When Uncle Sam decides to move a family, life can be tough when trying to establish yourself in an area that’s completely new to you and your family. Thankfully, members of the military maintain spouse groups all over the world to ensure new members of the community feel welcome and can call their new duty assignments home. Readiness not only applies to the service members, but to their families as well. Here are some ways to find those groups and get involved.
We elected to structure this post in more of an informal Q&A session, in the hopes to maintain the personal reflection that these women provided.
For your reference, the interviewer is Katie Dyer (KD:) and the interviewees are Amanda Collier (AC:), Amanda Olson (AO:), and Tonya Miller (TM:)
KD: What is a Family Readiness Group? How have you been involved in FRGs in the past?
AC: It is an Army command-sponsored organization of family volunteers and soldiers within the unit. They work together under the direction of the unit to provide families and soldiers support and to keep family members involved and informed. Many years ago, these groups were only active during deployments, but since the 1980’s these groups have become active during both deployments and garrison. These groups are the backbone of every deployment or extended training exercise. The FRG bonds spouses and family members together to give them support and a way to get involved while their loved one is away. It also provides information for spouses that need assistance and what benefits they can seek during deployments. During deployments and training exercises information about soldier’s location, travel plans, injuries, etc. is sensitive information. The trained FRG volunteers are given this information from the chain of command to pass down to family members in a secure way to ensure the safety of the unit. If there happens to be injuries, or even a death within the unit the FRG has trained members to help tend to the families and help with coordinating needs. Lastly, the FRG’s fundraiser to boost family and soldier morale either while they are home or away. Cookie drives during the holidays for single soldiers or care packages overseas are very popular. Putting together “Welcome Home Baskets” for the single soldiers to have in the barracks when they arrive is a common task executed by FRG’s. These efforts give families and spouses a different focus during extended periods away from their soldier and a way to stay united.
I have filled every role within an FRG during my eight and a half years as a military spouse. I was part of the care team, which help tend for families of injured soldiers or soldiers who died. I have been a Key Caller, who are responsible for a certain number of families on a regular basis with information or to just check in on them. I was also a Treasurer, responsible for the funds that were raised to spend on the unit’s soldiers and families. Lastly, I was an FRG Leader for two different companies. I was responsible for implementing the commander’s direction for that FRG and the morale of families within those companies. Additionally, I oversaw fundraising to ensure we were giving back to our families and soldiers. I was also responsible for providing our families with accurate information while being available to their families if or when they needed assistance. The FRG’s are a great way to meet families within the unit and build relationships so that when soldiers are gone, the spouses have friends to lean on.
AO: I was actively involved in the FRG throughout my time as a military spouse. This was a great way to stay up to date, meet new friends, and be part of the community.
KD: What are some other military spouse groups and clubs that are out there? In what ways were you involved? How can other military spouses find these groups and get involved?
AC: There are so many!
Spouses Clubs – Way back when they were called Officer’s Wives Clubs; but now they are all ranks, all branches, retiree, and active duty inclusive groups of male and female spouses. These clubs are at most installations and are private organizations run by military spouses. Spouse’s clubs have monthly gatherings with an assortment of themes. They also have sub-clubs within the main club such as wine club, book club, recipe club, sewing club, crafting club, hiking club, etc. These groups are a fantastic way of meeting individuals that share similar interests. The Spouse’s Clubs also do yearly fundraising events to give back to their communities or approve scholarships to military families who apply. At JBER, I joined the Richardson Spouse’s Club (now known as the Elmendorf-Richardson Spouse’s Club) and immediately got involved in their annual Support the Troops sponsored by WineStyles. This event was a wine tasting event and silent auction. My involvement in this event led to me meeting many amazing friends that I would have otherwise never met. After a year of serving on the board as the Support the Troops chair, I was elected to become President, which was an honor. The ladies that I met within those two years are friends that I keep in touch with and consider dear friends.
PWOC/CWOC (Protestant Women of Christ or Catholic Women of Christ) – These programs are a way for you to grow within your faith (through a variety of studies) and find other woman that share that same desire. These groups are located at most installations and you can find information about them through your unit chaplain, or at the chapels on post. These groups meet once a week. They usually offer some time to socialize and then the women meet up in different areas to discuss their studies. Most PWOC/CWOC groups have a fall study and a spring study. Being military spouses, it is a constant struggle to find a place to grow our faith because we are always moving. PWOC/CWOC are programs that can help with the consistency and stability. I have sincerely enjoyed these programs as it brings sisters of faith together to encourage, pray, and mentor each other.
Stroller Strong Moms (also known as S.L.A.M. – Sweat Like A Mother) – Their mission is to provide moms a fun and inspiring one-hour workout. Stroller Strong Moms has grown rapidly over the past five years and continues to grow. As Mom’s it is difficult for us to get to the gym daily, so S.L.A.M. is a workout group where you can bring your children along. They can sit with their friends, watch bubbles or listen to music while watching Mom sweat and push herself with a motivating group of ladies. Stroller Strong Moms is truly a sisterhood and an amazing way to meet friends and stay active. I have been a member of the Stroller Strong Moms Leavenworth group for seven months now and I am so grateful for these incredible mamas. There is always a themed class, Mom’s Night Out, play group meet up or race that these ladies are putting together. S.L.A.M. also has sub-groups within their club such as bible study, meal prep, book club, run group, etc. If you are looking for an encouraging group of women, find a Stroller Strong Moms group near you. Searching for a S.L.A.M. chapter was the first thing I did when we received our new assignment a few weeks ago and you bet I will be joining
AO: I volunteered at my kids schools. Social media is a great way to stay up to date and find groups & volunteer opportunities.
TM: Facebook is a very good source to look up the installation you are on and find Spouses pages.
This is Part 3 in a 3-Part Series on Life as a Military Spouse. You can find Part 1: Advice for Military Spouses by Military Spouses and Part 2: Family Life for a Military Spouse on USP News & Reviews.