committed relationship with an army officer. We share an address, our lives together, and our futures. We are in every sense of the word a family despite our mutual choice to remain unmarried because of our personal beliefs and views of marriage. We believe that a commitment is more meaningful when you stay together when leaving is easier not when messy divorce or involving the court system is the only means of truly separating. Today, I was told that I am not allowed to be invited to any FRG meetings/ function, official Battalion functions, or social functions like the coffee group because I am just a "girlfriend". This is apparently an official rule because, and I quote, " People have girlfriends and then they break up and get new ones and it is just too hard to keep track of all that". I have never been more disrespected in my life or socially discriminated against. The facts to me are simple, we live in an evolving world where the traditional definition of family is always changing. As a woman, I am more independent and responsible for my own life now than my mother or her mother before her in terms of dependence on marriage or a man. I believe in this country and what it stands for enough to support the people who mean the most to me that currently fight to defend it. The Army divorce rate is at roughly 50% last time I checked so with all these things combined citing marriage as the sole qualifying factor to be treated like an equal is absurd, antiquated, and infuriating. I have always been passionate about soldiers and their families, whoever they are, getting as much support and acceptance as possible because this is not an easy life that they have chosen, that I have chosen. The flaws associated with these programs and the women left to dispense their rules and information virtually unsupervised give me a great sense of sadness because they keep all these programs and our communities themselves from ever really being effective. I am also unsure why anyone who has reached a rank of E-7 or above for enlisted or an officer would bring a new person into that envirnment every few weeks or months. These functions are still a professional environment for them and being responsible for who they bring into it conflicts the rational that apparently supports the enforcement of this rule. If anyone else out there has experienced something similar I want to apologize to you on behalf of those who have done this to you. They lack the foresight and compassion to stand up for whats right and for you so for that I am truly sorry.

  22. Faith Tiemann | January 5, 2013 at 11:52 am |

    Madeline, that is amazing that you have a commander that is so willing to take the time to do that! even when they were stateside we couldn't get that kind of assistance, and the 10-20 emails that bounced back when i was the co-lead was so frustrating bc our soldiers were deployed and we knew info wasn't getting to their wives, but we had no way to mediate the issue!

  23. Had the same experience. The only difference is I told them I was working on my PhD. I was told I needed to stay home and have kids. At the time, I was in no shape to be a good mom. I wish people would learn to support one another and realize we all have different talents, skills and desires and we should all be welcomed regardless of what we do.
    Personally, I think carpentry is one hell of a skill, as is being a good mom. You should pat yourself on the back. :D
    We're all stronger together than we are separate. It's sad some people don't realize this.

  24. I was sorry to hear about your experience. That is truly a shame and I hope you will give the FRG at your new command a chance. Unfortunately, there will always be folks out there that don't have the best intentions when they become involved in FRGs. But like the author of the article suggested, it's your intentions that matter – maybe you can be a positive example for others. Never let others affect your decision to get involved…having said that, I respect yours and anyone else's decision not to get involved too. Free country and all that. I wish you the best of luck. Oh, I'm a stay-at-home mother too and while I've worked as a professional prior to becoming a mom – being home is WAY more stressful (and rewarding :) that any job I can think of!

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