Army Family Readiness Group: A Brief 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 with a solid support network, our military jobs are much easier.

That being said, 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 probably 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 units deploying more than once, and very often, 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.

What do you think of the FRG in relation to the Army? Do you think it’s necessary? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section below, and let me know your experiences with the FRG during your career, or if you are a spouse and have been a part of the FRG.

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8 thoughts on “Army Family Readiness Group: A Brief History”

  1. I absolutely agree that the Family Readiness Group (FRG) is necessary. Our service men and women needs the support of their families perhaps more than any other occupation in America (and elsewhere). Therefore, the families need their own strong network. Military families move around so much that isn’t it nice to know that there may be a group of friends or peers waiting to welcome them upon their arrival, and help them get their bearings. Not to mention help them through the more stressful periods of deployment, or worse. This is wonderful program.

  2. I had no idea that the Family Readiness Group was around since the Revolutionary War either! I mentioned this on another post about FRG but I don’t think my parents had the benefit of a support group. They kind of had to find like-couples (Army soldier and Korean wife) so that the cultural differences were easier to bear. When my dad was promoted to E7 they told him he might have to do a hardship tour. I think fear for his young family prompted his decision to retire. Again, no support for family or children to ease their fears of the unknown of a missing parent/spouse. Reading through these blogs I wonder how my life might have been affected if he had stayed in? Now that I have kids thinking about Army I can direct them to resources and be a supportive mom.

  3. The Family Readiness Group is a very important part of the Army. I also did not know that it dated so far back. With many men and women deployed, this is a group that always need to be supported as it helps families have the backing they need.I believe that every Commander should make sure the FRG is well taken care of and has the staff in position to always be of help to families in need.

    1. It makes sense to think of the early roots of the FRG. Seems like people banded together just like we do today, and helped each other out of necessity. It’s kind of nice to think about, actually.

      1. Actually Candace, it seems to me that people banded together in the old days better than we do today. The thing is: we have many more resources at our disposal now then they did then. I call out to all leaders…Please make sure your Family Readiness Group is up to par. Have programs to keep it working the way it should. No one really understands its importance until it is needed.

  4. Great info about the history of the Army Family Readiness Group, Candace.

    I had no idea it dated back to the Revolutionary War. That’s pretty amazing.

    I think the FRG is very important, and it often doesn’t get to be as high of a priority as it should be.

    Normally, it is put on the back burner until a unit gets deployment orders.

    Hopefully, Commanders reading this article will remember to keep it high on their priority list.

    Just my two cents.

    Chuck

    1. Chuck, I think it is pretty cool on how far back the FRG dates, too. I don’t think it was as organized, but it is nice to think about our families taking care of each other without being told they had to.

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