Can one employee in a unit impact the readiness of a war-fighting organization?  I don't know if that's true or not, because I can't say what would have happened if things had been different. 

In 2009, I didn't know how to speak in acronyms.  I didn't understand the long-held traditions that accompany a Birthday Ball celebration.  I didn't anticipate the way I would become obsessed with my cell phone while awaiting a twice-monthly call from my deployed Marine.  I was proud to be married to a man that was committed to such an honorable career, but I didn't fully understand how his commitment to a career would alter my way of life.  Back then, I knew that I loved him, and I thought that was enough.

Over the course of my first year as a Marine Corps spouse (my husband's fifth year of active duty service) I experienced frustrations that are not uncommon in this organization.  I struggled with budgeting for our family's expenses when my husband's pay was incorrect.  I struggled with explaining to our kids why their dad couldn't participate in our weekend excursions.  But the kicker was when I made a special family dinner to share one evening when my husband said he would be home by 5:00.  And then he didn't come home.  I didn’t let it show until after the kids were in bed, but this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

When my husband didn't come home for dinner I called the only phone number I had for his work.  I found the number in an email that I'd received from a woman I'd never met.  The email mentioned some workshops and a local food drive, but all I wanted at the time was a phone number to someone that could find my husband and tell him not to bother to come home. 

When I made that phone call, a woman named Becky answered.  My emotions were so high that I'm not sure I got a coherent sentence out.  But underneath my stuttering words, Becky heard how upset I was and asked if she could help.  She invited me to meet her for coffee the next morning.  I took her up on her offer because goodness knows I didn't have any better offers at the time!  That hour with Becky saved my marriage.

Becky wasn't a marriage counselor. She was a Family Readiness Officer, commonly referred to as a FRO.  She didn't give me advice on how to navigate my relationship.  What she did for me was explain the source of my frustrations. She explained my husband’s training schedule and some of the reasons why it is so very rigorous.  She helped me understand why my husband couldn’t call very often.  She explained the administrative process that occurs when a Marine gets a pay raise.  She even explained the Chain of Command and where my husband fit in. 

Through our conversation I started to understand how my Marine fit into the Marine Corps.  Most importantly, Becky showed me that my support during all these challenges would make a difference in my husband's success and fulfillment, as well as my own. 

Do I think that one employee in a unit can impact the readiness of a war-fighting organization?  I still can’t say for certain.  I’m not sure what would have happened to my marriage or to my Marine’s career if the FRO hadn’t intervened.  What I know for sure is that she was there just when I needed her.

Do you know how to get in touch with your FRO? Contact your local Unit, Personal and Family Readiness Program for more information.