We had an FRG meeting recently - for those of you unfamiliar with the term FRG, it means Family Readiness Group (aka Family Support Group) - and I have a few thoughts (imagine THAT!)...
1.) If you are going to throw together an FRG meeting at, essentially the LAST minute (which, given the nature of the upcoming deployment, was necessary) word needs to get out to the families via means beyond just e-mail. Several families I know in our unit did not even know about this meeting because they don't check their e-mail regularly (not everyone I know is an Internet junkie like myself). Last time I checked, our phone lines were still working.
2.) If the meeting does need to take place on short notice (i.e. not enough time for families with small children to find a babysitter), the FRG staff needs to make arrangements for child care beyond a colorful rug at the back of the room. Unless that rug comes with shock collars, chances are that the small children in question will stray beyond the boundaries of said rug.
3.) If child care in another room/building/state is unavailable, the FRG staff should at least make some effort to provide some kind of entertainment in hopes of holding the small childrens' attention for a few moments. It is not hard to inquire as to the capabilities of the building. Are there TVs? Radios? Cages? Let's be creative here!
4.) If child care in another room/building/state is unavailable, it needs to be assumed that the noise level eminating from the back of the room will be equal to or greater than the volume of the loudest speaker at the front of the room. USE THE DAMN MICROPHONE! That's why it's THERE. I have yet to meet even a Drill Sergeant who is louder than 10 girls in the same room at the same time.
5.) If you are going to throw together an FRG meeting at the last minute - warranted or not - do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES allow said meeting to last more than 1 hour. No one needs to hear another person stand up in front of the room and list 9 different "emergency" numbers. The Army has copiers. Make USE of them. No one came prepared to take NOTES.
6.) If said FRG meeting is going to take place during the dinner hour and children will be present, snacks must be on hand. A child with their mouth full is a quieter child.
7.) The FRG leader should - under NO circumstances - CRY during the pre-deployment meeting. It sets a bad tone for the rest of the deployment and scares the crap out of the newer spouses. I understand it is stressful facing any kind of deployment but geez, let's get control of our emotions here.