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Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 5:35pm
Fort Bliss (U.S. Army) — Snacks – check; sodas – check; laundry detergent – check; toilet paper – check. Family members are checking off the items going into welcome home baskets for the currently deployed single Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. The baskets are the brainchild of spouses involved in the company’s Family Readiness Group.
“I asked one of my single friends what he would want to come home to and he said toilet paper, snacks, and laundry detergent,” said Ashley Hutchinson, Co. B’s FRG leader. “He said, ‘I don’t wanna have to go to the PX those first couple days.’”
More than half a dozen spouses with Co. B’s FRG came together, Aug. 2, to make it happen, enlisting the aid of some rear detachment Soldiers to assemble the baskets. While they were decorating the barracks entrance and dropping goodies in baskets, other rear detachment Soldiers were making beds and getting rooms ready for the returning troops. Hutchinson said she feels it’s important for the FRG to help take care of the single infantrymen, too.
“The married guys come home to creature comforts and family and a home cooked meal,” she said. “Single guys come home to four walls and a mattress. We want them to know they’re not forgotten. We missed them, too.”
The FRG was able to purchase the gifts thanks to an anonymous donation, and Hutchinson and her fellow spouses were thrilled at the chance to provide comfort and support to Soldiers beyond their own families.
“This was a rough deployment,” said Hutchinson, “and it’s going to be a hard transition… so anything to bring them a little joy.”
The battalion lost six Soldiers in two separate incidents during their current tour in Afghanistan.
As the welcome-home baskets were set in the barracks lobby, spouses of deployed Soldiers from the 511th Military Intelligence Company, 1st BCT, 1st AD, were setting up to sell chili dogs, chili pies and lemonade outside the brigade’s headquarters building. Tracy Foreman, the 51lth’s FRG leader said the proceeds from the day’s sales were going into their redeployment fund.
The next day saw spouses from each battalion and company in the “Ready First” BCT meet at the Family Resilience Center for spouse reunion training. From 9 a.m. to Noon Aug. 3, the spouses learned about the resources available to help them and their families and Soldiers in the redeployment transition.
Paige Adgie, wife of 1st BCT commander, Col. Ken Adgie, and Tanja Reimers, wife of 1st BCT senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Russell Reimers, stressed the importance of spouse training, regardless of how many times a couple has been through deployment.
“When we think our husbands will be the same when they come home, they won’t be,” said Reimers. “Everything won’t be the same, but you can transition and get back in the swing of things.”
“Whether it’s your first or fifth deployment, change is inevitable for both of you,” said Adgie. “These are ‘tools for your toolbox;’ things that make you more prepared for your Soldier coming home.”
Among the presenters at the spouse reunion training were Army Community Service’s Family Advocacy Program, Social Service at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Operation Homefront and the Fort Bliss Family Resilience Center. Tracy Broomfield, a Master Resilience Trainer with the FRC, recommended several resources for further help and for those who could not attend the Saturday morning session.
First and foremost on her list of recommendations was visiting www.blissmwr.com and following the ACS and resilience links to find out more about the FRC, or calling the center at 569-5500. Broomfield also suggested checking out education benefits for spouses, financial assistance to help Soldiers and their families make smart decisions with their “deployment money,” and employment readiness, particularly for spouses who may have left the region during their Soldier’s deployment and are now returning. All of these programs are available through ACS.
“Another great program,” said Broomfield, “is Peppers Orientation, for spouses. It gives them information about what’s on post and takes them off post too.”
Broomfield encourages Soldiers and their families not to get caught up in only looking at what’s available through the military.
“Be aware of those outside resources, too. We’re all a part of the El Paso community. You have to get out and get off post sometimes,” he said.