I very clearly remember my first FRG meeting (actually, it was an FSG meeting … back when the title was still “Family Support Group”). I had been married to my fabulous Soldier for several weeks and wanted to see what this Army thing was all about. To start the meeting, the nice lady at the head of the table (whom I later learned was the battalion commander’s wife and the leader of the battalion’s FSG), asked us to introduce ourselves and tell what unit our spouse was in. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, at this point in our Army lives, I had not yet learned … well, … really anything. When my turn came, I remember stammering my husband’s name and informing the group that he was in the Army AND in the Field Artillery! (For those of you not familiar with the Army, ALL of the Soldiers were in the Army AND in the Field Artillery; it was a Field Artillery battalion. My answer just made clear to all that I had no idea about how the Army was organized.)

My husband gave me a quick tutorial that night and I learned that a Field Artillery battalion was comprised of four batteries and was a part of the division’s Artillery, called DIVARTY. I learned our battery name, our battalion name, and even found out the name of the division we were in. Who knew? Years later, when my husband became the commander of a battery, I knew that I wanted to help every single spouse feel comfortable, invited, and informed. I had learned a lot from that first battalion FSG Leader; she was a wonderfully compassionate, down-to-earth leader who genuinely cared about the Soldiers and Families in the battalion. I knew that was the kind of leader I wanted to be.

If you are in a leadership position for an Army Family Readiness Group, you likely have the same kind of goals that I did – keep Families informed, support unit readiness, and maintain a flow of communication with your unit members. There are many ways to work toward these goals … taking your local installation FRG Leader training, completing the online FRG Leader Training at Army OneSource, and working with fellow FRG Leaders to plan events and activities.

One of my greatest lessons learned as an FRG Leader was to share ideas with others. Sharing your lessons learned and taking lessons from others is one sure way to get the most of your planning.  If you have a story to share, please email and submit a blog post today!  It will be posted here on the FRG Leader blog to encourage other FRG Leaders.

If you'd rather not submit an entire post, use the comment section to share ... what was your first experience with an FRG?  How did you decide to become a leader?  What are your goals for your group?

Hope to hear from you soon!

For Soldiers serving in the oft-oppressive heat of Iraq or Afghanistan, one fun idea for a care package is a "Beat the Heat" collection. 

Start with tucking tissue paper or cellophane in various colors of blue, silver, or white into your care package box.  Feel free to decorate with 'cold' themed stickers, too (snow flakes, ice cubes, water drops, etc.).  If you have children, they can add paper snowflakes to the box.

Next, look for some of these items to complete your "Beat the Heat" box. 

Unscented, non-greasy Sport sunscreen
Sport lip balm with SPF
Water flavors like Propel or MIO
Dentyne ICE or Ice Breakers Ice Cubes gum
USB or battery-operated personal fan
Personal mister like this one from MISTYMATE
Disposable "Cool Off" towlettes
Rubik's Ice Cube game
Hockey Ice Dice game
Supersoaker Arctic Blast Water Blaster

Movies like: 2012 Ice Age, Cool Runnings, Cool Hand Luke, Ice Castles, The Ice Storm, The Cutting Edge, or Ice Age
You can Google "ice" or "cool" to find book titles to send as well.  I like to try and see what they have; there were lots of book options there! 

Here are a few more fun ideas to add to your "Beat the Heat" box ...

For military duty in hot climates comes a combo with tan neck and wrist wraps, a helmet liner, and a canteen cooler! No ice needed.

The Chilly Pad from

The Chilly Pad® provides an innovative way to cool down while enduring outdoor heat and/or high levels of physical activity. Perfect for anyone engaged in sports or work, the Chilly Pad is made from a hyper-evaporative material that retains water while remaining dry to the touch. When wet, the towel begins to evaporate and cool, providing cool, soft comfort to the user. When it stops cooling (about 1-4 hours, depending on conditions), you simply re-wet the towel in hot or cold water and wring it out. Within minutes, it's cool again. It's also machine washable, and comes in its own storage container for years of reliable use. Handy size: 27" x 17"


Our battalion recently hosted a FRG Family Night (aka battalion-level FRG meeting). Our theme?  Caution: Deployment Challenges Ahead.  Our message for the evening was that challenges are sure to arise during the deployment but we're all in this together.  We want our FRG to provide as much information and share as many resources as possible to cope with the challenges that are to come.

