Harry Sarles | Army University Public Affairs

A unique collaboration between two of the Army’s longest-serving military installations — the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., and the School for Command Preparation at Fort Leavenworth — launched a pilot program Nov. 25 to better prepare spouses of newly selected officer and senior enlisted brigade and battalion command teams.

Tracy Rainey, the senior spouse advisor for the Command Preparation Program, facilitated these efforts, opening communication between the two commands and spouses involved.  

The weeklong course consists of curriculum that ranges from Army customs and traditions to operating and advising family support groups in today’s information-rich environment. In a videoteleconference, senior leader spouses from Fort Riley spoke to Command Team Spouse Development Program students about their experience using social media and its effects on family readiness groups and families.

“During these unprecedented times, the Army’s commitment to putting people first could not be more timely or important,” said Fay Sims, spouse of the 1st Infantry Division commanding general.

The pilot program supports Army leaders’ efforts to make people their top priority. By better preparing brigade and battalion spouses to mentor family members at the company and platoon level, units will benefit from better information flow.

Leveraging the Army’s vast communication networks and platforms are essential to keeping family members well informed with accurate and timely information. Army families navigate many challenges, from multiple assignments and deployments, frequent permanent change-of-station moves, and most recently the effects of COVID-19. 

Bridging this gap are family readiness groups composed of military spouses and family members. These groups assist Army leaders, primarily at the battalion and company level, in providing information to other family members, answering questions and identifying concerns to unit leaders. Social media provides family readiness groups with information platforms, but presents its own challenges as misinformation and unofficial sources can confuse family members. The Fort Riley senior leader spouses focused on this aspect and provided newly selected brigade and battalion spouses with mitigation strategies.

“This panel discussion between the spouses of the 1st Infantry Division and the Command Team Spouse Development Program participants was a great opportunity to offer ideas on the most effective ways of using social media to meet a variety of communication goals,” said Leah Harris, spouse of the 1st Infantry Division command sergeant major.

Other topics included the need to use social media platforms as communication tools and the pros and cons of the open information exchange on social media. The panelists shared their insights on how to establish boundaries, resources for assistance, successes, pitfalls and lessons learned. They also answered questions and concerns about the role of a brigade or battalion commander and command sergeant major’s spouse, and successful ways to take care of Army families during high operational tempo. 

“Fort Riley recently launched the Victory Wellness Campaign with the goal of building stronger, more resilient soldiers, families and communities,” Sims said. “We are fortunate to be partnering with the Command Team Spouse Development Program at Fort Leavenworth to share our best practices and lessons learned with future brigade and battalion command team spouses. Such efforts, focused on people, can only serve to enhance the well-being of Army units, families and communities as a whole.”

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