Story and photos by Devin Fisher
The thought of attending a formal military event can be quite daunting for Army spouses. Dining-outs, military balls and socials are filled with Army customs and courtesies, not to mention all those acronyms.
While the Soldiers are immersed with the Army’s rich heritage during initial training, many military spouses may tremble at the thought of attending these functions for fear of making a faux pas because they are unfamiliar with Army traditions.
The Army Community Service Family Enrichment Program commemorated 14 years of helping spouses replace the anxiety of participating in military ceremonies with anticipation during a birthday celebration at the Elkhorn Conference Center Dec. 2.
The “Tour of Army Traditions” celebration featured demonstrations on proper etiquette of tea pouring and table manners, how to dress for various occasions, protocol, invitations, honors to the flag, and customs and courtesies. The demonstrations were designed to provide those in attendance a glimpse of what the Army Family Team Building program offers during regularly-scheduled classes and can tailor for a unit prior to an event, said Nancy Montville, family enrichment program manager.
“Before a (military) ball, a unit might want to have us do (a) table etiquette (class) … a lot of people new to the military may not know the proper protocol for that or for … honors to the flag,” she said.
The AFTB program was established in 1995 to help teach spouses about the many intricacies of the military, Montville said. Following troop deployments in support of Operations Desert Shield and Storm, the AFTB program was developed “to empower spouses and teach them to be self-sufficient,” she said.
She noted that the volunteer-driven program has evolved since its inception, currently offering three levels of classes for spouses and Soldiers. Montville recommends the level-one introductory class for those who have been around the military for less than five years, the level-two management class for those from five-10 years and the level-three leadership class for those with more than 10 years of military experience.
A level-one class is held every other month while level-two and -three classes are held quarterly. AFTB also teaches an introduction module for Family readiness groups monthly. The introductory class includes how to read a Leave and Earnings Statement, understanding military terms and acronyms and problem solving, Montville said. The level-two class includes stress management and meeting management while level three focuses on leadership issues.
The AFTB provides spouses with the “do’s and don’ts” for military activities, information that is beneficial for Army spouses, no matter how long they have been around the military, said Julia Maldonado, an Army spouse and Family readiness support assistant with the 1st Space Brigade at Peterson Air Force Base.
“I think it is beneficial for everyone, whether old or new.
I still learn things all the time,” she said, noting her husband has served for 21 years.
“I like to gather information and pass it on to our spouses within our unit … and as a senior spouse, I like to keep up to date with all the protocol and things like that … so when we do go to functions and activities I know what I am supposed to do as a spouse.”
To find out more about the AFTB, call ACS at 526-4590 or stop by building 1526.