Armucation: FRG

Because being in the military is a life style for the entire family, the military has instated a group to help all individuals in the family feel connected and knowledgeable about the events going on with their soldier.

That is how the FRG was born. It stands for Family Readiness Group.


This group is made at the company level, which is about 100 soldiers. It encompasses the soldiers and the families.

So once a month, Tom and I go to a classroom to meet with all the other members of his company and their families. It depends on the FRG leaders and company commander whether single soldiers are included in this or if it is just the soldiers who are married. Ours is everyone.

At these monthly meetings, the company leaders go over the next month’s schedule. I find this really helpful to know how the training is going to look and when Tom will be away or when he has a DONSA (day off).

They will also provide us with resources or any other announcements that will pertain to us. For example, at the last meeting there was someone from the job center who talked about resources their office has.

This is often where we find out the most recent information about deployments.

The FRG does have some leaders that are the soldiers spouses. There is an FRG leader, who is usually a higher officer’s wife. Then each platoon in the company will have a POC (Point of Contact). This person will help disseminate information and do call outs to all the spouses in their particular platoon. They also have an FRG treasurer, again another spouse.

Depending on the FRG, there may be other things besides these monthly meetings that they plan. Some FRGs have parties or events throughout the year. Ours did a lot during the summer, but we have not done as much this winter. We have had quite a few potlucks at the monthly meetings though. Any events are usually family oriented and kid friendly. I mean “family” is in their title.

The FRG will still meet when the company is deployed. I am interested to see how it changes when all the men are not there. I was in Iowa last time, and I would just get the PowerPoints from them. I am sure that this gives us spouses a great chance to get to know each other too.

It is a pretty simple group. Since there are so many of them, they can change drastically on how they look though. We have even seen a change in this FRG since the new leadership arrived. So what the group will do will depend on both the spouses involved as well as the company leaders.

As you can see it is quite different than what the show Army Wives depicts.

It seems like I learn things about the Army every day.  I am by no means an expert at all things Army, but I love exploring new topics and sharing what I see as a military spouse.

Hope you enjoyed today’s Armucation.

Do you have any questions about military life? Do you have any topic you would like me to write about? Feel free to ask away!

Armucation: MREs

I have been hearing about MREs for years. It was about time I tried one out, and I figured I would share my experience with all of you.

MRE:  Meal Ready to Eat.

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These are a general purpose meal that you don’t have to have a kitchen, cook, or a table to have them. It meets every purpose for war. You don’t have to keep it in the fridge; you can throw it in your backpack and not worry about it. And they keep for years…

One might think that they will only use them while in theatre (deployed), but they actually eat them a lot stateside as well depending on the training that they may be going through.

When you open the bag this is an example of what you will find.

full MRE

  1. Hot Beverage Bag-unless it is super cold and going to make coffee, you don’t usually use this. Overseas there is bottled water every where, and you would just use your “tang” bottle instead. The hot beverage bags are a heavy duty Ziploc bags though and will be used to hold maps and electronics.
  2. Grape beverage base powder-kind of like a Gatorade substitute. Some extra packets will have Crystal Light-like packet, and the blackberry is legit according to Tom.
  3. Banana nut muffin top-pretty good by MRE standards. It is chewy and rubbery, but it will be powder on your clothes.
  4. The bag everything came in-becomes the trash bag at the end
  5. MRE heater and spoon-if done right you can use the heater to heat your side and your entre. The heater is activated with water and you place the meal and heater in the bag. The instructions also say lean against a “rock or something” while you are cooking it.  These heaters are not always very reliable. The best way to make a MRE heater do what you want it to do is to put sugar and water in the bag. This works wonders.
  6. Peanut butter-This is gold.
  7. Extra stuff-see picture below
  8. Wheat snack bread-super doughy dense bread
  9. Pears (side item)-The side item will vary depending on the MRE.
  10. Spicy Penne Pasta (entre)-some of them aren’t that bad. Beef stew, cheese tort and beef brisket are Tom’s favorites.

Every MRE comes with an entre and side item. There will be the heater and some extra elements. However, every MRE will differ a little bit. Tom has only ever seen 24 different versions. Case A has it’s own assorted 12 and Case B has its assorted 12. The case is essentially the big box that they come in.

