32nd Brigade Family Readiness Group among best in nation - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

32nd Brigade Family Readiness Group among best in nation


(PRESS RELEASE) Date: December 29, 2009

The Family Readiness Group for the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team has been named the best in the Army National Guard for 2009, and will be one of seven reserve component family readiness groups to receive a Department of Defense award in February.

"I am so thankful our Red Arrow soldiers have the best family readiness program in the nation," said Col. Steven Bensend, commander of the 32nd Brigade from Iraq. "Our soldiers did a great job over here because of the great work done to support their families back in Wisconsin."

"It's pretty exciting," said Janell Kellett, lead volunteer for the 32nd Brigade's family readiness group. "I've been calling all my volunteers."

Kellett oversees volunteers representing family readiness groups for 27 units deployed with the 32nd Brigade - including units from the 64th Troop Command and the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade - along with some additional groups representing units that provided individual Soldiers to augment the brigade.

The Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Awards were established in 2000 to recognize the top unit in each Reserve component - Army and Air National Guard, Army and Air Force Reserve, Navy and Marine Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve - that demonstrates outstanding family readiness while maintaining superior mission readiness. Each Reserve component selects its winner from among a large pool of nominees; final nominees are forwarded to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs for final approval.

Criteria to be considered for the award includes demonstrating the link between family readiness and mission readiness, such as having family points of contact and care plans; implementing programs and services that improve quality of life and support attracting and keeping Soldiers; ensuring that unit members have fair access to benefits and entitlements; and ensuring that National Guard families are seamlessly integrated with the total force, in part by collaborating with local bases or active component units and also by reducing family readiness issues that may interfere with a Soldier's deployment.

According to the Army National Guard panel which determined the final selection, the 32nd Brigade Family Readiness Group exceeded the criteria guidance.

"The incredible amount of time and effort our family volunteers gave is overwhelming," he said. "There is no award that can adequately thank them for that sacrifice," said Bensend.

Kellett said that the award shows the volunteers that their hard work has been recognized. "Our unit leads have done some amazing work," she said. "This reinforces that they've been doing phenomenal work. Everyone pitches in to have a successful program. This shows that the Army National Guard leadership here appreciates what we do. We want to serve the families; we want to serve the community."

The 32nd Brigade's Family Readiness Group launched a community service campaign, "Moving Forward, Giving Back" in May 2008 when the brigade began preparing for its current deployment. The initiative was developed to bring together families of Soldiers who have deployed in the past with families experiencing their first deployment, as well as to provide a focus outside of deployment concerns. Kellett reiterated that the program will continue after the brigade returns next year - in fact, even the homecoming will provide an opportunity for families to give back.

"We'll be doing a food pantry collection," she explained. "It's just another opportunity for military families to give back."

This award is the fourth presented to a Wisconsin Army National Guard Family Readiness Group in recent years. The 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry Family Readiness Group won the award in 2005, followed by the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry Family Readiness Group in 2006 and the 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery Family Readiness Group in 2007. Like the 32nd Brigade Family Readiness Group this year, those groups were serving deployed battalions during the time they won the award.

Kellett was the battalion lead volunteer for the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry when it won the Reserve Family Readiness Award in 2006, and said much of what was learned then has been applied to this family group.

"We wanted to ensure we worked as a team," she explained. "We pulled all the battalion leads together and made sure they had what they needed. They spoke to their unit leads to make sure everyone was on the same page. That's what makes the group strong and more successful."

Bensend said that lengthy Guard deployments cannot succeed without effective family programs. "When our Soldiers know their families are being supported back home, they can focus on their missions overseas," he explained. "Family readiness groups are really supporting the mission, too.

The award ceremony will be held in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes at 10 a.m. on Feb. 12, 2010. In addition to an engraved plaque and framed certificate, the unit will receive a cash award from the Military Officers Association of America.


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