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JBSA News
NEWS | March 11, 2010

Deployment briefings available to spouses

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

When an Airman deploys, a spouse or family member is going to need assistance.

Someone might get sick, the car might break down, or maybe child care or counseling is needed.

Whatever the issue, the Airman and Family Readiness Center is available with the resources to help.

"There are a lot of programs and information available to spouses," said Master Sgt. Jason Hohenstreiter, readiness NCO. "They can call and (someone) will either answer their question or direct them to (a staff member) for information referral.

"There are very few challenges we haven't met," he said. "Tell us the problem and we'll tell you the fix."

Lackland has several programs available for families of deployed or deploying Airmen. They are now part of Deployment University, which aligns all base deployment programs, classes and events. The program was developed locally through the Year of the Air Force Family initiative.

Sergeant Hohenstreiter said Deployment University ensures every phase - pre-deployment, during deployment, return and reintegration, and post-deployment - is covered through classes or discussion groups.

They coincide with normal five- to six-month deployment cycles and deployment-experienced Airmen are encouraged to lead discussion groups.

"Our banner program is the Hearts Apart network," said Sergeant Hohenstreiter.

Hearts Apart includes monthly support meetings and, through the help of the 802nd Communications Squadron, provides one free 15-minute phone call each week between deployed Airmen and their spouses. Sergeant Hohenstreiter said useful information is also disseminated between monthly meetings, by newsletter or phone calls, when necessary.

Hearts Apart also offers an open house the first Thursday of the month at the AFRC, 6-8 p.m. Speakers from the military family life program guide informal discussion for families and children. To participate in the Hearts Apart program, spouses must register with the AFRC.

Another program geared to spouses is the Key Spouse program. Key Spouse is an official communication network designed to enhance readiness and establish a sense of community among unit leaders, Airmen and their families.

Spouses are appointed by a unit's commander and provide information and act as a resource for other spouses within the unit.

The Air Force Aid Society also sponsors base programs like free child care at the Child Development Centers and Car Care Because We Care, a $30 voucher for an oil/filter change for spouses of active-duty Air Force members deployed for more than 30 days or remote assignment.

Additionally, AFRC and the youth center have joined forces to make Operation JET (Junior Expeditionary Team) a quarterly program. It originally was an annual event as the day in the life of a deployed Airman.

Through Operation Military Kids and the youth center staff, Operation JET uses different games and exercises designed for children to talk about deployment.

Those are held the same day as Give Parents a Break program, which allows parents or caregivers an afternoon or evening to themselves.

Together, the spouse, family and youth programs are tools to provide assistance before, during and after a deployment.

"My goal is to have families quit thinking of the word 'deployment' as a negative, hiding it from one another; it should be part of the dining room discussion," said Sergeant Hohenstreiter, who leaves next month on his seventh deployment.

"It still needs to be remembered as just part of our life, not hidden in the shadows," he added. "When deployment does come, we don't need to be afraid of it. That's why we want families to talk about it."

For more information on deployment and family support programs, contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 671-3722, Bldg. 1249.