Even Superman needs a hand every once in a while.
The families of the U.S. Army Reserve Firefighting unit in Creston now have one more resource available to them in times of need. At the end of April, Tiffany Berndt started the Creston Army Reserve Firefighter Family Readiness Group (FRG), a group that focuses on giving support and finding resources for the families of soldiers who are away from home or deployed.
“Being a Reserves wife, it’s more difficult than being an active duty wife,” said Berndt. “You have all your friends right there (on base). Army Reserves, everyone is so spread out. So, if something happened and I need help, I can’t just go knock on my neighbor’s door. In Reserves, some don’t have a base or have ever been on an active duty base before, so it helps to find programs to help families going through hardships. And, sometimes, you don’t have that support that you need.”
“We haven’t had one (FRG),” said Berndt, 26. “There’s one in the Lincoln area, … but our guys didn’t.”
Family readiness groups are mandatory programs in the military, but because soldiers in the Army Reserves don’t have active-duty status, the program isn’t mandatory. The group is available for emotional support, as well as a resource for military families to use if they are in need of such things as financial support and child care.
“If we were to be deployed, the family readiness also offers the ability for the significant others, family and community (to have) a contact point to find out what we’re doing. … The group offers one point of contact that we can get to, so they can spread the word,” said Staff Sgt. Chad DeVolder of Des Moines, a firefighter in the Army Reserves.
The group is looking for support from the community, as well. Berndt said she wants to plan fundraisers, family get-togethers and community events to grow the group and let others know the resource is available to them if they need it.
“Hopefully it will boost morale, and create more events for us,” said Cpl. Rodney Kennedy of Melcher, a firefighter in the Army Reserves.
“We are firefighters, so we focus on firefighter training,” said DeVolder. “We work hand in hand with the Creston Fire Department quite often.”
The Army Reserve has a specialized unit of firefighters based in Creston. The Reserve firefighters are similar to volunteer firefighters, but have more training in areas such as aircraft and wildland fires.
“One difference is all Department of Defense firefighters, have to be aircraft-fire trained,” said DeVolder. “The fuels burn at a higher temperature, and the plane itself is a different setup. … We also have more contaminants (and) chemicals to worry about.”
The turnout gear Reserve firefighters use is also the same as that used at a civilian fire department. The firefighters wear boots, pants, jacket, gloves, hood, air mask and helmet.
The fire truck, a green machine with larger wheels and more steps up to the cab, is also different because it’s built to hold more equipment for different kinds of fires, but the equipment is similar to that on civilian fire trucks.
Berndt, of Manhattan, Kan., volunteered to be the leader of the FRG. Her significant other, Staff Sgt. Ryan Berney, is in Creston once a month for Reserves training.
DeVolder’s wife, Lindsey, is co-leader and secretary of the FRG.
“We’re still looking for volunteers to help,” said Berndt. “It doesn’t have to be family members or anyone in the unit. Any community members that would like to volunteer their time, they can join a call list.”
For more information, visit the FRG’s Facebook page, Creston IA U.S. Army Reserve Fire Fighters Family Readiness Group – FRG, or email Berndt at firstname.lastname@example.org.