Here are some of the accessory things that come in the pack.

extra stuff

  1. Gum
  2. Sugar
  3. Instant coffee
  4. Matches
  5. Creamer
  6. Moist Towelette
  7. Iodized Salt
  8. Pepper Sauce (some have tabasco sauce)
  9. Toilet paper

They are super high in calories, but if you think about the place they are in, it makes since. In the situations where soldiers are going to need to eat these, the nutritional value is spot on.

MREs replaced the rations that were served in earlier wars. You can learn more about the historical context of MREs here.

There are lot of things that these MREs can be used for besides just eating, which is one thing I didn’t know before Tom started talking about them all the time. Like the matches are used for smoking or to light anything on fire. They aren’t really used for eating the meal.

A soldier may not need to eat everything at once. You may eat the entre and save other things for a snack later if you are on patrol.

MRE swaps also largely occur. With each pack having various accessories, this provides opportunities for soldiers to do tradeseys on any item they are not particularly fond of. The items people fight over:  chocolate peanut butter, tropical Skittles, and first strike bars. Just picture elementary school lunch box swaps with adult hungry soldiers.

So how did my experience go with eating one of these ready to eat meals?

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These are my pears. This was the only thing that tasted normal.

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At first taste, this wheat snack bread isn’t so bad. Then you keep chewing. And keep chewing some more. And maybe just a little more chewing. They are super thick and dense. I ate one bite by itself and then two bites with peanut butter. It tastes like an old pop tart, without any of the good pop tart parts like the filling. Done with that.

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My entre was the spice penne pasta. While it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t something I would choose to eat again freely. It has a weird after taste. I guess if I scarfed it down it wouldn’t be bad, but I am a slow eater. Tom chastised me the whole time as I sat and ate my meal at a leisurely pace.

It was really interesting to actually see what these were all about, but I will say it will probably be a pretty dire situation before I choose to eat one again. Also Tom says that he is not very happy about having to eat one over the weekend. He is a pretty rocking husband who loves me and wants to help me with the blog!

Here is a video of Tom eating an MRE, and keep in mind that this is actually a slow pace since I kept talking to him. If the situation calls for it, he can eat it under 4 minutes. There is some profanity at the beginning, but I promise this is a good video. And you actually get to see a “Talks with Tom” live!

I hope you enjoyed this special “Talks with Tom” and my education on MREs!

Have you ever tried an MRE?

Armucation: Airborne vs. Air Assault

Since I got a pretty good response on the last couple posts about my little Army knowledge, I figured I would semi-regularly write about details and tidbits about the Army. It is really educational for me too, so I hope you enjoy learning a little bit more about the Army.

There are a lot of qualifiers, training, and titles that go along with the Army. It can get confusing real quick!

Two of them are Airborne and Air Assault. These are known as qualifiers.

Fort Campbell is home of the 101st Airborne, which is one of the most famous units, most recognizably for Band of Brothers.

So most people have heard of Airborne before. If you were like me though, you may have never heard of Air Assault. One would think that it has to do with fighting in the air from plane to plane-assault in the air duh!

So here is your Armucation for the day.

Air Assault and Airborne are fairly similar. They both refer to the mode of transportation that a unit specializes in getting to their mission. And both have to do with vehicles that fly.

Airborne is when a unit jumps out of an airplane with parachutes. There is a school that you must go to at Ft. Benning, GA, to become qualified. It generally lasts for about 3 weeks. I am sure it involves some jumping in the air and what not.

Air Assault is when a unit deploys out of a helicopter. This also includes sling loads, which is basically a rope that is hooked underneath the helicopter. When Tom was deployed, this is how a lot of food, mail, supplies were delivered. The school is here at Ft. Campbell and lasts for 11 days.

both pictures via

Fast Facts:

  • These are an individual qualifier not an automatic right since you in stationed within the unit.
  • A soldier can be qualified for both, and it is not just restricted to the infantry.
  • From WWII there has always been an airborne unit.
  • The 101st Screaming Eagles is the only air assault unit in the world, but this doesn’t mean that other units aren’t air assault qualified.
  • There are a few Airborne units.
  • Everyone in the Army (or even infantry) is not qualified for either. From what I can tell, a lot of it may be due to your MOS and duty assignment and what options may be available there.
  • You can have gone on deployments before being “trained” for these. Tom went through the Air Assault school a month after he returned form his deployment.

There are two other “types” of transportation besides these Air Assault and Airborne.

