Thursday, June 17, 2010

FRG -[cue the scary music]

Xposted at LeftFace

Alright - Everyone with a horror story about FRGs, right hand up. Everyone with a story about the great stuff that happened in an FRG , left hand up. Wow, lots of “touchdown” hands there, folks!

All of us, and oh boy, am I including myself in this, have the horror story about the awful leader, or the catty spouses, or the lies spread to the guys downrange, the stupid meetings with the dumb games, the lack of anything to do for those with/without kids… there are as many of these stories as there are military spouses. No, I’m not asking y’all to share those with us right now… we’ll open a “get THIS one” page, ok?

BUT, there are as many of us who remember the good things from FRGs, great cookie baking/care package packing parties, with laughter and stories and a little vino maybe thrown in; or the chance meeting with someone who really needed to talk, or was there to listen; or the phone calls just checking on you during deployment [thanks, Mary]

So the latest incarnation of the uber rank conscious/rank pulling abusive FRG leader out of Fort Bragg has started this discussion, again. On Facebook, on various blogs – the questions are flying. What is the FRG for? Who should run it? Are FRSAs working out the way we were told they would? I’m not going to even try to answer these questions. I will say that, from what I’ve seen in both Guard and Active FRGs, it depends on the command. If Command cares, the FRG flourishes. If Command is just checking the box on the evaluation form, the FRG either becomes moribund or self destructs in a giant flurry of hurt feelings, tears, anger, recriminations and now – the news and Army Times.

Is this, maybe, the big scandal that will cause actual change to happen? Is airing our dirty laundry for all civilians to see as well, a wake up call for leadership? Is this what it takes to make the “powers that be” wake up and realize that FRGs, for all their great intentions, are being run by the volunteers who have gone through one deployment too many, funded by cupcakes sales to ourselves? Do we want either paid personnel, spouses of veterans who’ve “been there, done that”, or to keep relying on the volunteers who are sometimes eager and willing to take on the challenge? For some units, would it be better to have a leadership group, not just one person on whom it all ends up falling, and should we get away from the “commander’s spouse” exemplar.

I’ve got a lot of questions, but I will agree with Sue Hoppin; let’s not forget that for all their faults, there have been great FRGs, great FRG leaders (yes, Mary, that’s you) who care about the spouses and families that are part of the unit, and who work tirelessly for those families, within the bureaucracy that has overburdened them with rules, regs and requirements. If you are an FRG leader, a Key Volunteer, ombudsman, stand up, take a bow. We appreciate you! BUT – if you see that you are uncomfortably close to being the Col’s wife in the Ft. Bragg story or Lenore in ArmyWives, step back, step aside. Let the FRG be lead by the person who wants to help, no matter his or her spouse’s rank or leadership in the unit; not to enhance his or her own ego or “assist” the servicemember they are married to.

Right – there’s my take on this latest kerfuffle – what do you think? Any solutions, suggestions?



Anonymous said...

I suppose it is hard to offer up solutions or suggestions. I completely understand that not ALL FRGs are bad, not all FRG leaders are power hungry rank-riding spouses. BUT...when it is YOUR FRG, the one you are a part of in the immediate, it is hard to say, "Well, gee, the next one might be better." I am about to experience my first experience with FRG as a spouse of active Navy. Let me tell you, it already looks like the same people over and over domineering everything. It's hard for me to say, "Gee, the deployment after this could have a good FRG," when I am facing a long-term relationship with a trio of she-beasts.

Linda said...

As the "commander's wife" in my hubby's unit(s), I have taken this position: I will GLADLY be an advisor to the FRG, but I will not, unless no one else bothers, take charge of it. It's my firm belief that I can be more helpful on the sidelines, guiding and offering assistance. I don't ever want to be seen as this woman in the article. I believe that an FRG can be successful if it has a successful leadership...not just the president (or whatever it's called now), but then ENTIRE board must be willing to go above and beyond. A board that meets regularly, works for morale of the families AND the unit, and remembers that the FRG does, IN FACT, belong to the commander (not his wife, the SGM's wife, or the 1SG's wife, either!), and that as such, he is responsible for overseeing how it is run.

I think that the FSRA's are helpful to a point, but I can tell you right now of one "my husband is the commander, but *I'M* in charge" unit who basically told the FSRA to go shove it, that "our unit is special and you can't tell me how to run the FRG" you'll still have people like that. (In this case, the commander of the DHHB should be stepping in to relieve this woman of her position, but has not yet done so).

In any FRG is only as good as the unit commander and the board that runs it.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I found like I hit the jackpot finding your blog. I just married an Army man and am already overwhelmed by all the information and lack of information out there.
This is horrifying to me. So many spouses need the FRG to perform as it should, and even maintain contact while the soldiers are home. I'm beginning to think that my expectations are too high, and that the likelihood of me finding friends isn't going to happen. I'll just be the Platoon SGT's wife. We're PCS-ing in 2 months and we've already heard that the FRG is "revamping" due to "issues". What about us, the new wives to post, the new wives to the military- don't we deserve better? I know that I'll always at least try to reach out, if I think I have information that could help. I thought that was supposed to be the purpose- helping each other.
As long as we have to rely on the formalities of the Army, I'm not sure things will get better. Obviously, some men enjoy having these wives wear their rank, and if such a man is my husband's commander, then I guess we're just shit out of luck. I think maybe women shouldn't even discuss their husbands' ranks the first 5 meetings. In a fairytale world, we'd just figure out what women would be best to lead, best to help from the sidelines, etc. Let the people who want to do it, do it. No matter what their husbands do.
But maybe this being in the news will go up on a few bulletin boards, perhaps as a warning. Maybe big red letters up top: Don't Let This Be Us!

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I have an anti-FRG bias. I was warned to stay away from FRG from the beginning, and my limited experiences with it showed that advice to be accurate.

That said, I do think that the idea of an FRG is great. We desperately do need the services that an FRG provides but they have to be accessible to all and geared to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

Because of that I think FRG leaders should be paid positions and there should be an SOP for running them. Consistency across the board, no matter what post you end up at, would help a lot to increase the efficacy of the organization and give it a better reputation.

Spouses are overextended, and the Army relies too much on us to do these things and to do them for free. When that happens you get the situation we're in presently where one FRG can be great but another is terrible and the reputation is so bad people avoid them like the plague.

Tiffany said...

Karen, I am so glad that you are keeping this conversation going! I DO think that there is a solution, and as I mentioned on Greta's blog, I think that FRG's, Ombudsmen, all of our information and resources should be located in ONE place on each base. I KNOW it can be done, because in Sasebo, Japan...WE DID IT :) The building was called the Family Readiness Center. The idea was ~ Bring all resources, all FRG's, all Ombudsmen and all services to one easy-to-find location! It was not run by ONE person or ONE command, it was run by the community FOR the community. AND IT WORKED, and continues to work to this day! I believe it could be the answer, as military families (i.e. spouses) are the backbone of this country, and when we work together, we can be fierce!!! The Center was absolutely the best of Family Readiness I have ever seen. It is run by volunteers, however, due to the fact that all of the groups come together to volunteer, you don't have one person trying to deal with all of the issues, you had several volunteers helping and working together to do exactly what most of us want to one another! AND at the end of the day, instead of selling those cupcakes...we sat around and ATE THEM!!! :) :)!!

I'd love to do this all over the country for all of us, wouldn't that be fun ;)!!??

All of my best,

ABW said...

I don't know if there will ever be a right or correct answer on this subject. I've been in far more bad FRG's than good ones. We moved, so I checked out the new FRG, and it's okay so far, so we'll see how this one turns out.