YDU: All FRGs Are Not Alike!

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I don’t buy it. It always frustrates me when I hear these infamous words from new families joining our unit: “I would get involved with the FRG, but I had a bad experience in the one we just came from.”

I just don’t buy it. I don’t believe that one bad experience is enough to ruin the effectiveness of an entire organization.  Because with every PCS, one of my main goals is to seek out and get involved with our new FRG (Family Readiness Group).

I guess this is because my very first experience with an FRG was positive. Our first duty station took us an ocean away from family and friends in Kaiserslautern, Germany. My husband’s Battallion Commander encouraged the importance of the FRG. In his experience, FRGs had bridged gaps in communication and strengthened relationships among families.

It didn’t hurt that the commander and his adorable wife made a great military duo. She served as FRG Leader and set the standard high about what to expect from an FRG and FRG Leader.  For example, a week before my husband deployed, we received the news we were expecting our first child. This came as quite a shock to us, especially since we were told we would not be able to conceive.

That FRG Leader was the first to show empathy and compassion to our situation.  She even accompanied me to my first ultrasound! I no longer felt alienated from family because she showed me I belonged to a bigger military family.

Both my husband and I see the value in having a solid, self-sustaining, and drama-free FRG.   These organizations have the potential to carry the entire mission (i.e. positive Soldier and family morale equals healthy work and home environments).

Since I have the gift of gab, I have served as Newsletter Editor in every single unit to which we have been attached for the past eight years.  I filled other vacant FRG positions as needed.  The most rewarding job was FRG Leader.  This was my chance to step up to the plate alongside my husband when he was in command.

I feel that direct communication should be laid out at the inaugural FRG meeting providing clear-cut expectations and goals from the leadership.  That way “interpretation” does not rule the roost.

I urge the unwilling not to focus on a negative experience in the past, but to take a chance. Please get involved and give back. I believe that our military families carry the brunt of the hard work on their backs, but let the FRGs carry out their mission and lighten the load.

Take a breath and realize what the FRG was designed to do: provide guidance and assistance to families, not host gossip groups. Sort through your personal hang-ups and get to work – step up and fill a need in your FRG…you just might make a lifelong friend and find inspiration to do more!

 Sara Jane Arnett is an Army Spouse stationed in Ft. Eustis, VA and mother of three rambunctious boys. She is the author of the recently released children’s book My Daddy’s a Soldier and has been a featured speaker at numerous military organizations, events and schools. She serves on Operation Homefront of the Virginias Advisory Board and is a contributing writer for the Military Newspapers of Virginia and The Oyster Pointer. Arnett’s professional career includes working for the United States Peace Corps, American Heart Association and the Red Cross. In 2011, she was selected as the “Heroes At Home” Military Spouse of the Year. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership through Regent University.

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  • red2429

    Yes, they are all a like. In 16 years in the military among numerous units, not one FRG has ever been worth one minute of time. If you love drama and dysfunctional people go get involved in the FRG.

    • Rquick

      thats a lame and a lazy way to look at things. Grouping them all together in a negative way is unfair. The only way to change things is to get involved not write them off and let other people do the work.

    • AMP

      I competely agree based of my experience here. Grown women cursing infront of young children, calling each other names (even if it is “friendly” in front of of strangers) Clearly acting as if they are your superiors and NEVER getting you information other haven’t had a last a week prior. Fort Stewart; almost everyone agrees it’s one of the worst posts they have been to for uncountable reasons.

      • YellowRoseOTx

        I’ve been “in” (as a spouse) 25+ years now. I have yet to see or hear anyone cursing at another spouse or calling each other names. This sounds like high school, not adult women. No wonder you have a bad taste in your mouth. I won’t say, it’s one branch vs another, but some branches are more classy than others (IMHO).

  • SJGArmy

    Dear red2429, I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t experienced anything good that came from any of your FRGs…depending on what branch you’re in…I would happily welcome you to our FRG (probably with something good to eat too!) but without the drama…that is one thing that isn’t ever welcome! Thank you for your comment!

  • debra

    I’m not real happy with our FRG yes i went to a few meeting and they were ok but when my husband deployed .it was like they thought they were better then everyone else They were giving out the daddy dolls
    i called my FRG leader and ask if I could get my kids there doll it took me almost 2 months to get them and she had them in the trunk of her car .I”M not saying I will not try another FRG when he comes home and we PCS what I am saying is that I am new to the MILITARY life we just got married in March and i have 2 step kids that I LOVE with all my heart and have full time I’m 40 yrs old and i don’t have time to deal with ppl who think they are above anyone i have more important things to worry about and that is my husband and my kids and I”M so sorry for venting but I have no one here

  • debra

    I’m sorry i should not say I have no one because I have one Friend here but she has her own problems to worry about and I would NEVER put my worries on her .

  • Vickie Seitz

    We had 36 years in when my husband retired. I served as an FRG Leader in two units and also helped in various other duties.
    The FRG is meant to be there for spouses of soldiers no matter what the need happens to be. If it meant babysitting for you, sitting at the hospital, cleaning your house, running errands, yard work or what ever the need I always tried to help get it taken care of in a timely manner.
    We did family days on drill weekends, and on the holidays.
    To do all these things you must have participation from the spouses that are willing to attend monthly meetings so we could help each other. If you don’t attend the meetings and tell them what your needs are they don’t know how to help you abd you don’t know how to help other spouses. I tried to call all the spouses once a month to see if there were needs or prayer request.
    As we were retiring they were turning the FRG back over to the unit to be ran by the soldiers and I feel like this may have been a mistake because the soldiers are busy enough on their drill weekends and other times.
    I sympathize with those of you who have had a bad experiences with the FRG program but you can help turn it around for the future by letting your voice be heard at meetings and if you need to call the FRG person in main headquarters. In Missouri that is in Jefferson City.

