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NEWS | Dec. 3, 2010

AFRC offers support to families of deployed

By Mike Joseph 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

The holiday season can be a strain on spouses or family members of deployed Airmen.

But whatever the circumstance, the Airman and Family Readiness Center is ready with resources and programs to aid those families.

The Lackland AFRC can not only walk the walk, it can talk the talk because Tech. Sgt. Jose Ontiveros, AFRC readiness NCO, happens to be the spouse of a deployed Airman.

"We actually have someone in this position who not only is providing the information but living it," said Sharon Witter, AFRC flight chief, about Sergeant Ontiveros.

In dealing with spouses or families of deployed Airmen, Sergeant Ontiveros can speak from personal experience. His wife is two months into a six-month European deployment.

Sergeant Ontiveros has four children at home, ranging from 15 months old to age 13. In between the AFRC and managing the children with the help of his mother-in-law, Sergeant Ontiveros manages to find time to coach two youth sports teams and be a booster club president.

"I think I can relate to those families," Sergeant Ontiveros said. "I know sometimes someone may be thinking, How would you know? You're not going through this, but I actually am."

To help families of deployed members cope with the holidays, Hallmark Cards has donated recordable "Twas the Night Before Christmas" storybooks for deploying Airmen.

"You record yourself reading the story so when you leave, your family and kids can have (your voice) in the house during the holidays," Sergeant Ontiveros said.

Since joining the AFRC staff after six years at the Logistics Readiness Squadron and 10 years as an F-16 crew chief, Sergeant Ontiveros has also helped institute a new program for deployed Airmen's families.

The recently added monthly "meet and eat dinner" for deployed family members at a base dining facility allows adults an opportunity to interact while the Lackland Youth Center provides children's activities.

"It's another way to get family members together so they can network," Sergeant Ontiveros said.

Another Air Force deployment program is Hearts Apart. Hearts Apart holds monthly support meetings and, through the help of the 802nd Communications Squadron, provides one free 15-minute phone call each week to deployed Airmen.

"We will take up to five names per deployed member and list them with the base operator," Sergeant Ontiveros said.

Hearts Apart has been taken a step further. At pre-deployment briefings, Sergeant Ontiveros gathers family contact information to keep those families informed by e-mail, telephone or mail of available resources and base events.

"I try to reach out to families monthly," he said about staying in contact with the 640 families of Lackland's currently deployed Airmen.

The Air Force Aid Society sponsors base programs like free child care for Give Parents a Break at the youth center once a month, and Car Care Because We Care, a voucher for an oil/filter change once every six months at the base auto hobby shop for spouses of active-duty Air Force members deployed or on a remote assignment more than 30 days. Airmen temporarily deployed or on remote assignment for 365 days receive two oil changes during that time period.

For more information on Airman and Family Readiness Center programs, call 671-3722.