With a father in the Air Force, Laura Eckhardt grew up in a military environment. But when she married an Army Soldier in April 2012, she said she found that being a military spouse was a whole different world.
“There’s so much to learn, so much to understand,” Eckhardt said. “It’s hard to keep track.”
Tired of asking her husband “a million questions for one thing,” Eckhardt enrolled in Army Family Team Building, or AFTB, classes through Army Community Service.
“AFTB will help provide a solid foundation in becoming self reliant and also provide a working knowledge of the military community,” said Brandy Pearson, AFTB volunteer program manager, ACS.
During the AFTB Level I, often considered Army 101, students learn about the basics of Army life, like military terms, the chain of command and Army benefits.
“One of the biggest things we’ve touched on is acronyms,” Eckhardt said. “You’re constantly hearing people use different lingo, different language. And if you don’t understand it, then you just kind of stand there blankly.”
“It’s all new to me,” agreed Monica Clarke, military spouse and fellow classmate of Eckhardt’s. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen acronyms.”
Clarke arrived at Fort Riley just two days before the start of AFTB Level I.
“I just unpacked and came to the class,” she said.
Even in that short time, Clarke found the class to be helpful, she said. Instead of having to search the Internet scattershot for information, she was able to get it all in one place.
“I can’t get (this information) from my husband right now because he’s deployed,” Clarke said. “I can’t be like ‘hey what does this mean?’ since I can’t really talk to him right now.”
Not only did Clarke finally learn what LES stands for – “I see that all the time in the paperwork, and I’m like ‘what does that mean?’” she said – but she also made connections with fellow military spouses. The Family readiness group leader for her husband’s unit was enrolled in the same class.
Getting to know the other military spouses in her class also helped Katia Cooke get plugged into the community.
Cooke said she found that when she asked questions, new and seasoned spouses alike would chime in with resources and ideas.
“And, of course, the leaders at ACS (helped),” Cooke added. “Knowing that I can always come back and ask them questions – I know that they’ll (refer) me to other (resources).”
“I’ve picked up so many brochures,” she laughed.
The AFTB courses are designed to build on one another, however students can attend in any order they wish.
“I did Level I, and it was great. I loved it, and, immediately, I signed up for Level II,” Cooke said. “I came in completely in the dark, and it was very scary to be in that situation. And, then you have a class like (AFTB Level I) – it’s just wonderful. It really prepares you.”
“I would not just recommend (AFTB Level I), (but) I would make it obligatory for everybody, for all spouses,” she added.
Level II focuses on personal skills that help build resiliency like communication, time management and stress management.
“We hit subjects like coping with crisis, learning how to deal with conflict in a more constructive manner, communication skills,” Cooke said.
Level III delves into leadership skills, like understanding needs, delegation, running effective meetings and coaching. Level III often attracts FRG leaders and other key volunteers looking to develop in and prepare for roles of greater responsibility. Some spouses have even found AFTB helpful in their roles as “Household 6.”
“AFTB had a huge impact on me when I first went through the classes,” Pearson said. “At that point, I was a fairly new spouse and didn’t really have a clue what was going on. After I completed all three levels, I felt more comfortable talking with my husband about his job. Overall, (AFTB) helped me understand and deal with what I was faced with as a military spouse.”
The next AFTB Level I class will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 23 to 24. Level II will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 19 to 21. The next Level III class will be in March.
ACS also offers Level I classes during the weekend once per quarter to better accommodate working spouses. Levels II and III are occasionally offered on weekends based on interest levels, Pearson said.
For more information or to register for AFTB classes, call 785-239-9435.
By Julie Fiedler
1st Inf. Div. Post
Julie Fiedler | POST
Courtney Davis, AFTB instructor, engages a group of students during the customs and courtesies module of a recent Level I class Nov. 3 at the Resiliency Learning Center.