  • Cathy

    For me you hit the nail on the head of what is wrong with the majority of FRGs with the statement. “The most rewarding job was FRG Leader. This was my chance to step up to the plate alongside my husband when he was in command.” I understand the fact the wife seems to be the perfect choice for FRG Leader being closest supposedly to understanding the Commanders goals and being their the length of the command. But right there I think is what creates and sets up the environment that are responsible for a large part of the clicks and drama of the FRG. Having the CSM’s wife as co-leader does not help either. It is not suppose to be an branch within a branch, the fact that the hierarchy is almost the same is a huge reason people never walk in the door. The Commanders wife is often FRG leader because she is closest to understanding, cooperating with and implementing his goal in theory but in reality it hurts.

  • TARA

    I would say that people should give the FRGs a try. This is my second duty station–at my first one (where I lived and met and married my husband, thus had my own group of friends, life, etc there pre-military), I attempted to get involved and was treated so appallingly I left and never returned to another base event. When I got to the second duty station here in CA, where I knew no one, couldn’t find work, etc; I decided to man up and very apprehensively give it another try! A year later, I am so pleasantly surprised by the supportive group of women and our FRO’s we work with! Yes, there are some bad apples in some units. But getting involved will either a. surprise you by meeting some great people or b. allow you to hopefully maybe change that unit for the better! :)

  • AMS

    The FRGs I’ve been in were worthless. Cliques, drama, no accountability, women who wear their husbands rank (eh hem, officers wives), women who have never served and constantly complain about their husbands job. Oh and th en there’s the fighting back and forth about whether or not to call yourself and Army Wife and whether or not its a job and blah blah blah.

    In the past 6 years, I’ve met 2 spouses I can actually stand to have a friendship with. The rest of you are some crazy b******

    • AMP

      LoL, I don’t hate on all the wifes. The ones who think they wear their husbands rank however (many of them) are the worst. Let them click together, think they are something, and the rest of us can carry on in the real world going to walmart and labeling them “people of walmart” folk when we do our grocery shoppong.

  • SJGArmy

    I can’t help but look over these comments and agree. However, there seems to be a major divide (and strong opinion) not favoring leadership capabilities among the officer’s wives. Is this because of personal past experiences, rumors, or just opinion? I’m fascinated at this topic as we are somewhat new to the military. Can someone explain these strong feelings that essentially oppose officer’s wives???

    • jacey_eckhart

      The officer wife bias is one of those confounding mysteries of military life. It has historical roots in a time where class differences were strongly held in the military and in society as a whole. Since American society is much more informal and officer and enlisted spouses resemble each other more every year, you would think that bias would disappear. The vast majority of officer’s spouses today (male and female) would never dream of “wearing rank.” A few do–which helps perpetuate the stereotype. Yet the stereotype lives on. I think it is one of the most divisive elements in military life, but I have no idea how to eliminate it. I just keep trying to be one of those solid citizens of military life who holds a good thought for everyone.

  • flosgirl

    I have had horrible experiences with the FRG. My ex husband was a Marine and when he deployed the chaplain-yes, the chaplain for his unit tried to get me to have *** with him. The Key Volunteer Coordinator always wore her husband’s rank. I was very young (18) and none of the people in the FRG really wanted anything to do with me, and I did try by volunteering and trying to become involved, but I was always told I wasn’t needed, but then my husband would come home and tell me they were still looking for volunteers. My current husband is in the Air Force and we are stationed at an Army Post, so I haven’t really even tried to get involved honesty… Would a friend be nice? Of course, but with my previous experience, I don’t need friends like that.

  • DaniTencs

    In my personal experience the positives of being involved in the FRG far outweigh the negatives. I have been involved in FRGs for 6 years and was an FRG leader for 2 years. It’s true, there are negative people that become involved in the FRG which do taint others experience. However, I personally saw this as an opportunity to become part of the FRG to make a positive difference. You can make a genuine difference being involved in an FRG, as the FRG, particularly during deployment, can be the support network a spouse needs to make it through the tough times and the inevitable “everything goes wrong during deployment”! My husband deployed as soon as we PCSed to Kansas and I was thousands of miles from home. The FRG was my way to make friends and channel my energies into something positive. The FRG is not for everyone, but I wanted to share that for me it was a very positive group to be involved in.

    I also want to comment on two other points:

    1. I have been a Commander’s Wife and it is tough! before anyone gets angry with me, of course I understand being a Military spouse is tough, but as the Commander’s wife, often you are treated with suspicion and distain. I have only met a handful of Officer’s wives that met the stereotype, but generally, as in life, the majority are wonderful individuals. All I ask is that you think twice before immediately labeling anyone.

    2. The FRG team, all positions , work really hard and it can often be a thankless job. For example, when I was a FRG leader I had spouses call to vent at 3am (regularly), spouses demand I cut their grass and pay their grocery bills! However, you receive really great training to manage these situations and it can be really rewarding. Especially when you can be of help to people like the mom of 3 with a newborn and deployed husband, or help out a family with a loved one in hospital or organize help for a family that had their house burnt down. All of these examples happened whilst I was part of an FRG.

    Just a final note, that in my experience, I have seen many spouses, Military members and children positively contribute to the FRG. They do not do it for recognition, or because they are power hungry, they do it because they care about Military families. One of those people is the author of this article, who I am proud to have as my friend. A friend I met when I first became a Military spouse and one that is someone who I admire for her dedication to supporting Military families.