FRGs keep the homefires burning during deployments

| October 28, 2010 | 0 Comments
Story and photo by
Vickey Mouzé
Pau Hana Editor

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Family readiness groups in Army-Hawaii exemplify promises made in the Army Family Covenant.

As a commander’s program, FRGs build unit cohesion and readiness through disseminating timely and accurate information from unit commanders to Soldiers and family members.

A friendlier, more “warm, fuzzy feeling” kind of explanation is that FRGs are like families, said Melissa Parnell, co-leader of the FRG belonging to the 34th Sapper Company, 65th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.

Family readiness groups address the needs of families in each unit. (Courtesy photo)

Family readiness groups address the needs of families in each unit. (Courtesy photo)

“When people ask me, ‘you’re going home to be with your family for Thanksgiving, right?,’ I realize that our FRG here has become my family,” Parnell said. She thinks that’s because FRG members understand military life and deployments.

“You can talk to each other, and (FRG members) will know what you’re going through,” said Parnell, whose husband, Jonathan, is the unit’s executive officer.

Dawn Muehling, FRG leader, sees the 34th Sapper Co. FRG as a support group, as well as a second family. When her husband, Keith, who is the company commander, deployed on the 34th’s inaugural deployment in June 2009, the FRG kept her going.

“When you have such a great group of friends, that’s what kept me sane through this last deployment,” she said.

“You get to know a lot of people,” added Sarah Reynolds, FRG treasurer, adding that she belonged to an FRG when she and her husband, Paul, were stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, but it wasn’t as active as the one here.

The 34th’s FRG is more active with meetings and fundraisers, she said.

The 34th Sapper Co. FRG is one of about 210 company-level FRGs on Oahu. Normally, FRGs are established at the company level, with battalion- and brigade-level FRGs functioning in an advisory role.

FRGs include all Soldiers in the unit, single or married; interested family members, such as fiancés, spouses, parents and siblings; and Department of Defense civilians, according to Sandi Crocker, mobilization and deployment program specialist, Army Community Service, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

FRGs may also include community members who voluntarily support the unit and want to join the FRG, with the unit commander’s approval.

“Family readiness plays a critical role in Soldier readiness,” Crocker said, adding that while FRGs are a commander’s program, ACS provides support and training to the groups, such as FRG Boot Camp and pre-deployment planning and briefings.

ACS also trains family readiness support assistants, who provide administrative support to the FRGs. There are about 35 FRSAs on island who work at the battalion level. FRSAs work closely with community organizations for appropriate referrals to resources that support the unit and family members.

The 34th’s FRG was created in April 2009, and it already has seen its Soldiers deploy, redeploy and deploy again. Between 18-20 spouses gather in the battalion’s classroom for monthly meetings, and they also hold fundraisers and holiday events.

For example, 65th Eng. Bn. will hold a “trunk or treat” for the batttalion’s children. Each company in the unit will dump oodles of Halloween candy into decorated car trunks, for a safe and supervised Halloween event, Oct. 29. Pinatas, bounce houses and arts and crafts will add to the family fun.

“The 34th will have an FRG meeting after that. The kids will decorate cupcakes, and I’ll bring some candy necklaces,” Muehling said.

“They’ll all be hopped up on sugar,” Parnell said, laughing, along with Reynolds.

Thanksgiving and Christmas FRG get-togethers are already in the works.

Category: Community, Special Inserts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *