Family Readiness Support Assistants key to Guard Success

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

November is Military Family Appreciation Month, a celebration of the Military Family in which the Department of Defense and the nation honors the commitment and sacrifices made by the families of the nation’s service members. We offer the following to raise awareness on matters of importance among Kentucky’s unsung heroes.

MSG Jack Bentley and wife Donna

Donna and Jack Bentley during his 2005 deployment. Donna has been involved in Family Programs since 1995. (Photo courtesy Donna Bentley)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — You often hear us say that “the troops can’t do their job without the support of their families” and “families are the unsung heroes of the military community.” But what does that exactly mean? Why are families so important? What resources are available to them?

Family Readiness Support Assistants (FRSA)

On the frontlines of family support are the Family Readiness Support Assistants. Their mission is to empower commanders in their duty to deliver the Total Army Family Program in order that Soldiers and families are informed, educated, assisted, and ready for the unique demands of military life before, during, and after deployment.

Donna Bentley is the Kentucky Guard’s Senior Family Readiness Support Assistant. The wife of a retired Kentucky National Guardsman, she works with six other FRSA specialists who represent Kentucky’s major commands, also known as MACOMs.

“I support the State Family Program Director in volunteer program management and training coordination which enhances the overall services provided by volunteers to Army and Air National Guard MACOMS and Service Member families,” said Bentley. “We are the commanders’ advisors on their family readiness program. We contribute to the unit’s combat readiness by promoting efficient and effective communication between the command, the state family programs office, the FRGs and all family members.”

The core function of the FRSA is to work with FRGs, military contacts, rear detachments (during deployment), and volunteers to provide training and hands-on assistance. This training from the FRSA establishes and maintains an effective family readiness system within units and commands.

The FRSA is vital in coordinating volunteer efforts at the state level and serve as an arm of the State Family Program Office. Continuing communication and empowering training is provided to Soldiers and their families due to dedicated efforts of FRSA’s.

Click here for more information about the Kentucky National Guard’s Family Programs.

“Last year we got one hundred percent of our FRGs charted and functional in Army and Air Guard units,” Bentley said. “That included training more than 200 volunteers plus unit commanders and first sergeants.”

Among other things the training included suicide prevention and family operational security (OPSEC), which was provided by the J2 state security office.

Bentley knows what it’s like to be on both the giving and the receiving ends of family support.  The wife of a retired war veteran, she’s been involved with family programs since 1995 as an FRG Leader.  She’s also got son who’s an Air Force C-130 pilot. 

“My husband was deployed in 2005-2006 for fifteen months.  It was hard as our youngest son was a high school senior who was trying to make decisions for his future military career. It was even harder on my service member as he missed out on most of the events of our son’s senior year.  It did make us closer as a family.  We definitely do not take for granted the things we do for each other.”

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