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Spouse earns medal normally given to soldiers

Advisor gets Order of St. Barbara

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POSTED: May 14, 2010 11:22 a.m.
Photo by Denise Etheridge/

Family Readiness Support Advisor Jonna Reed, center, opens going-away gifts Wednesday from members of the 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, as Capt. Robert Eisenhart, left, and Dina Williams, right, look on.

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“If I can help just one spouse that’s all that matters,” said Family Readiness Support Advisor Jonna Reed Wednesday.
Reed, a civilian, was awarded the prestigious Order of St. Barbara medallion, a recognition normally reserved for active duty artillery officers and senior enlisted personnel. The Order of St. Barbara is bestowed on those who display high standards of integrity, professionalism and selfless dedication.
“It’s a high honor,” said Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson. “The Order of St. Barbara doesn’t go to everyone. This is really unprecedented.”
Larson explained the Honorable Order
of Molly Pitcher is usually given to individuals like Reed. This award is presented to volunteers who have made significant contributions to defense artillery communities.  
Reed is relocating with her husband of 23 years, Master Sgt. Bill Reed, to Fort Irwin, Calif., in seven days. Master Sgt. Reed will soon be promoted to sergeant major. The couple has two children, Elizabeth Dreas, 22, married to a Fort Stewart soldier, and John, 18, a student at Liberty County High School.
The longtime Army spouse was surprised by the award presentation and farewell party sprung on her by the 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at brigade headquarters.
Friends and colleagues said Reed may have served as a FRSA for the past three years, but stressed she has spent two decades voluntarily helping others.
Larson said FRSAs are civilians, usually the spouses of senior enlisted service members, paid to advise battalion commanders and work with a unit’s family members. Reed said she had been a volunteer Family Readiness Group leader in the past, so when the FRSA position came open she requested it.
Capt. Robert Eisenhart said Reed has been “invaluable” and has aided the Army’s mission by helping to strengthen soldiers’ families. She’s known for taking young Army spouses under her wing, he said.
“Jonna’s move couldn’t come at a more inopportune time for me as a rear detachment commander, being in the middle of a deployment,” Eisenhart said. “I refer to her as my ‘other’ first sergeant. When I have a tough soldier issue, I stick my first sergeant on it. When I have a tough family issue, I stick Jonna on it. Navigating the rest of the deployment without her will be difficult.”
Eisenhart said Reed is an effective FRSA because of her interpersonal skills and ability to understand the particular stresses experienced by military families. She also adheres to Army values, he said. The captain added Reed can empathize with the families of young privates, because she dealt with the same challenges when her husband began his Army career.
“Sometimes you have to be soft with (Army) spouses, sometimes you have to be tough,” he said. Reed, Eisenhart said, knows when to be both.
“I deal with every day issues,” Reed said with modesty. “A lot of the time I’m just there to listen.”
The captain said Reed assists Army spouses with small problems, such as getting an air conditioner fixed in post housing, to more complex issues, such as directing young parents to the appropriate resources so they can improve their parenting skills.
“Soldiers won’t enlist unless their spouses are happy,” he said. FRSAs can help spouses adjust to military life, he said.
1-9 FA Commander Lt. Col. Thomas Williams, other deployed officers, NCOs and soldiers joined Reed’s award ceremony and farewell party via video teleconferencing from Iraq. Rear detachment soldiers and battalion family members lined the conference room walls, intently watching the exchange. Williams’ wife, Dina Williams, sat with Reed in front of the screen. They both smiled through a few bittersweet tears.
Williams and his battalion members directed their comments to Reed, a woman not comfortable in the limelight. They told Reed, “You meant a lot to Bravo Battery,” “Thank you for your guidance and support,” “You helped me do my job better,” and the colonel’s gracious, “It helped us here … knowing you were helping to take care of things there (back home).”
“We owe you a debt of gratitude,” Williams said.
 

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