During the meeting, we showed photos of our Soldiers from downrange, shared information with Families, and earned our "Self Care Cards" from the hospital representative (which allows card holders to receive free over-the-counter medications from on-post pharmacies).  After the formal part of the meeting, we split into company-level FRGs so that FRG Leaders could talk company business with their Families.  Our Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA) and Rear Detachment Commander (RDC) made rounds to each group to answer questions and record any issues that needed further review.

For the kids, we wanted to create a memory-making craft.  Hopefully, it would also serve as a tool for the kids to deal with some of the emotions they will experience during this deployment.  Our volunteers started by having the children sculpt with homemade play-dough. Suggestions were given for the kids ... "Make two hearts with your play-dough ... Now try to create a red dragon!" This turned out to be a really good "filler" activity until all the kids arrived.

One of the play-dough red dragons!
Volunteers led the kids in a discussion of our theme for the night, "Deployment: Challenges Ahead."  Each child had a set of peel-and-stick stickers (found at Hobby Lobby) that matched the traffic signs on the worksheet below.  As a volunteer read the worksheet, kids were peeling and sticking traffic sign stickers onto their page.  It was an easy, hands-on way to make sure kids got the message that they always have somewhere to turn when they experience deployment challenges.
Next, a volunteer read from the book, The Wishing Tree by Mary Redman.

The Wishing Tree
The Wishing Tree is a wonderful story about a girl who stays close to her deployed dad by writing to him on yellow ribbons that she attaches to her "wishing tree." 
Afterwards, the kids all chose their very own "wishing tree" and decorated a strip of paper cut to fit the soup can that served as the base of the tree.  For decorations, we provided crayons, markers, and a variety of peel-and-stick stickers.

Children working on their "Wishing Trees."
The kids really enjoyed tying on notes to their deployed Soldiers.
It seemed to be a hit with the kids and they enjoyed writing notes on yellow ribbons then tying them to their trees.  We provided enough ribbon for each child to get started, but Families will have to add to that for the kids to continue to utilize their wishing tree.

This is how we made our "wishing" trees:

Items Needed:
  • sturdy branches
  • empty, clean soup cans
  • Plaster of Paris or "Pottery Plaster"
  • bucket or bowl to mix the plaster, water, wooden or metal spoon
  • construction paper, scissors
  • clear tape
  • decorations for the construction paper wraps: crayons, markers, stickers
  • strips of yellow ribbon (big enough to write a short message on)
A volunteer cut branches from her back yard and donated 35 sturdy tree limbs for us to use.  One afternoon, a couple of us got together and used empty soup cans and something called "Pottery Plaster" to create the base.  (I went to Hobby Lobby in search of Plaster of Paris but this is what I found instead.)  We followed the directions on the "Pottery Plaster" container to create a pancake-batter-like mix, poured the mix into the clean soup cans (to a little over half full), then inserted one tree limb per can.  It dries fairly quickly so we had to make sure the trees were standing straight as they dried.

Before the meeting, we cut several strips of construction paper to fit around the soup cans.  At the meeting, we let kids pick their strip and decorate it before wrapping around the soup can base.  We also cut yellow ribbon into strips so the kids could leave with 3 - 4 yellow ribbons on their trees. 

Other ideas for Families to do on their own:  add stones, glitter, marbles, or other decorations to fill up the rest of the soup can; add more decorations to the construction paper wrap; add more ribbon or tie notecards to the branches with notes to the Soldier on them.

We were pleased with the outcome of our wishing trees and look forward to more fun projects in the future!