There are good and bad stories about FRGs. I was nervous to join ours at our first duty station, mainly because I just hoped I would like the other ladies and make friends, and fortunately my first experience was fantastic. From our Battalion Commander and Sgt. Major’s wives on down we had a welcome and opening support network. The other spouses are funny, honest, and down to earth. And I count some of them as my best friends. I served as a POC (Point of Contact) for nearly a year for about 12 spouses in our company, as well as helped out at a number of social events, and attended memorials. I got really involved in our FRG and throughout the way I saw and heard a ton of stories, and learned a lot. At one point my friend joked that I was an FRG Leader in Training since I was such good friends with all of our FRG leaders. It really just happened that way but it was funny. Of course the FRG wasn’t perfect, and there were days when I got frustrated, but here’s what I have learned about successful FRGs and what I think they should be, during a deployment or not:
- A source for information. The main purpose of an FRG is to pass on information about what the unit is doing and what’s going on on the post. Your POC or FRG leader should point you to the right resources available to get done whatever you need to get done! So if that’s getting you the number to someone at MWR or the proper office that can help. It is much less a place to ask for where to take the in-laws where they visit or what the Commissary sells.
- Support, without rank. Sure the FRG leader is usually the commander’s spouse, it is after all a commander’s program, but all ranks should be involved. The FRG is a place where whose who shouldn’t matter, sure the question may come up “oh what does your spouse do?” but not “oh you’re enlisted? Oh you’re officer?” in a condescending tone, not so much that. A friend told me a story about the senior spouses of one FRG she was in sitting off by themselves, not introducing new people to anyone, or even really saying hi to anyone. Spouses move around and it’s scary to meet new people, and if you are wearing that rank on your sleeve or seeing yourself as someone beyond important, well I have a feeling less people will have a good time or meet people. Let alone feel like this new unit or base is a second home.
- Patience. I think this one works both ways. For one, the FRG is full of volunteers, from the FRG leader to the POCs. Someone may not get back to someone ASAP because, well, the FRG isn’t their life. They have a family they are caring for, classes to attended, work to do, etc. So patience with one another is key. If it’s an emergency make sure you say in the email or phone call if that is the case. But patience works the other way too: sometimes people don’t know anything about the Army or the new base so you have to walk them through everything. It can be hard to do this over and over again. It really is, and I will admit I have gotten quite annoyed re-answering questions or seeing Google-able questions on our Facebook groups, but as FRG volunteers we have to be patient too. Without patience you’ll get upset and well that’s just no good. Understanding where both parties are coming from is a key to success.
- Drama free. Oh man have I heard some crazy stories of people saying that FRGs are all drama. One told me that they heard that you will cheat on your spouse during deployment if you’re involved (no seriously someone hear that somewhere). I know people that have been called out in meetings about things that aren’t their fault. That’s just unnecessary. And not the point. So leave the drama at home, don’t start fights, if you have a problem confront someone one on one. Don’t bring it up in front of everyone. Again the FRG is for information and support, hopefully friendships do emerge, but as a POC I only pass on information about a spouse to my FRG leader if it’s important: like a health issue or any support they may need from the company, and don’t tell anyone else. No one else needs to know that business.
- Fun! Ok, it really is a lot of information passing back and forth and support, but where it can be fun it should be. I love getting together with the other spouses and hanging out. Social events are a great way to relax and meet people. So have fun! Talk to people. Laugh. At the end of the day you may just find yourself sitting next to your new best friend.
All in all, the FRG can be a wonderful experience if you have a great group of spouses. There will always be good with the bad, and bad with the good. Someone told me, you learn from every single one. So, what have you learned from your FRG experiences? What do you think a FRG should and shouldn’t be? Any experiences you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!