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FRSA program explained, supports FRG leaders, commanders

Email   Print   Share By Michael Heckman, Sentinel Staff
March 12, 2009 | Living
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Strengthening relationships between groups working to support Soldiers and their Families was the primary topic of discussion during a luncheon meeting held March 4 in the Grande Ballroom at Club Hood.

Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, asked brigade-, battalion- and company-level commanders, their Family Readiness Support Assistants and Family Readiness group leaders to attend the quarterly training session.

Lynch said the most important thing done by he and Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola is “To take care of our Soldiers and their Families.”

Recounting that he has been away from his Family four of the past six years, Lynch said, “At nighttime I lay awake thinking about the Families. I can’t imagine what they are doing when the husband and wife have been away for four of the past six years.”

Lynch said he holds unit commanders responsible for taking care of their Families. If the commander is deployed, he added, responsibility devolves upon the rear detachment commander.

Despite the quality of military personnel and thousands of dedicated volunteers on- and off-post, Lynch said, it was recognized that commanders need help to adequately assist Soldiers and their Families.

“We, as an Army, woke up one day and said, ‘Hey, we’re working our FRG leaders and advisors to death. We’re working our commanders to death. Let’s give them somebody who can help them with Family readiness issues.”

The result, he said, was establishment of the Family Readiness Support Assistants program.

By design, he added, the FRSA assists the commander and supports FRG leaders.

“But the FRSA or FRG leaders aren’t in charge; the commander’s in charge,” he emphasized.

Molly Lenk, Headquarters, Forces Command FRSA program manager, presented a basic training slide show “…to remind you of what the FRSA is supposed to be doing in your organization.”

Rank said the program was implemented in 2004 with contracted positions. In 2006, she added, the vice chief of staff of the Army determined the FRSA program was a mission support element that belongs to the Army commands.

About that time, after a 10th Mountain Division Brigade Combat Team deployed for 15 months, the brigade’s battalions became the pilot program for battalion-level FRSAs.

“That worked out very well but it came with a lot of problems because the FRG leaders felt their position was being infringed upon and they were no longer needed.

“That was not the intent of the FRSA program,” she emphasized.

Army commanders then decided to implement the program to battalion level Armywide.

Because of Army commands were implementing the program differently, she added, “It was decided there was a need for standardization across the Army.

Gradually, temporary positions are being converted to permanent FRSA programs for some units.

“The hiring process,” Lenk said, has been very interesting these last few years.”

The senior commander drives the hiring process, she said.

“FRG leaders are not part of the hiring process. You cannot sit on the board for the selection of FRSA employees,” she added.

Across all of FORSCOM, there are 479 FRSA positions authorized, 483 are in place because of the relocation of the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood to Fort Carson, Colo., which led to a temporary duplication of some positions at both locations.

Addressing overall FRSA responsibilities, Lenk said: the post commander sets the vision for the unit FRSA; the FRSA and volunteer FRG leader work as a team to implement the vision; and FRSAs provide administrative support of unit Family readiness to the commander, rear detachment commander and the FRG leader. Activities prohibited FRSA include fund-raising, casualty notification and service as an FRG leader or advisor in any unit.

What is not important, Lenk emphasized is: “Your personal views of the commander or the FRG leader; your spouse’s rank; and how you did this job in another unit.”
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