Army Family Readiness Groups help build strong Soldiers, strong families

Jan. 24, 2011

By Spc. Adam P. Garlington, USAREUR Public Affairs

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Soldiers and their families assigned to Europe have the unique opportunity to experience cultures and visit places that they’ve only read about in history books, but this unique opportunity also places them thousands of miles and many time zones away from their family and friends.

Army Family Readiness Groups help compensate for the distance and time gaps that separate them from their support networks back home in the U.S.

FRGs are command-sponsored organizations that provide mutual support, assistance and a communications network for family members, the chain of command and community resources, according to the Army FRG Leader Handbook.

“FRGs bring the unit together by supporting Soldiers and their families,” said Amber Newlon, a FRG leader in the 21st Theater Sustainment Command. “FRGs help you meet the other families in the unit, make new friends and develop support systems.”

Newlon said she didn’t know what to expect with her new military life overseas when her husband was ordered to go to Germany. The acting FRG leader introduced her to other spouses in the unit, which made her feel welcome and eased her transition overseas.

“Getting to know the different [people] in your [spouse’s] company is a great way to form bonds and build a support network,” said Betsey Mercado, a FRG leader in the 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “Friendships that start at FRG events become really strong. You can depend on one another for whatever you may need.”

Barbeques, fundraisers, holiday carnivals, shopping trips and wine tastings are some of the FRG events that help bring families together and help them cope with their Soldier being deployed, said Diana Lindell, a FRG leader in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Army Community Service classes are another tool that FRGs use to support families.

ACS offers different classes to aid families, Mercado said. Reintegration classes are the current focus of her unit, because their Soldiers are beginning to return from Afghanistan. The classes give families realistic expectations of how their Soldier may behave following a deployment, which can help ease the transition process.
There are also ways for family members in the U.S. that have Soldiers here, in Europe, to participate in FRGs.

They can sign up for FRG emails to receive information about the unit, Lindell said.

Family members in the U.S. can send items to Soldiers preparing for deployments, so they will have things to put in their rooms, Mercado said. They can also write letters of encouragement for the Soldiers on the unit Facebook wall.

“FRGs offer support and help build resilient families,” Mercado said. “It’s helpful to have someone to lean on that you can trust. Our company always has someone you can rely on when you’re having a bad day or need help finding information. Someone is always there to help.

“I encourage everyone to try FRGs at least once. FRGs give you the opportunity to support your Soldier and family, and other Soldiers and their families.”

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