I’m from the old school, which isn’t really that old, but in USMC terms, I’m ancient. When I first learned about unit volunteering for helping other spouses back in 1995, it was called Key Wives; how un-PC is that?! Then it morphed into the Key Volunteer Network. I held the post of KV Coordinator and KV for several years with an infantry battalion during the unit’s first two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Talk about stress!!! But, I loved it.
As you may know, I truly have a passion for helping, informing, and educating people, especially military spouses. I believe there is no reason for anyone to be ignorant about what is available to them to help them. Our lifestyle can be so isolating and scary, with A LOT of misinformation flying around. Add to that the unscrupulous characters who try to scam us and take advantage of military families and it’s easy to get discouraged in your role as a milspouse.
That is why I believe in helping other milspouses…I can’t stand for one of us to be misinformed or be taken advantage of.
I took a break from the family readiness gig for a few years, trying to finish school, working, and in general knowing that I needed to step back before I became too cynical and jaded to be helpful.
Now, I’m ready to step back in and help out.
I attended Family Readiness Assistant training offered by MCCS Marine Corps Family Team Building at Camp Pendleton last night. Many of the topics of training were the same as under the old KV program but there are a few significant changes.
First, the Family Readiness Officer (FRO) is a paid civilian position within each unit. The job basically corresponds to the former Key Volunteer Coordinator position. which was an unpaid volunteer role, though it really was a fulltime job. The FRO is hired by the commanding officer of the unit and are part of his family readiness team.
The second significant change is the definition of what “family” means in regards to family readiness. It has been expanded to include anyone the Marine is “born into, sworn into, or married into.” So, now parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, girlfriends and fiancées all have the privilege of participating in family readiness and receiving deployment information and support officially as communication from the FRO.
These two changes are significant and have led to improved consistency in communication between the unit command and the families of the Marines in the unit.
What is the Family Readiness Assistant’s role? Basically – it depends on the commanding officer and his FRO. The FRA must be invited and interviewed by the command in order to officially serve, though anyone (who is in someway associated with the USMC, not just any civilian off the street) can sign up for the training and get the information. She’s appointed for and agrees to serve for a 1-year period of time; this ensures stability in communication. The FRA may contact family members at the direction of the FRO and CO to pass along official communication and information.
The FRA is also an information and referral source. She can help family members find assistance for issues that commonly arise…needing childcare, counseling, or budget advice….just about any facet of life can be addressed by one of the programs within MCCS and the charitable organizations who give to and help military families.
The FRA may also assist the FRO in planning and organizing special events designed to encourage camaraderie amongst the families. This can lead to the role being misconstrued as a social party planner, but there is much more to it. And if we didn’t have these events, wouldn’t most spouses complain about the lack of gatherings?
I like the changes the Marine Corps made to the family readiness program. I learned a lot from my interesting and engaging trainer and look forward to again volunteering to help USMC families.