I started watching Army Wives while my husband was at JRTC. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, and several friends of mine regularly watch and enjoy the show. But Hubby…he’d seen bits and pieces before and had decided that he didn’t like it, so I knew I needed a chance to watch it alone. A show just for me. I finally got that chance when he was gone for a month.
So, he left, and I watched…and watched, and watched. I watched all 3 (complete) seasons of Army Wives within the first 2-3 weeks of JRTC, and I was sad that there wasn’t more to rent from Netlix. The first episode caught my attention right off the bat. Within the first 10 minutes, a soldier proposes to a girl he’s known for only a couple days. Hey, I thought to myself, I know a couple like that. I knew I’d be able to relate to the show… and that incident was just one of the commonalities I’ve found between the show and the real thing.
However, there are a lot of differences, too. If you’ve watched the show but never really been part of the Army life, you may not be aware of these:
1. FRGs – Army Wives implies that there is one FRG per post, and the woman in charge is the wife of the highest-ranking soldier – or something like that. This is not the case. FRGs are normally organized at a company level. If, for instance, there are 2 divisions on post, you’ll have about 3 brigades, 9 battalions, and 45 companies, which would mean 45 different family readiness groups. These aren’t exact numbers, but you get the idea. And these are not always headed up by the company commander’s wife, though from my understanding that’s not uncommon. I can’t speak for how FRGs in general tend to work as I’ve only been a part of one, but I can give you a little peek inside ours, and maybe some other wives can chime in with how their FRG has worked or not worked in the comments. 🙂
- Meetings once a month include all families in the company, not just a select few.
Our FRG meets once a month. Generally speaking, one member of each married couple in the unit is required to attend. If my husband can’t make it to the meeting and I don’t go in his stead, they can scold and/or punish him for it. Sometimes, to encourage soldiers to go to the meetings, they have been known to give them a day off from PT. Sometimes, they bribe us with food… 😀 Basically, the FRG meetings are supposed to include all married soldiers and spouses.
- Meetings cover upcoming events and training schedules.
Usually, the company commander or another officer goes over the schedule for the upcoming month. They’ll tell us when our soldiers are supposed to be working late, working normal shifts, or getting days off. (It’s a nice little fantasy they have since nothing ever goes according to plan.) Then, the meeting is turned over to the FRG leader, who goes over upcoming events and fundraisers, talks about how they need volunteers, et cetera. If we’re lucky, the meeting ends there and we can either eat, if they’ve brought pizza, or go home.
- Women either try to be involved or try to stay out of it.
In our company, I seem to see two groups of women: The “FRG Ladies” and the we-don’t-do-that-stuff Ladies. It’s a kind of strange division. I haven’t figured it out completely yet.
- The purpose is to provide information, not take care of individuals.
Unlike on the show Army Wives, our FRG does not organize things such as taking care of new mothers and newly widowed women. That is the job of another organization (they mentioned it recently, but I can’t recall the name of that organization). The FRG is here to make sure the families are at least as up to date as possible on the unit’s schedule – be it training schedule or deployment schedule. They relay information from the company to the families. And their secondary purpose is to provide some companionship for the ladies when the men are gone. For example, when the boys were at JRTC, our FRG meeting was held at the bowling alley. Fun! I will definitely appreciate that aspect of our FRG more once the men deploy.
2. Deployments – They are a little different, too. Yes, you can be deployed unexpectedly. But, generally speaking, you’re going to know when it’s coming. Units deploy on a schedule, so you know that if they got back at this time of year, they’re going to be deploying about the same time a year from now, unless something unexpected comes up. We’ve known that Hubby was going to be deploying this fall ever since, well, last fall. We didn’t know exactly when, but it’s not like on Army Wives where they call you up out of the blue and say, hey, you’ve leaving in 3 days. And I’m very glad it’s not like that.
3. Station – For for the rest, a lot is unfamiliar to me because the show revolves around officers and one NCO. Keep in mind that there are a lot more enlisted in the Army than officers. A lot more. (One website I checked claimed the enlisted to officer ratio is 6:1.) It didn’t fit in to the show for them to include these families – perhaps because it’s harder to show a realistic friendship between a group of wives that diverse. But there are a lot privates, privates first class, and specialists in the army who are married and who live the army life just like the rest… only different. They have less control, less stability, fewer expectations placed on them. Does anyone else feel like the show is a little TOO centered around officers?
I Love It!
As for the drama in the show, well… a show’s gotta have drama. That’s what makes it interesting and intriguing to watch! The writers/producers are trying to pick up on all the stresses that can and will happen in Army life and concentrate them on one small (very small) group of people. I think they do a grand job of it. Hopefully most of us don’t have to go through ALL of these things, but we’ll know people or know of people that do.
I can relate to Army Wives even if it doesn’t exactly represent the Army Wife Life I live on a day-to-day basis. And for that, I love it!
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