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Dr. (Maj.) Ralph Groves, a U.S. Army Reservist, gives a presentation on "Country Familiarization of Iraq and Afghanistan" at the American Women's Activities, Germany, conference Tuesday in Sonthofen, Germany. Groves is currently on active duty with U.S. Army Europe as a political and economic analyst.
Dr. (Maj.) Ralph Groves, a U.S. Army Reservist, gives a presentation on "Country Familiarization of Iraq and Afghanistan" at the American Women's Activities, Germany, conference Tuesday in Sonthofen, Germany. Groves is currently on active duty with U.S. Army Europe as a political and economic analyst. (Lisa Horn / S&S)

SONTHOFEN, Germany — Attending this year’s American Women’s Activities, Germany, conference helped Master Sgt. Theresa Coleman switch gears from Army life to being an active Army wife.

When her husband, Staff Sgt. Kevin Betts, returns from downrange next spring, his wife will no longer be donning green and polishing her boots alongside him.

Coleman will retire May 31 after 20 years of service. Serving as her battalion’s family readiness leader last year sparked her interest in volunteering and forced her to think outside of the box when dealing with family members.

“The last year and a half, I’ve had to really do a lot of that,” said Coleman, a member of Kitzingen’s 17th Signal Battalion. “When I was rear detachment, going from dealing with soldiers to family members, you still had to accomplish the same thing. But you can’t do it with the same verbiage or the same habits.”

The conference, dubbed “Winds of Change,” was held last week at the Allgaeu Stern Hotel in Sonthofen. Roughly 150 AWAG delegates attended classes such as “Couples Communication,” “Readiness is a Three-Letter Word: FRG” and “Country Familiarization of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Classes were broken down into five main areas, according to Cathy Speer, who arranged this year’s 47 speakers.

In addition to support classes for military spouses, classes also were offered to help AWAG delegates with club duties, professional development and personal development. A few fun classes, which have been a traditional part of the conference’s 48-year history, included the Defense Commissary Agency’s “Experience the Exotic.”

New to the conference this year was a list of suggested classes specific to volunteers, club presidents and family readiness group leaders. While most of the AWAG delegates are Army or Air Force spouses, this year’s classes were selected with all of the services in mind, Speer added.

Coleman attended the “Couples Communication” class, presented by Justin Mitchell, executive officer for Schweinfurt’s 280th Base Support Battalion.

“He just pretty much told me things that I already know,” Coleman said. “But when you hear it, it’s refreshing, and that’s like a lot of the classes here. … It’s not so much that they teach you new information. They put it in a different package for people to understand.”

At the closing ceremonies, Franken area delegate Therese Dolan was announced as the 2004-2005 AWAG chairwoman and Schwaben delegate Laurie Menzel will serve as vice chairwoman. Ingrid Pierce will serve as head conference assistant next year when the event is held at the Armed Forces Recreation Center’s Edelweiss Lodge in Garmisch.

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