4 Freaky Ways To Improve Your FRG

party wives

One of the things that always puzzles me about the Family Readiness Group is how well-meaning people get a reputation for being stuck up or cliquish or “wearing their husband’s rank.”

I know a lot of FRG leaders.a I know plenty of ombudsmen, Key Volunteers, and Family Readiness Officers. Although there are a few nutterbutters in that bunch, the majority of these people take these jobs because they genuinely want to help.

So why do FRGs get a bad rap?

I’m thinking that one reason may be because the kind of person we want to run these organizations—the kind that is capable of setting up meetings and following rules and getting the approval of the command and organizing funds so that no one gets arrested—is not necessarily the kind of person who is the Queen of Understanding All Thy Feelings.

Somehow we expect the organizers of groups to also be outgoing, babyloving, mindreading, anxiety soothers with sparkle fingers. That’s a lot for any one person to be.

But newbies don’t know this. Or maybe I am the only one who doesn’t know this–which is totally disappointing.

Cuz when I go to these command events I want to be welcomed like I’m in a Hallmark commercial on the Lifetime channel.

That never, never happens—no matter what rank my husband holds.

So I am thinking that if we want command events to go well, maybe we need to do four freaky things to improve the FRG.

Accept every invitation. Getting out and about with other people is good for us. We know that. There is a ton of research that backs that up.

That doesn’t mean we necessarily want to do that. And we rarely want to be the person doing the calling. So I was interested to see in a blog about depression, a therapist asks her client simply to accept every invitation. You don’t have to stay long at a place. Just show up. Your presence increases the chances of my meeting someone I will like—you.

Post an extrovert at the door. At our Spouse X Live events, we always post a team at the door to greet every participant. I love this. For one, I wanna lay eyes on everyone. I’m a huge extrovert and that is fun for me.

For two, this sends a message: there are no cliques here. We expect you to talk to each other. We are really glad you came 

Tag newcomers. As a newcomer to a group, you naturally think every single person in attendance is an established member of the group. From the outside, it looks like they all know each other and like each other and there is no room for you.

This isn’t true. At any command event there are lots of newcomers. Group leaders should tag these people at the door with a nametag and a little gold star maybe. While there are plenty of exclusive people in the world, in our community you can always count on a lot of kind people to also attend events. Help them out.

Rejoice in introverts. The thought of being tagged as a newcomer will probably convince every introvert associated with the command to cringe. It is estimated that up to one third of Americans are introverts.

This doesn’t necessarily mean shy. Mostly it means that being with a lot of people can be really draining for them. It means they would rather talk to people one on one—a quality that can make for a really good ombudsman.

That’s why I want you to see that ombudsman/FRO/Key Volunteer/FRG leader/command spouse surrounded by their friends as an introvert—not as someone with a problem with stuckupitude.

Resolve not to take introversion as a personal affront. Because we really do need each other in SpouseWorld. I met my best friends at command events. I met the people who traded babysitting with me. I met people who helped me find contacts to get jobs. I met people who told such wild, funny, crazy stories that I still think of them all the time.

FRG meetings and events can make people feel more lonely than ever—that is their nature.  Or we can tweak them so people feel a little less alone in the world.

What would you do to change YOUR FRG?



About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.
  • sabrinacking

    This line: “is not necessarily the kind of person who is the Queen of Understanding All Thy Feelings.”
    Made me laugh. I am certain could be applied to me very appropriately when I was an FRG leader. I tend to personally think the FRG is a young person’s game. After seeing those ACS slides five hundred times, teaching AFTB classes. I am old, I don’t want to play FRG any more. My advice to younger me’s is two fold: 1) protect yourself from compassion fatigue ( I am an echo from your future) 2) Remember the R. It is a READINESS group…not therapy, not fundraising club, not social club , not support group ie: you are all things to all people all of the time. They will expect you to be, but you just can’t be. Make people self sufficient. That is the entire reason they changed it from FSG to FRG..and yes I remember when they changed it.

  • sabrinacking

    The key thing that I would change today at FRGs is apparently quiet rooms are no longer in fashion. We used to always organize a child/toddler play room separate from the meeting space. Today on the rare occasion I go to an FRG meeting you can’t hear 3/4s of it because of lil kids. Organize a child room. This may prove very important when there is actually a deployment. You don’t want kids sitting in a room listening to how many casualties and KIAs you have had. I actually later in life, no longer an FRG leader was so disgusted watching lil kids listening to casualty and KIA reports at an FRG meeting and getting absolutely distraught over what they were hearing I just got up and walked out. I am tired of hearing from young commanders who also don’t want kids at meetings: “well no one will come if we say no kids.” Well, don’t be so lazy. Organize a child care room. Most mothers could use the hour break anyhow. I don’t need or want to attend FRG at this age, but I’ll be the Grandma in the child care room any day of the week.

  • We share one idea in our Military Spouse Journey: Discover the Possibilities & Live Your Dreams book…a technique that one of my FRGs used every quarter or so when there were many newbies & introverts. Here are the basics. Everyone brings two ideas/local resources to share and 2 that they want to get. Things like “best cheap eats in the area, favorite fun free things to do with kids; best consignment shop; great hair salon”…then you go around the room and share and ask for input on the 2 “looking to find” items. Everyone learns about new resources and it’s easy on the shy folks.

    • Amy_Bushatz

      Kathie I LOVE this idea. And I obviously need to bust out your book :-)

    • Jena

      I love it, too! Great idea!

  • Jena

    Thank you, Jacey! Amen, and AMEN! “Queen of Understanding All Thy Feelings” I am NOT. But I can make sure you follow the rules. AND that everyone is included. AND that it doesn’t turn into a gossip fest. AND that someone 2000 miles away feels like they have a part in it. However, I’m all FRG’d out at the moment! Perhaps I will get over my compassion fatigue someday and take on the challenge yet again, much to my husband’s quiet and supportive dismay. :)

  • Sarah

    I am a new FRG leader starting our group from scratch as our company has been without one and with the possibility of an upcoming deployment, I feel it very important to have a group established before hand to help the families be better prepared for what is coming. I am having a hard time getting people interested in becoming involved in the group any ideas on how to better encourage people to join in on our meetings and events?????

    • sabriancking

      Sarah: ACS (Army Community Services) or whatever your branch equivalent is your friend. That entity will have classes (in the Army we call it AFTB: Army Family Team Building) that will help you be a more effective leader. ACS can also do a host of briefs for you and help you bring in all sorts of speakers that might attract a larger audience. The important thing to remember is you do NOT have to reinvent the wheel. People have been leading FRGs for a very long time, between ACS and your FRSA you have a plethora of support and resources if you reach out for them. Good luck!

  • armymilwif13

    I am new to the whole Military life but I want to get involved; what better way then to become part of the FRG. However, I was asked to be the treasurer, who can give me for real life experience regarding tresury? I was told I would have to set up an checking acct in my name.

    • Amanda

      armymilwif13; I laugh because i was put in that same spot about 2 years ago–and am still the current FRG treasurer. And not sure if it differs between states, but DO NOT put acct. into your own name. You will actually have to set up an acct with a co-treasurer & a TIN (tax ID #) because #1 the JAG and FRG are very strict about funds and what money goes in, out, the hows, wheres, whys, etc. And #2 because its a non-profit organization, so there are rules/regulations you need to follow. But best advice is #1 look for some FRG training courses, they should be offered at least 2x a year. #2 ask your FRG Lead, they should be able to give some insight. And also talk to your commander or MPOC, they are also involved and need to give “permissions” to start such–Good luck!