News: Family readiness tops list of priorities: Unit, Personal, Family Readiness Program supports Marines, sailors
Story by Cpl. Rebekka Heite
OKINAWA, Japan - When my dad was a grunt in the Marine Corps several years ago, he was gone all the time,” said Tolondra Johnson, family readiness officer with 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF. During these absences, her entire family struggled, she added.
“We knew nothing about his unit. We didn’t know where he was for weeks at a time,” she said.
It would have been easier to cope with the Marine Corps lifestyle if there had been a Unit, Personal and Family Readiness Program back then, she said. Even when she was in the Marine Corps there wasn’t a program like this, said the 33-year-old former sergeant.
“I would have thought twice about getting out if there had been,” said the prior dual-military spouse.
The Marine Corps did not have a program similar to the UPFRP until 1991 when the Key Volunteer Network began at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. This remained the program until approximately three years ago when the KVN was disbanded and the UPFRP was initiated.
“UPFRP is a big improvement of the old KVN program for a number of reasons,” said Lt. Col. Ricardo Miagany, commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF. “It formalized the importance of family readiness for every Marine Corps unit.”
Miagany added that the UPFRP allows him as a battalion commander to have a special staff officer, the FRO, who is dedicated to the personal and family readiness of the Marines and sailors within his unit.
“The KVN program placed a tremendous burden on the spouses of a unit, and it relied heavily on their willingness to volunteer their time. The FRO is a paid position and they are there to provide relevant information and resource referrals to all of the families to help with challenges military families face every day.
“I believe having a FRO takes a lot of pressure off of the spouses of a unit,” said Miagany adding that spouses can still volunteer their time and resources by being Family Readiness advisors or assistants.
Though the FRO takes a lot of responsibility for the UPFRP, each unit’s family readiness team also includes the unit’s commanding officer, executive officer, sergeant major, chaplain, Single Marine Program representative, Family Readiness advisors and assistants.
“Beyond that, every leader in the unit has the responsibility to look out for the well-being of [unit] personnel and their families,” said Lt. Col. Terry Baggett, commanding officer of Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
While Marine Corps Order 1754.9 gives commanders and their FROs guidance for their unit’s UPFRP, it leaves leeway for each commander to tailor the program for their unit’s needs.
Baggett says his unit accomplishes this, “through a variety of efforts: consistent communication with our extended command family; information and referral assistance via our family readiness officer; unit functions and outreach services that build personal relationships; and a command emphasis on personal and family development.”
“My guidance to my FRO is to keep the families informed, connected and resourced,” said Miagany.
The 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines places emphasis on “… family readiness functions such as predeployment briefs, information workshops, social functions and recognition ceremonies,” he said. The 3rd Bn., 12th Marines FRO also maintain a unit Facebook page to keep friends and family members connected.
The 5th ANGLICO accomplishes their UPFRP mission through monthly newsletters, one specifically aimed at those on Okinawa and the other for family members elsewhere. According to Lt. Col. Louis Palazzo, 5th ANGLICO’s commanding officer, they also maintain a unit Facebook page. This plays a key roll in keeping family members on island in touch before, during and after deployments.
Though each unit has a slightly different UPFRP they each have the same mission.
“If we don’t take care of our Marine’s family, we’re not taking care of our Marines,” said Palazzo.
This work, Family readiness tops list of priorities: Unit, Personal, Family Readiness Program supports Marines, sailors, by SSgt Rebekka Heite, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.