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Research Questions

  1. What conditions facilitate engagement in SFRGs and, in turn, help ensure the success of SFRGs?
  2. How can Army policy direct SFRGs and their leaders toward the ideal conditions for fostering engagement and increasing readiness and resilience?
  3. To what extent have the updates from the most recent Army policy on SFRGs been implemented across Army installations?

The U.S. Army's 2019 policy update to Family Readiness Groups (FRGs) aims to increase readiness and resilience among Army families. Through this update, the Army renamed FRGs to Soldier and Family Readiness Groups (SFRGs) to emphasize the inclusion of soldiers, as well as family members; deemphasized the role of volunteers in favor of newly established Command Family Readiness Representatives (CFRRs); and shifted the focus of group activities from socialization to communication.

The Army asked RAND Arroyo Center to help determine the degree to which policy updates were successfully implemented across Army installations and how they were received by Army families. The authors of this report found that awareness of the SFRG policy change is not widespread among Army spouses and that aspects of the program could be improved if the Army minimized logistical issues with access, provided resources for leadership training, and incorporated a method of measurement for SFRG performance indicators. Their findings, however, also suggest that effective SFRGs can foster engagement in the Army community among leadership, soldiers, and families.

Overall, the updated Army policy indicates support for these groups and emphasizes important group functions, such as information-sharing. But the lack of clarity in policy guidance on areas with an important influence on mission success could prove a barrier to achieving the outcomes for which the Army aims.

Key Findings

  • The literature that the authors reviewed as part of this analysis suggests that structured group formats with built-in flexibility facilitate engagement and that minimizing logistical issues associated with access to group activities is important for engagement and success.
  • The role of peer group leaders (in this case, unit commanders and CFRRs) is critical.
  • As the role of the CFRR broadens, the selection of CFRRs and facilitation of the role, in terms of time and other resources to perform the role, will be integral.
  • Current policy does not provide specific guidance on how SFRGs should produce a network of social support among unit members and their families, and SFRGs should be resourced through training and other means to accomplish that goal.
  • A lack of monitoring or evaluation of the SFRGs will make it difficult to know how integrated and effective SFRGs are across installations or units.
  • Awareness of the policy change from FRGs to SFRGs is not widespread among active component spouses who have been part of Army families for several years.

Recommendations

  • Army policy should be more explicit about the types of social activities that are acceptable in SFRGs.
  • Army G-9 should provide expanded guidance on the types of topics the Army would like SFRGs to address as part of their activities.
  • The Army should provide suggestions on SFRG meeting frequency and more-specific guidance on the minimal levels of other forms of outreach.
  • The Army should further clarify in SFRG policy the roles of volunteers and CFRRs.
  • The Army should consider incorporating measurement of performance indicators into SFRG policy.
  • SFRG leadership training should provide templates and sample materials for executing SFRGs.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Army and conducted by the Personnel, Training, and Health Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

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