96 Trans FRG
By SPC Fabian Ortega
13th Sustainment Command (Expenditionary) PAO
Having endured five deployments in three years, the Family Readiness Group for the 96th Transportation Company, 13th Sustainment Command (Expenditionary)’s most deployed unit, has become quickly become the model for familial support on Fort Hood.
The 96th Trans FRG, led by April Short, has become adept at handling the unit’s frequent deployments to the Kuwaiti desert and subsequent redeployments home and is making those frequent tours a bit easier to bear for Soldiers and spouses of the 96th Trans.
“Our main concern is to make sure our families our contacted and updated on what’s going on down range,” Short said.
A chief example of a how family support group can mitigate the effects of being estranged from a loved one for six months or longer, the 96th Trans FRG prides itself on keeping spouses informed, said Bridgette Harrison, whose husband Staff Sgt. Kenneth Harrison, a platoon sergeant with the 96th, is a veteran of six deployments.
“Worst part of a deployment is not knowing what is going on,” said Harrison.
A knowledgeable spouse is worried less often, according to Bridgette and April.
One way to stay informed is through regular FRG meetings and briefs.
“Even though this is my third deployment there are things I forget,” Short said. “Even for the spouses who have been through deployments five times might think they don’t need this but it helps remind us of things we have a tendency to forget.”
At a recent FRG gathering for a reunion brief, the group had a good turnout of spouses and family members.
Harrison believes this is key to staying informed and building a well rounded FRG that can alleviate some of the burdens put on Soldiers deployed who are concerned about home.
“When (the Soldiers deployed) know that everything at home is ok, it makes their job over there a whole lot easier and they can focus on getting home safe,” said Harrison.
Short and Harrison cited an incident that occurred recently when tornadoes touched down in Central Texas and destroyed local homes and business in the Fort Hood community.
A home belonging to a spouse with the 96th Trans sustained heavy damage from the storm, and in a few days, with the help of the 96th Trans FRG, personal belongings and furniture were removed from the home and placed in a new home.
“Normally in that situation we wouldn’t ask for volunteers to go over help because that’s the rear detachment issue, but this (spouse) really needed the help,” Short said.
Incidents such as those, Short said, galvanize members of the 96th Trans FRG.
Short said she opted to volunteer for the FRG leader position because of the families in the unit.
“I did it for the spouses,” Short said. “I’ve been with the unit since ’04 and after I saw a couple of deployments the FRG was not as strong as I thought it should be, because this is the most deployed unit on Fort Hood, it should have a strong FRG,” she said. “So I thought, I’ll get in there and get volunteers up, have point-of-contacts, and just make sure people are contacted and updated.”
That’s really the only reason, said Short.
Half of the troops in the 96th Trans are on their fifth deployment with the unit, Short and Harrison’s husbands among them, and when word got out about the new deployment policy and extension, Short and Harrison were a bit soured.
“You have to understand that things happen, and we kind of knew,” said Harrison.
“You go through the motions, your angry but then you try to be supportive to your Soldier, they’ve been through quite a bit over there,” Short Said. “This is my third deployment, I feel like I’m a pro,” said Short. “But every deployment is completely different and this has been the hardest deployment.”
Short stressed that an open line of communication between a spouse and a Soldier who is deployed helps deal with some of the added stress the extension can bring.
“My husband and I have such wonderful communication through phone and internet. I’m always keeping him updated on everything,” Short said.
Upon redeployment there are various programs and resources to help ease the reintegration process, said Harrison.
“(Units) have retreats and counseling, go and support your spouse, make sure your marriage is getting stronger, if not we have chaplains that can helps us if there is a problem,” said Harrison. “People should use their resources. We have a lot of resources on Fort Hood for whatever you need, especially for marriage.”
The counseling is at no charge to you, said Harrison.
“A lot of spouses don’t talk to other spouses, they just keep it in, but when their spouse gets home, they blow up,” said Harrison. “That’s what the FRG is for.”