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Photo Information

Col. Frank Donovan, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit commanding officer, presents a volunteer appreciation award to Heidi Barksdale, a family readiness assistant, at the commander's home during an appreciation luncheon for the unit's command element family readiness assistants, Feb. 28, 2013. The family readiness team organized social gatherings, workshops and lunches to keep the unit's spouses informed during the unit's 2012 deployment.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

24th MEU honors family readiness “team”

1 Mar 2013 | Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

The 24th MEU commanding officer, Col. Frank Donovan, and his wife, Kim, invited the 24th MEU Unit and Personal Family Readiness Program into their home Feb. 28 to thank them and present awards for their service during the unit’s 2012 deployment.

“I’m proud of the team we deployed with, but I’m also proud of the team back here,” said Donovan. “The Marines did great things out there, but they couldn’t do any of those things if the families weren’t back here helping and supporting them.”

The UPFRP is the unit’s family readiness team and prepares Marines and their families to deal with the myriad of issues common in a military lifestyle. A strong family network enables the Marine to maintain a high state of morale and personal readiness, which facilitates unit readiness.

These families, and the family readiness team who support them, enable their Marines to maintain their readiness while deployed, said Donovan.

 “You get through a deployment and you feel like you can get through anything,” said Ann Gasperini, 24th MEU family readiness officer. “We wanted to recognize the spouses because they not only went through the deployment but they shouldered that extra burden of carrying their team of families through it.”

The 24th MEU family readiness team consisted of family readiness assistants at each subordinate level, each assigned to lead a section of families. This enabled the spouses to have some “real team building” as they supported families of Marines who worked directly with their own spouse, said Gasperini.

A MEU usually trains for six months during a pre-deployment work-up, then deploys for a given period of time—anywhere between six and ten months or longer depending on the ever-changing needs of a crisis response force. The Marines will go wherever the nation calls, though the days away are significant, said Donovan.

But it is this significance that fueled the consistency for the family readiness team. They relied on each other as much as the commander to keep each other and their families informed.

“I have a responsibility to Col. Donovan, but I also have a responsibility to the families,” said LesLeeAnn Watts, a family readiness assistant for the 24th MEU’s command element.

Watts considered her office one big family, so the Marines’ spouses were as important to the unit as their Marine. She welcomed them all into the family support network through social media and then attempted to meet each new spouse through lunches and unit gatherings.

“As I tell my husband, this my shop. This is my family and I’m going to help them,” she said.

Marines and their families cherish the dwell time between deployments. The moments created while home allow them to maintain their family bond during long deployments, especially in the ever-changing climate of a Marine Expeditionary Unit.