In today’s post, I’d like to educate you about the Army Family Readiness Group, frequently referred to as the FRG. I will also discuss the mission and purpose, how to establish a group at the company level, selecting a Family Readiness Leader, and some practical real-world success tips.
I thought the best way to begin this post is with a quote.
The old saying about the Army family, “If the Army wants you to have a family, they’ll issue you one!” is no longer operative in today’s Army. And the family is no longer seen as an extension of the soldier; now it’s quite the opposite. Today, clearly, we know soldiers are extensions of their families. So, our changing Army and its missions point to the critical need for strong FRGs—effective FRGs—to help enhance soldier and family morale and success at home and at work. Effective FRGs can even help our soldiers accomplish military missions. ~ Mr. David White, Chief, U.S. Army Family Liaison Office Washington, D.C.
The Family Readiness Group (FRG) is an essential part of Army readiness and morale. We rely on our family for support, and they rely on each other when we are deployed. The FRG is organized into two echelons, the unit FRG and the battalion FRG. The ARNG also has the Joint Services Support (JSS), which is a program of NGB.
The JSS is comprised of family programs, ESGR, Yellow Ribbon, and is also where you register for Strong Bonds events. While the FRG should not have Soldiers in leadership positions, the unit Commander is still responsible for the program. What does this mean?
The Company Commander should have goals for the FRG and how they integrate into the overall unit plan. They should also encourage Soldiers to be a part of the FRG in terms of participating in activities.
However, the FRG should be led by spouses, not by Soldiers. There are a few reasons for this. One, Soldiers deploy – so where does that leave the FRG if they were in charge of it? Two, having a civilian in charge makes it less of a military function and more of an informal function.
The Mission of the Family Readiness Group
Here is the definition and mission of an FRG. I found this from the Family Readiness Group Leader’s Handbook (source cited below).
As a company level operation, the FRG is a command sponsored organization of all assigned Soldiers (married and single), DA Civilians, volunteers, and their Families (immediate and extended) that together provide mutual support and assistance and a network of communications among the Family members, the chain of command, and community resources. While all these individuals are automatically considered to be members of the FRG, participation is voluntary.
The FRG plays a vital role in assisting unit commanders with military and personal deployment preparedness and enhancing Family readiness of Soldiers and Families. The FRG assists unit commanders in three ways.
First, the FRG conducts activities that enhance the flow of information between command and Families. The FRG provides feedback on the state of the unit’s Families to the command and disseminates information to Families received from the command.
Secondly, the FRG encourages resiliency among the members by providing information, referral assistance and mutual concern. Thirdly, the FRG provides activities and support that enhance the well-being and esprit de corps within the unit. ~ FRG Leader’s Handbook
The mission of the FRG is to:
- Act as an extension of the unit in providing official, accurate command information.
- Provide mutual support between the command and the FRG membership.
- Advocate more efficient use of community resources.
- Help Families solve problems at the lowest level.
Family Readiness Group History
We spend a lot of time on this website talking about leadership development and Army specific topics (not always beneficial for civilians unless they are interested in learning about the Army). There is one component that encompasses civilians, more so than anything else, and it is called the Family Readiness Group.
How exactly did the Family Readiness Group (FRG) start? What is the history behind it?
We as leaders are the first to step up and say that the family is what helps us keep doing what we are doing, that they are the reason we succeed. We need them, and everything we do is for them. They stay at home while we deploy and hold down the fort and handle everything, so we don’t have to. Nobody would argue that a solid support network makes our military jobs easier.
The FRG has been around since the Revolutionary War and has only evolved since then. During the Revolutionary War, it was a basic support system. When the men were off fighting, the women needed others to bond with and support each other.
The women also supported the troops directly – anything from medical, to clothing repair was done by the families. During this time, a “Pounding Basket” was started, where the families donated a ‘pound of food’ to help the new families on post get situated.
Army pay was not even close to what it is now, so that food was a great deal of help. Some could say that the FRG was a necessity, as meeting established families on post could have affected survival.
Mrs. George Custer could have been called the first FRG leader. She took responsibility on herself to console grieving widows after Little Big Horn. During that time, widows got nothing to help them transition from being an Army spouse to being a widowed civilian, which understandably could cause a lot of problems when great casualties are suffered.
Traditionally, the commanding officer’s wife is the post FRG leader. These early groups were called Coffee Groups, which sounds much better to me than FRG. I know I love my coffee, and you do too.
As the Army evolved and grew larger than just one unit per post, the different organizations also evolved and grew. A lot of these organizations had to be privately funded, meaning they were not using Army funds. These programs could involve anything from schools, gyms, and the chapel, to Boy Scouts.
It wasn’t until Army Community Services (ACS) was formed, that the Army recognized officially that the Army community needed a support network.
The FRG as an organization was first documented in the early 1980s, when it was called the Family Support Group. What stands out as interesting to me is that it changed from Support to Readiness, which indicates preparedness for anything.
Since 9/11, the need for a good FRG is more important than ever. With high deployment rates, newer Soldiers and their families need the support network of those who have been there and done that.
In short, you can see that the FRG has a long and storied history, and that Soldiers’ families have always helped each other and disseminated information as needed. Families have always supported each other in good times and bad. We have also learned that the FRG has adapted and evolved with the Army, further showing how amazing our military families are.
