BAMBERG, Germany — Alanna Gerard’s first year of marriage certainly has been no fairy tale.
Just two months after newlyweds Alanna and Spc. Michael Gerard arrived in Germany in February 2002, Michael was sent to Kosovo for a nearly seven-month deployment.
He returned in November, only to learn two months later that he would be deployed to the Persian Gulf for the war on Iraq.
But Alanna, who spent much of her first year of marriage alone with the couple’s daughter, Moira, didn’t wallow in self-pity.
Instead, she volunteered to become a family readiness group leader for her husband’s unit, Company B, 54th Engineer Battalion.
Gerard, 21, is one of three leaders for the group, the others being Crystal Fink and Gabi Smith.
Gerard composes the group’s newsletter to keep other spouses in her group informed. The newsletter provides updates on the troops on the front lines and touches on issues from the home front including things like financial planning.
“She’s had it pretty hard,” said 1st Lt. Corey Genevicz, rear detachment commander for 54th Engineer Battalion. “Her husband has been deployed virtually the whole time they have been stationed here.”
Gerard hasn’t dwelled on the deployments.
“It’s difficult. Of course it’s difficult, especially with a child,” she said. “But I’ve made a lot of new friends through the family readiness group.”
She has also eased some of the burdens of the other family members — and for Genevicz, who is charged with looking after the families and soldiers who remain in Bamberg.
“[Gerard], and other family readiness group leaders, take a lot of the phone calls from family members and help with as much as they can,” he said. “They help a lot with rumor control by sharing accurate information.”
He added that the newsletter is an integral part of that.
“With the newsletter and bulletin board, she informs families of upcoming events and gathers as much information as she can to get out to the spouses,” he said.
Gerard also is part of the unit’s Crisis Intervention Team, which requires her to assist in calling family members in the event of an emergency, Genevicz said.
Despite being new to the Army community, Gerard has quickly picked up on the alphabet soup of acronyms and on what types of services are provided by various agencies in the community, like Army Community Service.
“I’ve had to learn quickly,” Gerard said. “I have to know all of these things, because the spouses in our unit will come to us for help.”
She has proved to be not only a fast learner but also a dedicated worker.
“She’s been at every FRG meeting we’ve had,” Genevicz said. “She’s very involved and offers a lot of good input on what we should be doing for the family members.”
Most recently, she helped with the unit's Easter egg hunt for the kids, and, with Smith, arranged for care packages to be sent to unmarried soldiers in Iraq.
“We thought that they may not be getting as many care packages or letters from home as some of the married guys,” Gerard said.
The packages included home-baked goodies and hygiene items, Genevicz said.
Smith said Gerard is an important part of the team of leaders for the group.
“We're all going through this,” Smith said. “There are limits to what [family readiness groups] can do, but [Gerard] and the newsletter really help. I think this probably helps her, too, being an Army wife for such a short time.”
“The three of us work really well together,” Gerard said of her fellow group leaders. “We each have things to bring to the group.”
While one reward of her work with the family readiness group is having so many shoulders to lean on, Gerard said the biggest reward is being able to help.
“I enjoy seeing the ladies satisfied, and knowing that I somehow helped make a difference and maybe eased their minds a bit,” she said.