Base takes care of families of deployed Airmen
Master Sgt. Robby G. Kindernay, 42nd Security Forces Squadron, reunites with his children at Montgomery Regional Airport in March 2011. Kindernay, who was deployed for six months to Afghanistan, was greeted by his wife, Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Kindernay, and their two children, Ashlyn and Dalton. Programs at the Airman and Family Readiness Center help families of deployed military members, who face adjustments throughout the deployment cycle. (Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher S. Stoltz)
by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs
3/30/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Airmen make difficult sacrifices during deployments, but family members often make sacrifices, too. In recognition of this, Andrew Tveit, the family readiness coordinator, and the Airman and Family Readiness Center serve families through the entire cycle of deployment.
"Although our military members have an extremely difficult job during deployment, families must continue with their day-to-day activities," he said. "The parent left behind must carry the load of two people, ensuring all the household duties are taken care of, helping children with homework, keeping up with house and car maintenance, and most of the time ,while still working a full-time job.
"It is my job to keep our families connected to the base and the support services that are available to them during this stressful time," Tveit said.
During predeployment, the center educates military members and their spouses about services and benefits available during deployments, he said.
"During the time prior to a deployment, we encourage the families to visit us. We offer numerous books, pamphlets and DVDs to assist with the preparation for separation," Tveit said. "We also have some great gifts for the children that come to visit."
During the deployment, the center seeks to offer services to reduce the stress on families of deployed Airmen.
Under the Hearts Apart program, the youth and child development centers offer Give Parents a Break, a program for families with children providing four hours of childcare at no cost. The Air Force Aid Society also funds Car Care Because We Care, in which a deployed spouse gets a discounted oil change at the base service station, Tveit said.
The center also sponsors family events for spouses of deployed military. He said he hopes these encourage spouses to have some fun during a difficult time.
"Some of the previous events where we have done something special for our deployed families include the Montgomery Biscuits baseball game, base luau, breakfast with Santa, the Harlem Wizards, 'Night of Illusion' magic show and Tops in Blue," Tveit said. "We also work in conjunction with the base chapel for the monthly deployment link-up dinner. Deployed families are invited to enjoy a relaxing evening with food, fun and entertainment."
Key spouses also provide critical support to families during deployment, he said. "They are trained to deal with numerous situations and are a wealth of information," Tveit said. "They provide peer-to-peer support and are a link to unit leadership."
The last phase of the cycle, reintegration, can be the most difficult phase, said Derrick Sanders, the chief of the family support branch of the Airman and Family Readiness Center.
"It is during this phase that families face the challenge of adjusting to the 'new normal'," Sanders said. "Life did not stop during the deployment. Things such as significant life events and the shifting of roles and responsibilities take place, and these things can create major stressors for the family."
Even though post-deployment can be difficult, the center has programs in place to mitigate the difficulty of finding a new normal. Couples last year had the option of attending two free couples retreats focusing on communication and "connecting as a couple," Tveit said, which included a two-night stay in a downtown Montgomery hotel, food and information.
The Airman and Family Readiness Center can refer military families having difficulties with the reintegration process to free counseling services from several organizations to help with anything from post traumatic stress disorder to communication and marriage issues.
The services the center provides are not just important to spouses, they also give peace of mind to deployed Airmen, a critical role of the Airman and Family Readiness Center, said Sanders.
"It is our duty to assist commanders in helping the military members and their families deal with the challenges and demands of military life," he said. "In doing so, we feel we play a vital role in ensuring that the war fighter is positioned to focus on the mission, especially when down range." Helping deployed Airmen and their families is easy, said Tveit.
"Being involved is so easy. If you have a neighbor that is deployed, something like mowing their lawn or taking their children to Diary Queen for an ice cream may seem small to you, but can have a huge impact on them," he said. "Sometimes just taking them a homemade dinner so they don't have to cook one night can help relieve their stress."
Those looking for a more formal way to help can contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center volunteer coordinator at 953-2353.