RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
In their memorandum announcing Year of the Air Force Family last July, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said the year-long observance provides the service with a "perfect opportunity to say thank you" to Airmen and their families.
A program created especially for Year of the Air Force Family says "thank you" to the families of deployed servicemembers at Randolph in a special way: numerous free activities ranging from youth flag football and volleyball registration to theme park outings.
"The DePLAYment Tag Pass Program is the Air Force's way of saying we appreciate your dedication and we understand the hardship deployment places on your family," said Shelta Reese, 902nd Force Support Squadron marketing director.
She said the special Year of the Air Force Family initiative gives each child a variety of free recreational opportunities, including an instructional class and a sports program.
The program also allows families to enjoy quality time together through activities such as theme park outings, golf lessons, bowling and swimming and provides parents with 10 hours of free child care. Equipment rental and party packages are also available.
Outdoor recreation is sponsoring visits to theme parks in the area, including Six Flags Fiesta Texas May 29, Sea World June 26 and Splashtown July 10; youth programs is arranging trips to Schlitterbahn June 19 and July 24.
Program tag pass packs may be picked up at the Airman and Family Readiness Center Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., said Karen Rudolph, 902nd FSS Airman and Family Services Flight chief. Tag pass packs contain numbered dog tags that can be removed and placed on a key chain; each family member receives one tag. Participants must register at www.myairforcelife.com, where information on the program is provided.
"You also have to provide a set of deployment orders," she said. "The spouses and dependents of any Airman deployed any time between July 2009 and July 2010 are eligible for the program."
Ms. Rudolph said the Air Force set the parameters for the program, and the 902nd FSS tailored it to use Randolph's resources, including the Information, Tickets and Travel office, outdoor recreation, youth programs and the base library.
"We worked as creatively as we could within those parameters to support our families," she said. "We identified the resources that support our families."
Families who have used the tag passes so far are "excited" about the program, Ms. Rudolph said.
"It's a great program that saves them money," she said. "The feedback has been very positive. It's also brought more attention to our programs."
Ms. Rudolph said the DePLAYment Tag Pass Program, which is scheduled to end July 31, "supports families in a way they deserve."
"We want people to enjoy it," she said. "It's a solid program that helps them in the reintegration process."