My First FRG? A Little Intimidating

wives

I confess: my first FRG was a little intimidating.  Last year when I was living with my now-husband, I wasn’t quite comfortable attending various wife functions as “just” a fiancée.  Despite an attempt to include girlfriends, at the meetings of my first FRG I always felt insecure showing up to events.

Even when being introduced to other soldiers and their spouses– most of whom were wonderful and sweet–it was a bit disconcerting to hear about their  backgrounds.  It seemed like everyone else had been married for decades and been through 89 deployments and singlehandedly raised 14 children and six special needs rescue cats while inventing the FRG and cooking organic eight course dinners for other families when needed.

So yes, at my first FRG I was pretty intimidated.

In addition, almost every time someone learned that I had little experience with military life, they would launch into their best stories about the challenges of deployments or the terrors of FRG participation.

I heard reports of spouses acting as if they held the ranks of their husbands, horrific anecdotes about cockroach-filled houses, chilling tales of going through a pregnancy alone.  By the time we were ready to move, I was sure that every time I went to the grocery store, some major’s wife would try to cut me in line with threats to my husband’s career.

My first FRG never prepared me for the benefits of my second FRG.  At our new duty station, nobody at my second FRG expected me to know every acronym my husband discussed with his soldiers (which is good, since acronyms seem to make up 75% of those conversations).

Everyone was fine when I met the other wives in the unit and sat there listening.  No one demanded that I provide free babysitting because their spouse outranked mine. I didn’t even see many “brag bags” (which, I had been warned, were the camouflage purses with the rank of the owner’s husband attached).  I tried to be nice to everyone, and everyone was nice to me back.

Of course, there have been a few awkward moments.

The first time I met some of the wives, I made the mistake of jokingly referring to my husband as “old.”  When it was revealed that most of the assembled group was the same age, if not older, I immediately regretted the previous 45 seconds of my life.

As one of the few spouses without children I often have very little to contribute to conversations.  I tend to be on the quiet side anyway, and am more than happy taking mental notes about the trials and tribulations of potty training toddlers or disciplining teenagers.

I don’t even have a dog (yet!) so it can still be a bit embarrassing when everyone takes out their cell phones to show off adorable puppy pictures, and I am left sharing the goofy picture of my cat sitting in unladylike poses.

Because my husband is about to be the only married officer in his company, I recently had the pleasure of experiencing another uncomfortable moment when the company commander mentioned we would need a new FRG leader.

Apparently my subtle staring at the ceiling didn’t work, because when I looked back down the entire room was watching me expectantly.  Didn’t they know that this was only my second FRG ever? I had hoped that it would be another couple years before being voluntold for that position.

As we’ve been here longer I’ve started to learn how to be an involved wife without feeling like I’m either letting everyone down or stepping on others’ toes.  Super spouses do exist, but there are also a lot more who are the complete opposite.  I’m pretty happy sitting somewhere in the middle.

So yes it was scary to first show up and get involved, but so far everything has been fine.  Of course, I still may have to be an FRG leader in a few months, but I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.

Magdalene Blocker is a civilian married to a a soldier in the Army.  They are currently stationed at Ft. Hood prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse.

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  • Aside from the jitters and such it seems like your experiance was pretty good :)
    My first experiance was being told that I needed to get a real job. I do carpentry, sewing, and handy work in my spare time and since being married I havent had a job. Apparently that particular group wasnt fans of stay at home spouses who cook, clean, fix, create, do the budget, pay bills (hubby brings in the bacon and i dish it out to the bills), and all the other traditional house wifey stuff. Even after we had our one and only (ever.. Lol) little one i get bugged about having more and scoffed at when my husband and i tell them we are perfectly fine with one.
    Now we have moved and im so nervous and hoping this new group wont be as judgemental and cliquey as the last one.

    Love my life as it is :D You sound like you will do great as a leader. The super spouses tend to micromanage sometimes :P

  • Amber

    I’m an FRSA (Family Readiness Support Assistant) in addition a veteran with 25 years of service who at the time was dual military. But since retirement and being an FRSA now for three years I have always mentored my FRG Leaders. To be a good successful FRG Leader is to work very closely with the Commander of that company. Since it is his program. Start every meeting with hitting the nail on the head with “No Drama” you are an FRG Leader to be a resources deliver not rescue. But with not rescue I’m not saying they don’t help, all of them bend over backwards to help. What I’m saying is they won’t fix the marriage problems. That’s where a military Chaplain can offer marriage workshops. Also if the spouse needs help with finances that’s where the FRG Leader can offer ACS (Army Community Services) finances classes in how to do a budget. But sometimes the problem in FRG is there are many beautiful souls who don’t want to advise but want to help, and sometimes just get caught up in the mess and don’t know how to get out. That’s what makes spouses sometimes don’t want to “step up” and help because they have heard all these stories. So my advice at these meetings focus on information from the Commander, events, training, so the families know what is happening with the Soldier. Lastly, ask for volunteers. But probably the best part is offer food. Yes, in the past years I have heard from other installations these types of “uncertainty” and “drama” like wives wearing their husbands rank. But let me just say sometimes the drama comes from the up like Senior wives. So if you have Senior wives promoting this type of behavior for whatever reason they have in their minds, then you will have very uncomfortable events. But I can honestly say, I mentor my Senior wives so these types of issues don’t happen, and if they come across this type of behavior they “nip it in the bud” that way you will have no issues. One thing I would like to add is with “girlfriends” within an FRG. Most Battalion Commanders will accept them in a FRG but can’t hold a position. The reason why many times in the past Soldiers have “broken up” with that girlfriend and she could not get the picture she was not part of the FRG anymore and it became a “stalking” issue. Most Commanders have this philisophy. With fiance’s it’s the same way until the Soldier marries this individual. Then the status changes. Most Commanders have had good and bad experiences and most have been bad, so they normally go with the only having “her” as a volunteer no real position. I have been an FRSA in a Infantry Battalion with all men, and FRSA in a Cavalry Regiment and have certainly heard all their stories of the good and bad. So most Battalion Commanders and Squadron Commanders feel this way. But all of them are for the best for their families. If the Soldier is happy his family will be happy, and that will make a productive Soldier. I hope I shed a different perceptive on FRG. Thank you for reading my comment!

