June 26, 2016 –
Approximately 75 people from seven units, three time zones, two coasts, six states and numerous cities came together to set the foundation for their unit’s Family Readiness Plan (FRP).
The 200th Military Police Command hosted a two-pronged Family Readiness Training: Chain of Command (COC) Training and Family Readiness Group (FRG) in a New Era Training at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, Calif., June 24-26.
This concept started with the commanding general’s vision to offer training to all Soldiers and families in all phases of their lives, to include units down at the company level. Maj. Gen. Philip Churn’s idea established a volunteer management program – a new concept. Churn’s program goal is to inspire and empower families and Soldiers to be ready and resilient.
“You are the ones that make the first impression,” said Dr. Andrea Daniels, Family Programs coordinator for the 200th MP Cmd. to the participants as they cautiously entered the conference center. “You have a very big responsibility, it’s an important one: We are here to ensure the well-being of our entire Army family.”
Her Family Programs Office’s motto is: “Family readiness leads to Soldier readiness, which leads to mission readiness,” Daniels said. “Our programs are supposed to touch every Soldier at all phases because a Soldier is a Soldier for Life. So the program was expanded to encompass all the phases to support Soldiers and their families.
The team was put together and gathered: unit command teams, Family Readiness Support Assistants, Family Readiness Liaisons, FRG volunteers, FRG Leaders and even teens involved with FRG. This diverse group allowed subordinate units within the command to establish their own individual Family Readiness Programs. This intensive three-day conference facilitated two separate but interlaced trainings.
“Just like you would build a house, you have to have a road. The road is our infrastructure and for us, you need to have three things: The Family Readiness Plan, which is developed in COC Training and this shows you where you are going,” said Daniels. “Then you need to have people in place. That’s where our liaisons and volunteers come in. Third piece is to have a FRG, and that can’t be developed until the plan is in place and a liaison is appointed. So this weekend sets the infrastructure in place for these units to be successful.”
In order to collect the necessary materials, the two groups, separated only by a set of French doors, learned their respective responsibilities in laying the groundwork. The command team learned the legalities, FRG requirements, and created a Family Readiness Plan (FRP). Soldiers and family members serving in assorted capacities of their FRG learned about Army Reserve Family Programs, their available resources, and how to operate a local FRG. The two parallel groups learned how to develop and implement their personalized programs from the command team and FRG perspective.
By regulation, the FRG is a battalion-level affiliated organization. However, this command decided to take its program further.
“We utilized the standardized programming provided by [United States Army Reserve Command], but we have been innovative and more proactive in engaging our units and families. It shows in how far into the Command we have went and also in the way we are conducting the training itself,” said Daniels.
Everything about the training was purposeful: the location, teaching styles, even the seating assignments.
Daniels said, “(Churn) wanted an aesthetically pleasing environment to hold these trainings. There is research behind it … if you’re in a beautiful place, you are going to absorb more knowledge and information. It was challenging to find a location within the regulatory requirements and that provided an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere but the results have shown that this approach is successful and the training is impactful.”
Accommodating all learning styles, the instructors placed new items on the tables during each break so that everyone could learn in their own way. Singing, physical activities, team exercises and arts and crafts were peppered throughout the training. All of which taught each person about themselves, their strengths and which tools to harness them.
“We strategically seated the individuals at the tables and then rearranged them throughout the training to nurture the stages of team development,” said Carter. This simple game of rotating seats not only allowed the participants to meet and learn from new people but also taught them how to develop a team once they returned to their units.
“The biggest takeaway is the relationships built here, not just between them and our staffing but also relationships amongst themselves,” said Daniels.
The group went from being quiet to needing an active call to silence before classes. ‘Clap once if you can hear my voice, clap three times if you can hear my voice,’ was often used to collect the attention of the now fully immersed group.
Not all in the room were strangers, though. There were at least ten couples, whether it be husbands and wives or mothers and daughters; four families with teenage children; and one family of five in attendance, said Daniels.
Carter added, “Many times we are separating them because of mission but this affords them the opportunity to come to training together and the Army Family benefits as well as the individual family.”
Sgt. Victor Sifuentes and his wife Vanessa were both in attendance.
“My wife, my unit’s FRG leader, got me into FRG and we are both here at this training together for the first time,” said Sifuentes, FRL for 341st MP Company. “There has been a lot of good stuff being put out that has helped us understand our roles, and it’s really nice to be able to be here with her.”
With the team assembled, trained, and equipped with resources and contacts, they were dismissed from the training to return to their units and begin standing up their FRGs – when the real work begins.
“This has been really beneficial. When I get back to my unit… we will set our foundation, and then we can begin seeking volunteers for our FRG,” said Maricela Garcia, FRG Leader, 315th MP Detachment (CID). “This has been a great start. There are a lot of people here that have been doing this a long time and they are great resources. This networking opportunity has connected us all so we can utilize each other.”
This training equals total compliance with the regulation but more importantly it strengthens families, the unit and the total Army Family of the 200th MP Command, said Carter.