Establishing a Unit FRG
As a Company Commander, one of your mandatory requirements is to establish a unit Family Readiness Group, also known as an FRG.
The purpose of the Family Readiness Group is to provide a support channel for spouses, loved ones, and family members, especially during a deployment.
The Family Readiness Group normally has monthly or quarterly meeting. At the meetings, the spouses (and family members) get together to share information, answer questions, and conduct fundraisers.
They share ideas with each other about what deployments are like, what to expect as the stay behind spouse, and what to do when you face certain challenges while your spouse is away.
Whether your unit is scheduled for deployment or not, it’s still important to have a unit Family Readiness Group. Even if your Soldiers show little interest in the idea, that’s irrelevant. You can bet that most spouses, friends, and family members would be interested in participating in a Family Readiness Group, if they knew about it.
Your job is to establish a group and get family members and spouses to participate. That means you need to communicate with the spouses by having a unit newsletter, sending out an email to Soldiers and their spouse, and scheduling FRG Meetings for your unit.
Once you find someone interested in becoming the FRG Leader, you must place them on orders and get them trained. To do this, coordinate with your Battalion or Brigade S1 (or FRG rep). Now that your unit has an FRG leader, you must support them.
You must ensure they have the training and resources to schedule, run, and maintain a FRG Group for your unit. That also means that you need to be accessible and answer their questions when they need your help. You also need to encourage MAXIMUM participation among your Soldiers and their families.
As a Company Commander, you must disseminate information to your Soldiers and family members about the FRG. In our unit, we had a bulletin board and monthly newsletter. You can also use emails, a phone roster, or mail. I recommend you use a combination of these things to communicate with FRG Members.
Personally, I found that many spouses were not interested in a FRG during the typical training year. However, things quickly changed when a unit receives deployment orders. Even if spouses aren’t initially interested, you still need to get a group up and running. At first, you might only have five to ten participants. But as time passes, and meetings continue, interest will increase, and more spouses and family members will attend.
It’s important to have a Family Readiness Group established before the unit gets deployment orders. That way, the FRG is already working and functional and spouses have clear forms of communication. And, the unit can focus on the training it needs to accomplish, without being distracted with family issues.
The FRG Leader
Who should be the FRG Leader? It’s normally the commander’s spouse, but if that isn’t what is best for the unit, the commander should consider that. The best person for the job is the person who WANTS to take the job and has a basic understanding about how it works, and the importance of the FRG.
At the battalion level, a spouse that has been married to the Army for a long time should be in charge, because they will have the most experience for how to direct the FRG at both levels and ensure that the goals are met.
The FRG Leader should coordinate with the commander to ensure all information that is able to be disseminated, will be. The commander has a duty to ensure that they are communicating with the FRG Leader, especially when deployed.
What kind of traits make a good FRG Leader? I believe that delegation is important, as well as being a collaborator. You might be in charge, but you must be willing to listen to other spouse’s ideas.
You should be able to set goals, have excellent communication skills, and be organized (I would be a terrible leader if that were the primary requirement). A good FRG Leader must also remain calm – other spouses are looking to you for reassurance and information.
Please maintain a positive mental attitude and be enthusiastic about your job. This list could go for any leadership position, but I think it encompasses the FRG well. Avoiding gossip and upholding standards are also important.
The most important skill to succeed as a FRG leader is DESIRE. The person in the position must really want the job. Having someone in this position who doesn’t want to do it won’t work, even if they have the required skills!
The bottom line is that the FRG Leader is an important asset to the unit commander (and the entire unit). In fact, they are a part of their special staff. As the commander, it is important to establish rapport with the FRG Leader (if you are not their spouse) and you should do everything in your willpower to help them succeed in the job. The success of the FRG will improve unit cohesion and morale.
Tips for Success
If you’re looking to have a successful FRG at the unit level, here are a few of my best success tips.
Assign Someone Who Wants the Position
Ignore traditional advice of automatically picking the commander’s spouse to lead it. Find a spouse with some basic leadership qualities, and a good attitude, who wants to lead the group. This will make an enormous difference in the group’s success rate.
Promote All Events
Promote all FRG meetings to your Soldiers and their spouses. Give your Soldiers something they can take home to their spouse that talks about upcoming FRG meetings. Put the upcoming meetings in the unit newsletter. Post something on the unit’s Facebook page if OPSEC permits. Or send something in the mail to each service member’s spouse. You cannot overcommunicate.
As the senior military leader in the unit, the commander, you should be involved. Spot check things. Seek input and feedback. Communicate with the FRG Leader at least once a month to identify potential issues or problems they need your help with.
Make it Fun
If possible, try to make the group fun, educational, and helpful. Help the FRG Leader plan events such as BBQs, Family Day, and other major events that can bring everyone together.
Family Readiness Regulations
Here are the only two regulations/resources I could find online concerning the Family Readiness Group. If you have, or know of, additional resources please leave a comment below to share it. Thanks.
- Family Readiness Group Handbook
- AR 600-20
In conclusion, this is everything I know about the Army Family Readiness Group. Whether you are a young enlisted Soldier, or a unit commander, you should have a basic understanding of the FRG so your spouse can receive adequate support (and updates) while you are deployed. The FRG is a valuable resource designed to support the loved ones and family members of Soldiers while they are deployed.
What are your thoughts about the Army FRG? What tips can you share to make it successful? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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