    • Your description of the purposes of the FRG is definitely what I had thought it was supposed to be, so that is absolutely reassuring. Thank you!

  • Megan Hamby

    I’m so glad to have found this article. I still can’t quite believe the situation I’ve found myself in – meeting a guy, having my car opportunistically break down and within the week deciding to move 300 miles from my home and friends to marry a man who left for deployment a week and a half later. It all went down and seems to be working out, but we’re at the point where we’ve been married and apart for longer than the time we spent together, and we met so close to D-day that we did not have an opportunity to introduce me to any spouses. Nevermind the insanity of the situation… I am super, super intimidated by the Army community as a whole and approaching the FRG without knowing anything about it while my husband is deployed. I am the epitome of an outsider.

    I feel so far out of my league that I have no idea where to even start. I have a Masters degree and PhD work in Engineering & Science, and am terrible at new social situations, particularly in an environment where others have a common ground that I do not share (experience being an Army/military spouse, children, patriotism, etc). I had developed a small, close community in grad school and was comfortable. I miss those wonderful friends, though I’ll keep many of them for life – but I won’t likely end up living near any of them again, and I need new people.

    Dating, much less marrying, a “man in uniform” was never on my radar, and I don’t know what I would have in common with most military wives. I’m not currently and don’t know if I will ever be interested in having children, I geek out for backyard chickens, farming and environmental conservation while failing to hold any interest whatsoever in sports, TV and most other aspects of popular culture… and I am totally and utterly at a loss for finding like-minded people. I’m struggling to find a career path that will utilize my skills and interests as a scientist while adapting to the constant movement of my husband’s military career.

    Any advice or comments the author or anyone else has are much appreciated. I’ve yet to find the online communities, instead spinning circles on websites like OneSource and a couple others I can’t remember the names of. While I’m sure they mean well, they are not answering the questions I have about developing my career and meeting other spouses or military families who are pretty far outside the mainstream.

    • I’m definitely not an expert on the career stuff (still trying to figure that out myself!) but hopefully some of the other spouses can speak to that issue.

      On the positive side, I’ve found that military spouses are a pretty diverse group, especially the more you talk to people, and I bet you will find someone who shares at least some of your interests. I was convinced that as a poli sci nerd I wouldn’t have anything to discuss with people, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised in that area. I get you on the awkwardness factor, and you are definitely not alone in that, but it just took one nice spouse to go out of her way to talk to me at my first FRG meeting, and that was my in.

      And if all else fails, and you can’t think of anything to say at those events, you can always ask for other spouses’ opinions about something (housing, best places to buy groceries, etc) because everyone loves sharing their opinion. Besides, most people I’ve encountered have been even nicer when they realized I was new to the Army and new to the area. So if you do chose to get involved with the other spouses, I am positive you will find at least a few friendly people.

    • Jenny

      First off, congratulations on your marriage and welcome to Army life!

      I have learned from my experiences being an Army Wife that it’s best to gracefully say good bye to comfort and routine, and embrace change as quickly as possible. Your local area or base might not have a need for someone of your qualifications, and that was something I needed to keep in mind while job searching. I didn’t land my dream job, but I landed a job that will help me grow and develop different skill sets, and I feel like I contribute to our household with my paycheck, and that makes me very very happy.

      I have an undergraduate degree with 5 years of post college experience working in a professional setting and easily found a position during our first PCS move, I first used more familiar civilian channels and networking, staffing agencies, etc. and found a position within a week of searching. It’s a matter of being flexible on what your expectations are going to be.

      The best place to start is on base, every Army base has a central building where you in process, get your military ID, enroll into DEERS and TriCare, and can ask questions regarding various assistance for finding housing, finding a job, etc. There is going to be a lot of information thrown at you all at once, and everyone speaks in acronym, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and stay as long as you need to so you can understand their answers and your options/information.

      When you drive on base be sure your license and registration are up to date, and you have proof of insurance. Have your marriage license with you, along with a certified copy of your birch certificate and your social security card. while driving on base be sure you follow the speed limit, if you go even 1 mph over the posted speed you will get pulled over.

      And lastly remember that every one of us MilSpouses started where you are, confused and overwhelmed, so please don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are a few out there who give the rest of us a bad name, but there are quite a few wonderful MilSpouses out there that will help you any way they can. Again, don’t be afraid to ask for help!