Moody A&FRC provides sustained deployment support for military families

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jordan Garner
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – One of the biggest sacrifices military families make is adjusting to life away from their deployed loved ones.

The Airman and Readiness Center at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, provides services and activities to help prepare members and families to successfully manage separation and reintegration.

“We want (family members) to have that foundation where they can say ‘even though I’m going through this experience, there’s an agency that’s available for me to go to with any situation I may have,’” said Sharon Register, A&FRC flight chief. “Of course, we have the first sergeants and units always ready to help, but there’s a lot that we do to alleviate the stress and loneliness.”

Before service members deploy, the A&FRC encourages family members to attend consolidated deployment gateway (CDG) briefings with their deploying spouse every first and third Thursday of the month. For mass deployments, units request CDGs specifically for family members to ensure they don’t miss any information.

“We find that sometimes members may not always relay vital information back for the spouse and family members to know,” said Master Sgt. Tony Johnson, 23rd Force Support Squadron readiness noncommissioned officer in charge. “When we have those opportunities, we really take advantage and are able to answer any questions that the family members have directly.”

The main focus of the CDGs is to assist families with practical preparations such as gathering important documents and contact information to their unit’s leadership and key spouses.

To ease the pain of separation, the A&FRC can provide personalized memorabilia such as family photo pillowcases and pre-recorded videos of the deploying member reading their child’s favorite book. The most popular family request is the “Hug a Hero” doll.

“You can record up to a 30-second message into it. It has a clear face that allows the service member to put their photo inside the face of the doll,” said Johnson. “The kids absolutely love it; it’s very popular.”

While the deployed are away, the Hearts Apart Program partners with organizations around base to ensure families are taken care of. The Moody AFB Chapel hosts an opportunity to create crafts and care packages with key spouses and other family members the last Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m.

The A&FRC hosts a deployed family dinner every third Thursday of each month and partners with the Exceptional Family Member Program during the holidays so family members can build bonds through the separation period.

“This is one of our heavy hitters, and we get a lot of support,” said Johnson. “Not only is it important as far as providing a free meal. It also gives like-minded families who are going through this deployment an avenue to speak with other adults who are experiencing the same struggle and give them a sense of belonging.”

While spouses may be able to connect with other adults, some still have to handle raising children on their own while their loved ones are away. The A&FRC partners with the Family Child Care Program to assist families who are separated for 30 days or more to make adjusting to the single parent life easier.

“The FCC provides free child care at the Child Development Center,” said Johnson. “They provide 16 hours before deployment, 16 hours each month during deployment, and 16 hours after in the reintegration phase up to 30 days from the time you return.”

As a special “thank you” for military children's sacrifice and resiliency, key spouses present them with a certificate of appreciation and a coin upon the deployed spouse’s return.

“A lot of times, squadrons will have a coin and certificate ceremony for the families,” said Johnson. “That way, the kids can feel as important as they should to recognize it was a sacrifice on their behalf as well.”

With approval from their School Liaison Officer, children are authorized up to five days excused absence to help the family reintegrate and catch up on time lost.

Just as the families are invited to deployers’ mandatory pre-deployment briefings, the same applies for reintegration briefings. This enables families to be equipped with the proper tools to reintegrate.

“Deployments are inevitable,” said Johnson. “At some point in your career, you’re going to go downrange and serve our nation. Understand that there’s always value in adding as many tools to your toolbox as you can. A&FRC is one of the best tools you can have in the toolbox.”

Even with the many resources the A&FRC provides, they have goals to make the reintegration process more beneficial for all of Team Moody.

“I want to set forth a plan that will allow us to keep that communication piece ruling,” said Johnson. “If we find a way to bring people together to collectively reintegrate will bring more value than individually reintegrating from deploying.”

According to Register, the A&FRC is open to suggestions for programs that families believe benefit them most. Providing resources tailored to the needs of the base is a key focus of the Airman and Family Readiness Center to help families make the entire deployment process the best experience possible.

“We’re crucial to making sure that families are taken care of when they’re going through this experience,” said Johnson. “There’s nothing that compares to being separated from family members for an extended period of time, having to learn to live life without them, then learning to get back into a routine in living life with them. We are here as A&FRC to help with that process.”

For more information or suggestions on resources and tools the A&FRC provides, contact them at 229-257-3333.