Our SpouseBuzz readers are always kind of surprised when no one from the command calls them. A reader recently noted:
I am a pretty new Army spouse (we have been married less than a year). I have yet to be involved in the FRG. Not necessarily because I don’t want to be, but because I have never been contacted.
I was right with her. No one has called me from our command either! No emails. No invitations. No encouraging little texts.
Then I remembered that I probably am the person this young spouse expects to be calling, emailing or inviting. Uh oh.
Since our ship is about to deploy, and because our readers have a profound influence over the amount of guilt I feel, I started making those calls and writing those emails this week. I also started asking everyone why this process is so expected in military life and why this happens in such a spotty way. Here are my top ten reasons why I think no one is calling. Feel free to add to my list!
1. I don’t have your number. When my husband was young, the social roster for the ship was complete and not a choice. Then the Privacy Act kicked in. Which was good because it really cut back on the number of Home Sales parties I was expected to attend. These days, if the FRG or the CO spouse or the Ombudsman has your number or email, it is because your servicemember gave them the correct information.
2. Your servicemember doesn’t want you to be contacted. For reasons of their own, some servicemembers don’t want their spouses to be part of command activities. So they skip the request or fill out the wrong information or just give the number for the home phone that no one ever answers.
3. This isn’t a deploying command. The more a unit runs on business hours, the less likely you are to get contacted by the command. Deployment drives command relationships because we need each other more.
4. This isn’t one of my assigned duties. For the official paid command folks–not spouses–it isn’t actually in their job description that they give you a call. (I think of this as a missed opportunity to win friends and influence people at the command level, but that is just me being a helper.)
5. Senior spouses are not actually controlled by the command. Many readers think that by the time somebody’s servicemember is past E-6, or is actually in command of something, their spouse ought to be calling people. It is nice when they do. But participation in the command is voluntary (or at lease it is supposed to be!) and for that we are truly grateful (see #8)
6. There isn’t an instruction book. Even if those senior enlisted and officer type spouses are the nicest, most generous, most giving people in the world, there isn’t exactly an instruction book for what you are supposed to do. Sometimes your servicemember gets a snarled instruction to get the FRG going. Sometimes there is a little class or two you can take. But no one ever says: IF THERE IS ONE THING YOU MUST DO IT IS TO CALL EVERYONE.
7. No one called me. If you get to a command and no one has called you, it sends a message of nonparticipation. Sometimes that message comes because the senior folks are in the middle of a divorce, or a spouse is burned out, or people are working such long hours that there is not time in the day to get involved. It is hard to start over with a command that does nothing.
8. I suck at cold calling. When I did get the list from the command this week, I realized my biggest problem: I suck at cold calling. I don’t know what to say. I sound like an insurance salesman. I feel like an idiot. And I am so sure you don’t want me to call. Can’t you just call me if something happens?
9. I’m not the boss of you. WARNING: I might be the only person to feel this way, but when I pick up that phone I am so aware that I am not in the Navy myself. None of the spouses on my list work for me. I don’t want to ask them to do anything or attend anything because I don’t want to add things to their list of things to do. I just wanna take an Excedrin and lie down or something.
10. I have no idea how nice you are. Our brains are set up to remember bad stuff and never do that again. So when I look at the list, I can suddenly only remember the mean people. And I want to avoid them. I forget what a good person you are. I forget how much you might add to any gathering. I forget what a good friend you might be to someone or how you might need a little support or what a difference we could make to each other. I’m working on remembering that. And I hope you will too.