New military spouses might not know all the acronyms, but one you should definitely learn is FRG. FRG stands for Family Readiness Group and, depending on your spouse’s unit, it’s the cornerstone of life in the military.
If you have heard horror stories about FRGs, set them aside for a moment. Because the truth is that every FRG, just like every military unit, is totally unique, and one spouse’s experiences with a group might not be anything like your experience. Let’s talk about what an FRG does and doesn’t do and what you can look for in a group.
What Is an FRG?
First, the term FRG is specific to the Army and Navy. The Army is adapting the name to the Soldier and Family Readiness Group to be more inclusive and to signify the group is not only for spouses.
The Air Force calls this their Key Spouse Program (KSP), the Marine Corps calls it the Family Readiness Program (FRP) and the Coast Guard Military Spouse clubs have named it the Work-Life Program (WLP). No matter what your branch calls it, the core mission of the group is the same.
It’s designed to keep you, the military spouse, informed of what’s happening at the local level and connect you to resources provided to you and your service member. It also serves as the info hub for everything you might need to know during a deployment or a temporary duty assignment or extended field exercise. So, if you want to find out if your spouse is getting extended or coming home early, forget Facebook. This is the group you need to plug into.
Is an FRG a Spouse Club?
In decades past, units had formal spouse clubs that met for luncheons and teas on a semiregular basis. These gatherings served as informal information exchanges. But as more military spouses have entered the workforce, the spouse clubs have dramatically declined. In their wake, we have FRGs. Like military spouse clubs, FRGs are command-sponsored. Typically, military installations need written agreements to partner with non-military organizations, which requires a lot of paperwork. Thankfully, FRGs are not burdened in this way. FRGs operate under the supervision of individual unit commanders, and they have the ability to shut them down if needed.
What Do FRGs Actually Do?
All groups will operate a little differently, depending on your branch and even specialty. But, in general, all readiness groups have the same central core mission:
- Provide relevant information to spouses
- Act as a communication bridge between the chain of command and spouses in the unit
- Help provide resources specific to your branch and installation
- Serve as a resource to work through problems
- Ensure spouses feel prepared and connected
The best spouse groups will reach out to you when you’re new to a unit, but if you haven’t heard from anyone, there’s no harm in reaching out yourself. All readiness groups are staffed by other spouses, so everyone is volunteering their time. Most often, readiness groups have some presence on social media, so you should be able to locate a point of contact there. If you can’t, ask for the phone tree list from your spouse, and send an email or quick text introducing yourself.
Why Join a Family Readiness Group?
Joining a readiness group gives you a chance to work toward creating a better community for yourself because the truth is that no one is ever going to understand this military life like other military spouses.
Volunteering has always been a big part of military life, both for service members and for spouses. One of the best ways to ensure you have an excellent and worthwhile experience within your new FRG is to put the time in as you are able. You might find yourself in the midst of a well-organized FRG that has enjoyable events and a vibrant community, or you might find yourself with a defunct group that’s lost its morale.
If you find a less-than-optimal FRG, consider what you need to do to make it into something extraordinary. If there are events you think would benefit your group and unit, plan them. As long as it doesn’t violate your existing FRG policies, there’s nothing stopping you from creatively fixing the problems you see.
If you don’t yet know what PCS, TDY or OPSEC means, you soon will. Military life is full of jargon and policies and procedures that make the average civilian want to pull out their hair. Military spouse groups are a great place to learn these terms without being overwhelmed or feeling dumb while talking to your spouse’s boss. At meetings, you will learn all about OPSEC, also known as operational security, and how it affects you, a military spouse.
An explanation about OPSEC from a service member will remain technical. But one with an FRG will speak your language. Reminders that “loose lips sink ships” are often coupled with specifics on what to post on social media and what information to avoid. FRGs can provide a crash course in “Military Jargon 101.”
FRG Networking and Volunteering
Since FRG work is all-volunteer, you’ll be doing your part to enrich your community and the unit as a whole. You’ll find that the connections you make at readiness groups often stick with you for the long haul. Ask any seasoned spouse what’s helped them get through yet another deployment, and they’ll tell you it’s their fellow military spouses. Being a part of an FRG is the first step toward creating that relationship.
FRG work can also help you pad your resume if you’re at an installation where it’s difficult to find work. Volunteer hours count as work experience, so if you have a background in finance, maybe consider volunteering as the group’s treasurer.
Finally, one of the best reasons to join a readiness group is because eventually, you’re going to be the seasoned spouse, and there will be new spouses fresh to the military who need direction and support. Being active in your readiness group allows you to help usher in the next generation of military spouses and help keep our military traditions vibrant and thriving.
FRGs are Fun Social Activities
Readiness groups offer a lot more than just communication about events and deployments. They’re also a good way for spouses who are new to the unit to make friends and find common ground with the other spouses who are already there. Mixers, activities and family-themed events will help you feel connected and supported as you get settled into your larger community. From networking opportunities to book clubs, craft nights or even day trips, a readiness group is a great way to remember that being a military spouse isn’t a solo adventure – you’re part of a tribe.