  • “Light” is foot infantry meaning they come in by foot. They may use other vehicles, but they are made to do foot traffic.
  • “Mec” is mechanized infantry. This is when they roll in vehicles like strykers (kind of like a tank).

The mode of transportation will be picked depending on the mission and terrain they are going into. It is all situational, and the same area may call for all four depending on what is occurring at the time.

This is part of the Air Assault training. They have to rappel off the side you see but also off the other side where there is no wall. This thing is huge and kind of daunting, but I kind of want to do the jump…
Picture from

It seems like I learn things about the Army every day. If there are things that you have questions about or you would love to see a post about, just let me know! I am by no means an expert at all things Army, but I love exploring new topics and sharing what I see as a military spouse.

I am starting a list of topics, so any ideas are welcome!

Hope you enjoyed today’s Armucation.

Armucation on Ribbons

Have you ever wondered what all the ribbons on the uniforms are? As I watch Tom make sure his uniform is ready for his layout (which is basically an inventory), I thought I would explain just a couple things for you. An Army educational moment for you on this Monday.

There are so many things that can be added to the uniform, and they all have a special meaning. Badges, ribbons, even the berets mean something.

Some are given because of the unit you are in, but most are earned through a specific action done, task or course completed.

Right now Tom’s unit is going through EIB warm ups. EIB (Expert Infantryman’s Badge) is a 2 week long course where they do various tasks to prove they are “experts” at their job.

Expert Infantry Badge.svg

The tasks range from physical endurance, land navigation, to rifle ranges. It takes a lot of work to get it. They have to score a certain number on each task to be qualified for the badge. The bar is set really high on all the tasks. For example, they have to clear/load/fire/correct malfunction/re-clear a m249 (a type of gun) in 30 seconds. It would take me that long to pick up the SAW.

Although, Tom’s says that if you don’t know how to poop using an E tool as a stool, you aren’t an expert infantrymen. So I guess that is a task they can consider if they ever update the course in the future.

They have been training for the EIB the past month or so. They go through the official course after Thanksgiving.

Some would say a more coveted badge is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. This is one that Tom received while on deployment. Only infantrymen can receive this, and they can only get it on deployment (hence the combat part). They have to be direct contact and personally fight in active combat to qualify for this award. It is a huge deal for an infantrymen to receive this.

Combat Infantry Badge.svg

So while the EIB is  the non-combat counterpart to the CIB, the CIB comes with greater risks and thus more honor (in my humble opinion.)

There are also other badges that are listed in the same categories for other MOS (military occupational specialty aka job).

Combat Action Badge is given to soldiers who are not in the infantry but are stationed in an area where there is hostile fire.

Combat Action Badge.svg

Combat Medical Badge is given to anyone who is part of the medical unit that assists and provides medical support to ground troops who are engaged in combat.


These are explained from my perspective from what I have pulled from various places online and what I have heard from Tom. As you can see, they all have value and have different merits.

Those are just a few of the gazillion badges and ribbons that the Army can earn. It is really fascinating to learn about the stories and experiences behind each one. The service is humbling when you think about it.

So there you have it. Welcome to my world of “Eye Spy” badge version. I hope you enjoyed the Armucation.

So what exactly does Tom do?

I have been asked by so many people what does Tom do now that he is back from deployment. He is an Infantrymen, so his job in reality is to be deployed to the front lines. So people are always curious what he does when he is at home.

A few people think that he is on vacation now and are shocked that he goes to the “office” everyday. Although he does have the next 9 Fridays off…

Anyway, he still works while he is stateside. He goes in every morning for PT then they do various trainings through the rest of the day and then round it out with some more gym time if possible.

The trainings vary depending on the time of year. These are just some of the things they could be doing:

  • land navigation-how I interpret this is like a treasure hunt. They get coordinates and have to find their way around the woods. They will do this during the day and at night to get a feel for the land in different situations.
  • range time-practice shooting
  • Company STX (situational training exercise)- go out and practice attacking things or reacting to contact. Usually they have actors, and they have a mission to accomplish. They will get a brief and then have to go in and do what they would do on deployment. Did you know the base has entire fake cities to use for training? They even have people who will speak in other languages so they can work on how to converse with various populations that cannot communicate in English.
  • live fires-this is similar to STX (if not the same thing) but with live ammo instead of blanks and more about short attacks and without the actors obviously.
  • medical training- from proper bandage techniques to dealing with a casualty
  • detainee operations
  • clearing rooms how-to
  • classroom portions of the things above
  • and as my husband says getting dirty and eating MREs–>”the things that men do best”

But every once in awhile they rotate into a special duty such as funeral detail or flag detail.

