New family readiness training for leaders gets R.E.A.L

By Don WagnerOctober 27, 2017

WASHINGTON -- Research shows that when Families are connected to their unit, each other, and the community, Soldiers and Families are better able to meet the challenges of military life, according to Heather Leiby, school liaison transition specialist, U.S. Army Installation Management Command.

In the Military Family Forum II at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, Leiby gave participants an overview of the new Readiness Essentials for Army Leaders, or R.E.A.L. training.

Leiby said the Army Community Service Mobilization Deployment & Stability Support Office will be offering R.E.A.L. training soon as a newly developed curriculum for Family Readiness Group volunteers, as the Army transitions to the Sustainable Readiness Model.

Using the motto of "Soldier Readiness + Family Readiness - Identifying Needs and Leveling Expectations," the classes will train Family Readiness Group volunteers. The new classes will also be provided to command teams, Family readiness liaisons and Family readiness support assistants.

Development of the new FRG training began in July 2015 with the Army National Guard and Army Reserve and now has been adopted for the entire Army.

A new training smart book for the class will be distributed through the FRG website over the next three months. Training will be available by the end of the year at installation Army Community Service centers through the Mobilization, Deployment and Stability Support Operations program. U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard training will be available through their Family Programs offices.

Leiby spoke about five distinct and specialized courses, one for each of the FRG leadership teams, focusing on their tactical roles and responsibilities.

FRG ensures that Soldiers and Families are aware of resources and it helps connect them to their communities.

"We want to ensure a more comprehensive understanding of FRG operations across all Army components," Leiby said. "Service members and their families have the primary responsibility for their well-being, but our services are designed to enhance their efforts."

She demonstrated how the new training smart book will better equip commanders and volunteers in keeping Soldiers and Family members self-reliant, resilient and ready.

FRG volunteers can be anyone who has a passion for families, Leiby said, adding that help is needed to select, recruit, and retain volunteers.

"We got a lot of things right concerning that after a six-month Army-wide pilot study that involves senior leaders and 2,152 individuals," she said.

Family Forum participants also received an overview of the Soldier Needs Assessment survey conducted by Carra Sims, a senior behavioral and social scientist with the Rand Corporation. They heard from Army senior leadership on the status of Army Family programs, and interacted with a panel of senior non-commissioned officers who shared their process for advising commanding officers on the changes to local Soldier and family programs and initiatives.

"Army success stories included the Residential Communities Initiative, or RCI, Army transition services for Soldiers, and the Army's various youth programs," said lead speaker Diane Randon, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Office of the Secretary of the Army. "The key to readiness is keeping the faith of our Soldiers and their families," Randon said.

While relaying stories of her time as a military child, Randon emphasized the importance of the Army's Community Service Centers; Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, or MWR programs, Army Child Care and Services Development Centers.

Forum moderator, Sgt. Maj. Rodney Rhoades, senior enlisted advisor to the Army's Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, told how Family Readiness Programs have benefited his family.
He and other command sergeants major from around the Army told audience members of the benefits of Army Family programs and the unique challenges they face at their commands.

"The strength of the Army is our Soldiers and their spouses," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, U.S Army Forces Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. "Many Soldiers do not often pass on important family information to their spouses." he added that Army spouses can often offer to bring valuable input concerning readiness issues and concern on readiness.

Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport Sr., U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said that non-commissioned officers are known for taking care of Soldiers and their Families.

Command Sgt. Maj. Sheryl Lyon, U.S. Army Europe, told of the unique set of needs for Soldiers and Families in Europe. She spoke about problems when Soldiers and Families are deployed to a foreign culture. Often Families are faced with the challenges of not having medical facilities nearby, she said. She mentioned spouses often have limited employment opportunities stationed abroad.

Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Kepner, senior enlisted advisor for the chief of the National Guard Bureau, spoke of the challenges of Guard members. Many have limited access to health care, he said, adding this is especially true with members in geographically disperse or rural areas.

Command Sgt. Maj. Ted Copeland, U.S. Army Reserve Command, said that he has a problem getting "readiness" information out to Soldiers and Family members in a timely manner, as well. He This is especially a problem with Reserve Soldiers who travel long distances to drill with their units or who live in rural areas of the country. Copeland said this is especially important when Reserve Soldiers are given very short mobilization times.