Even though I did, in fact, cut the cake at L.I.N.K.S. classes and pass it to the youngest Marine Corps spouse because I was the *cough* oldest *cough* spouse in attendance, it really wasn’t that long ago that I was a new Marine spouse. But even after 10 years, I don’t have it all together.
The latest shakeup in the Marine Corps universe was sparked by MARADMIN 166/18. This memo basically announced the “reset” of the Unit, Personal and Family Readiness Program, or UPFRP. The civilian family readiness officers (FROs) we all know and love — the ones who would loop us in on all the unit events that our service members would forget to mention on the daily — are essentially being phased out at the unit level. This means that Marine spouses are at a bit of a crossroads — we must reclaim ownership of our readiness and the readiness of the people to our left and right.
Because every unit is different, you may not even realize your FRO is gone until you don’t run into her at the Christmas party, or you might be ferociously checking your email settings to solve the mystery of why you don’t receive weekly unit emails anymore. It’s not your email settings, Semper Gumby Sister, it’s the times.
Since our readiness point of contact is just taking on the role as a side gig on top of their full-time assignment, things are going to change, and more responsibility will fall on Marine spouses once again. So, how can you make sure that your family readiness and the family readiness of the people to your left and right doesn’t suffer during this time when we’re all just shrugging shoulders? You take charge!
- Handle your own business. This doesn’t mean you’re totally on your own. Learn all you can from your Marine, the unit, the fellow spouse and base resources. If you need help, get help. There is a whole wide web of resources on base and on an actual website, like Military OneSource, just waiting for you to use them.
- Get educated. We all know our ABCs, but do you know your Alpha, Bravo, Charlies? The Marine Corps is a whole new world, much different than the civilian life outside the gates, and it takes some getting used to. Luckily, there are a whole mess of classes you can take for FREE to learn the ropes. Take a L.I.N.K.S. class — if you were paying attention at the beginning of this blog, you know they offer cake! Take the sponsorship class or the OPSEC class. They have baby-focused curriculums, marriage workshops, financial workshops, team building and communication workshops. There’s no limit, you can take them all!
- Tune in. It’s not hard to hear people when they talk to you, but it is very much a learned skill to listen with intent. When you talk to another spouse at a playgroup or unit function and you hear clues that she might be depressed, or she is stressed about child care or a deployment, you need to be an active bystander. That means doing something.
- Respond. Knowing how to respond to the needs of other spouses starts with making sure you know which resources are in place. Maybe you need to send the spouse to the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society for budgeting help, or to the unit chaplain to talk through feelings of depression. Maybe you just connect the spouse with another unit spouse who hosts weekly playdates. Your job in these situations is to point people to the experts and follow up as a friend to make sure they’ve gotten what they needed.
- Lead. It doesn’t matter how busy you think you are, you can do something. Whether you dive into heading up unit activities or a spouses’ group or you just unofficially take a new spouse under your wing, you can take charge somewhere. You have a skill, an interest, a degree or a talent that can be used to better the unit and better the experience of the people in it.
- Teach. I had a pastor tell me once that he hated the word “graduation” because no one should ever be done learning. You likely still feel new in some capacity as a military spouse (because things are always changing, remember — even duty stations), but you know enough to help someone who is brand new to this life. Help the next generation of Marine spouses by looping them in when you plan unit events, letting them head up a committee or bringing them along to one of the many educational opportunities. It’s important to make sure the next generation has the knowledge they need to be successful after we’re retired and enjoying the civilian life.
I’ll be honest, I was a little thrown by this whole reset. I’ve only ever known the Marine Corps with FROs (see, I’m not that seasoned), but I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think it’s going to be a good thing with the right amount of care. It gives the units within the Marine Corps the chance to get back to that community vibe where everyone is connected, and everybody helps — even if “helping” is just handling your family’s readiness and contributing an occasional potluck dish. Every Marine spouse knows something another spouse doesn’t. It’s time to pitch in and be a mentor. It’s time to be accountable for ourselves and our unit family.