Tom had to do funeral detail back in the spring. This is exactly what it sounds like. As a veteran, you can have a full honors military funeral where soldiers will come and do the ceremonial things such as the flag over the coffin and the 21 gun salute. So the units rotate this duty and are on call to serve the area. For the funeral Tom did, they had to drive a couple hours out to perform the service.

Flag detail is here on base and Tom had it this last week. This also rotates around the units. The unit has to raise the division flag each morning and then lower it at night. And as we learned this morning in the torrential downpour, it occurs no matter the weather.

Being a history major, I knew that there are a lot of rules with flags and how they are displayed:

  • if displayed with other flags, they must either be smaller or the same size as the US flag, but none bigger
  • unless… flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace. The order of precedence for flags generally is National flags (US first, then others in alphabetical order in English), State (host state first, then others in the order of admission) and territories (Washington DC, Puerto Rico, etc.), Military (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard), then other.
  • has to be lit if displayed overnight otherwise it must be taken down each night
  • inappropriate for it to touch the ground
  • The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position
  • represents a living country and is itself considered a living things

There are tons more. It is actually really fascinating reading about the history and reasons for some of them.

But here are two little tidbits about the flag that I learned in the past week that I had no idea about!

One, did you know that the flag on a soldier’s uniform appears to be backwards?

I had never noticed it until Tom mentioned it this week. And here is an explanation why.

Army Regulation 670-1, “Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia,” updated most recently September 5, 2003, addresses explicitly the proper and lawful placement of the U.S. flag patch on the Army uniform.

The regulation states that when authorized for application to the proper uniform the American flag patch is to be worn, right or left shoulder, so that “the star field faces forward, or to the flag’s own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right, and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward. The appropriate replica for the right shoulder sleeve is identified as the ‘reverse side flag’.”

So it is like they are all flag bearers all the time. I love American symbolism.

And two, Tom told me a legend of things that are hidden in the flag poles themselves.

Each should have a bullet, knife, and matches so the last surviving soldier can continue fighting (with the knife), and if need be destroy the flag with matches (to prevent it from being captured), and take his own life with the bullet. Apparently, soldiers should not let the flag or themselves fall into enemy hands which ensued these dark measures hidden in the flag poles. Yikes.

Thanks for letting me geek out on some American history and symbols. I still remember trying to teach that silly red 5 block about flag history during my student teaching and getting so frustrated that they were not as excited and passionate as I was. Probably one of my worst days in teaching because I felt like a failed as a teacher and an American, and no I am not kidding. That was a bad day.

I digress.

I went and watched one of the days when Tom’s unit was lowering it. (I was never awake to watch it go up.) It is something that people can go and watch anytime, which is pretty cool. Although I felt like a creeper hanging out in the bushes with my camera. I wasn’t really in the bushes, just behind them. It just looks like it in some of my pictures. I wasn’t really sure where I could stand so I kind of lingered in the parking lot.

It was pretty cool to watch and listen to all these things you never think about. Army education-Armucation.

There are a lot of pictures so just get ready for some America.





Tom got to shoot off the cannon, which I think made the whole 12 hour work days worth it.


The one below is my one of favorite shots of the day.


And there he is just staring at me, which he later told me that he was trying to tell me to move closer…ugh I can’t read lips or minds.


It took a long time to bring the flag down and fold it, but think about how big it is and the fact that it cannot touch the ground and has to be folded in a certain way. They had to practice this a few times. I mean you don’t want to be “that guy.”

I will admit there were parts of me that wanted to race under there like you did when you had parachute day in gym class. ‘Merica.

And here is where I look like I am a lurker in the bushes.

Then there were several minutes of slow salutes and parading out.

So that is flag duty.

I am going to wean off doing a craft/home improvement every time I’m on here. Shocker, I know. Things are dying down a little for us, and I think Tom would not be happy with all my honey-do lists that come with the projects. Plus it is costly! I will still do projects pretty regularly because that is a huge stress relief, so don’t worry about the creativeness drying up! It just won’t be every entry.

Hope you had a great Monday!