Most people in the Reserve face deployment at some point in their career. Although this is never easy, it can be particularly difficult for those with families. Families worry about the member, the military member worries about their family, and the extended separation itself can be a trial.
The 419th Fighter Wing Airman and Family Readiness Center has a number of resources geared at helping deploying members and their families.
"The Family Readiness Center is in place to assist the commander and the first sergeants in assisting military member's families prior to the member's deployment, during the deployment, and when they return," said Staff Sgt. Anita Merrill, 419th FW Airman and Family Readiness technician. "We make sure the family is adapting to all the changes that are going to happen in their lives when the member is deployed and that all is well on the home front."
The benefit to the military member, the wing, and the overall mission is how the Airman and Family Readiness Center supports families during a deployment. "We are here to take care of the reservist's family," Merrill said emphatically. "The military members are going to be taken care of. They are going to have their first shirt, their buddies, and their commander, but the family left behind might not have a support system in place. We are here to be part of and help create that support system."
Lt. Col. Joseph Randolph, 419th Force Support Squadron commander, reiterated the importance of the Family Readiness Center, "The Family Readiness Center is a good point of contact for family members when they have issues during the deployment of a loved one, and a way for us to keep track of those issues and make sure everything is OK."
The Airman and Family Readiness Center facilitates much of the needed support through a great deal of networking. One of the programs they coordinate involves gathering volunteers who are skilled in various trades such as plumbing or automotive repair.
"We have this volunteer program in place so that in the event that the deployed member's family is in need of assistance, we can contact the volunteer and ask them if they can go and help," Merrill said.
The Airman and Family Readiness Center also helps support families during a deployment through a spouses' support program. "We get the spouses of deployed people together and introduce everyone," explained Merrill. "Nobody can support you quite as well as someone who is going through the same thing at the same time."
The spouse support program gathers together for support meetings and other activities. Recently families of some deployed reservists gathered at the Airman and Family Readiness Center with pictures of the deployed military member. "We made pillowcases with the deployed person's face on it," Merrill said.
"It was great!" she said. "Kids were running around all over the place and having a great time." They also took pictures of each family and made a pillow case for the deployed member.
Activities like this are geared toward helping the children cope with separation from a parent. "We try and help families focus on the positive and understand what is going on, and the importance of the mission. Kids don't always understand what is going on. We try to help them understand what an important job their parent has," Merrill said.
"If the family is prepared, the separation goes a little bit smoother, the deployment itself runs smoother, and the re-integration of the member runs smoother as well. We want to make sure that the families are taken care of because when they can support the member, the member can do the job they need to do," she said.
There is a clear correlation between family readiness and the member's ability to perform out in the field, she said. When the military member or the family feels taken off guard or unprepared for a deployment, resentment often follows, which frequently leads to reduced productivity on the part of the member.
The Airman and Family Readiness Center plays an important role in preparing military members for deployment. Members receive a pre-deployment briefing and information about the importance of things such as power of attorney and resources such as Military OneSource and the base legal office. Members and their families also receive post deployment briefings to give the families information regarding post traumatic stress syndrome and how to reintegrate back into civilian life.