5 Ways to Support Your Family Readiness Group Leader
A recent article in Foreign Policy Magazine focused on the Army’s elimination of the Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA) program. It struck a nerve with Army spouses across the country, according to the responses on our Facebook page.
Many related their own experiences as a Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader or a FRSA as positive and worthwhile. Many others expressed frustration and anger over the implied expectation that Army spouses volunteer as FRG leaders because their spouses are in positions of command.
Like it or not, the FRG leader is an essential part of unit family readiness. While the FRSA program is gone, in its place is the Family Readiness Liaison (FRL): a military member (E-7 or above) who acts as a liaison between service members and their families and the command. Key to the FRL’s success is his/her relationship with the unit FRG leader. They must partner to ensure effective and efficient management of the family readiness program.
Which brings us back to the FRG leader, a volunteer spouse who may or may not want the job and who may or may not have the proper training and resources to be successful.
If you are a unit commander, here are some tips that will ensure a positive professional and personal experience for the FRG leader in your command:
- Make sure they want the job and were not drafted against their will. There are always a handful of spouses in any unit who are willing to raise their hands and volunteer. Find them. Don’t limit your volunteer pool with arbitrary conditions.
- Make sure they know who they report to and who they don’t. The FRG leader does not report to the FRL but rather works with the FRL. FRG leaders are appointed by the unit commander and must have a direct line of communication with him/her.
- FRG leaders are not counselors, financial advisers, taxi drivers … you get the gist. Provide your FRG leader with a list of resources and referrals that are up-to-date. This should include points of contact who will answer the phone when a family member calls. There is nothing worse than a resource that doesn’t work.
- Train your FRG leaders for success, not exhaustion. Provide ongoing training through Army OneSource and Army Community Services but remember, this is a volunteer with additional responsibilities at home and in many cases at work. Make the time spent on training meaningful and manageable.
- Have a light at the end of the tunnel and celebrate. The most successful volunteers are the ones who have been given meaningful work, have been trained well, have the proper tools at their disposal, have a realistic expectation of when the job ends, and feel rewarded and validated for their contribution. Celebrate your volunteers. You can’t do it without them.