AWAG still 'Making the Pieces Fit'
May 9, 2003
The magic can’t happen on stage if things behind the scenes aren’t right.
Though military staging may not seem like magic to some, the people who work behind the scenes to keep family members informed and communities strong may just have a little something up their sleeve.
For 47 years, the American Women’s Activities, Germany, has brought military spouses into its embrace and taught them to stand up and take charge of their communities.
This year’s spring conference, which ended Thursday at the Armed Forces Recreation Center in Chiemsee, Germany, was no different.
Though this year’s four-day conference was dubbed, “Making the Pieces Fit,” living overseas has always been about discussing over what problems military and family members face and trying to put them in order, according to Rhonda Lambert, AWAG chairperson.
Now, programs that assist families during deployments, as well as volunteers who keep neighborhoods strong, meet these problems head-on.
“My husband is in Kuwait, and since he’s been gone I’ve counted on programs such as family readiness groups and the spouses meetings on a monthly basis. They provide quite a bit of information on my husband’s unit,” said BeLinda Gaines-Hager, who now acts as mother and father for her two children Ashley, 16, and Jessie, 13. She is married to 1st Lt. Charles Gaines-Hager of the 32nd Signal Battalion.
“The FRG answers any question I have about deployments. I know they are volunteers. The work they do is very time consuming and taxing. They are wonderful people who do it because they are only interested in helping family members who are left behind,”
Nearly 25,000 troops with U.S. Army Europe units and approximately 3,400 troops with U.S. Air Forces in Europe are deployed.
With all this movement, community members are concerned about keeping the military family stable while troops continue to execute their mission.
Though no specific numbers are available on the amount of children who have been taken out of school due to deployments, Frank O’Gara, Department of Defense Dependents Schools spokesman, said believed it was minimal.
“We have an aggressive program in place to offer support to families during deployments,” O’Gara said. “Crisis action teams stay in contact with the commanders, rear commanders and family support centers to help pull resources and work together to provide for the needs of the kids.”
For Lynn Masorti, whose husband has been deployed to Turkey since March, maintaining normalcy was the key to keeping her family together. She said the school in the NATO community in Geilenkirchen, Germany, helped her maintain their daily routines.
Ever since the first women got together after World War II to decide how to turn Germany into their home, AWAG has been right beside them to help. Its goal is to train, strengthen and connect volunteers, their organizations, and their communities in all military services.
This year that was accomplished by providing personal development classes, as well as instructional sessions on how to become a leader of community clubs.
Also, both military and civilian speakers addressed the 260 AWAG attendees, motivating them to continue volunteering in their communities.
AWAG is a nonprofit, private organization fueled by corporate sponsors and the sales of the “Never a Dull Moment” book. Tracy Ballesteros, editor of the book, said the book sales are a major fund-raiser for AWAG and help keep conference enrollment costs down.
The book is geared toward Americans living in Europe who want to get a complete European experience, Ballesteros said, and contribute to the magic that helps make it happen.