Spouses group eases deployment for Airmen, loved ones

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Frances Locquiao
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
With a mission focused around deploying its Airmen, the 820th Security Forces Group is making sure the spouses and loved ones aren't left in the dark.

The 820th SFG's Family and Loved Ones Appreciation and Information Committee supports anyone who is close to the deployed Airmen, including spouses, fianc├ęs, boyfriends, girlfriends, brothers, sisters and parents, said Lt. Col. Arturo Buxo, 820th SFG deputy commander and FLAIC chairperson.

Col. John Decknick, 820th SFG commander, teamed with the Airmen and Family Readiness Center, chaplain and Family Advocacy Office to create the committee in August 2005. Its role is to properly take care of everyone involved in an Airman's deployment.

"The committee's mission is to develop programs and ideas in concert with other base agencies," said Colonel Decknick. "They assist families and loved ones left behind with various issues and help returning Airmen re-adjust after deployment."

The FLAIC works hand-in-hand with the Key Spouse Program, an Air Force-sponsored initiative designed to help spouses cope with the daily challenges of living within the military environment by providing a channel for communication and information.

"The most important mission of the program is to keep everyone informed and to mitigate rumors," Colonel Buxo said. "Rumors cause unnecessary concern to families and can get out of hand because they spread so quickly."

To reduce rumors, the group assigns key spouses who distribute the right information to the other family members within the group.

"We've selected experienced military spouses to be the key spouse for each squadron," Colonel Decknick said. "They are trained to be approachable and be a single point-of contact for questions or concerns."

The key spouses use notification listings, e-mail chains and routine gatherings to keep families, loved ones and the unit on the same page during extended deployments, he said.

Each designated key spouse is provided a squadron cell phone to stay connected with all the other spouses during deployments.

"We also have business cards, tri-folds and refrigerator magnets with the phone numbers of all the key spouses, commanders and first sergeants," said Jennifer Stone, who is the 822nd Security Forces Squadron key spouse. "We hand them out to those who are in need of support and guide them in the right direction."

The FLAIC also has the capability to produce DVDs in which spouses can send messages to their loved ones deployed.

"I wrote a song and made a video for my husband," said Mrs. Stone. "My daughter and I enjoyed it. It's nice to send my husband things from home and remind him that we are waiting and thinking about him always."

Events such as monthly planning meetings, town hall meetings and unit activities are also organized to keep family and loved ones informed and allow them to bond with others facing similar situations.

Although Colonel Buxo chairs the monthly town hall meetings, the key spouses are the ones who have the most input.

"We encourage the spouses to take charge and plan events for the families," Colonel Buxo said. "They can also express their thoughts to Colonel Decknick during these meetings."

The FLAIC also handles the complex, but rewarding, tasks of coordinating food preparations, flags and signs when it's time to welcome home the deployed Airmen, Colonel Decknick said.

"The Town Halls and key spouse cell phones become especially important when it comes time for the unit to redeploy back home," said Colonel Decknick. "As arrival times and dates are changed, they can immediately be distributed to all the families and loved ones efficiently."

Colonel Decknick added the FLAIC supports all the unit's Airmen, not just the members with local loved ones.

Most single Airmen do not have family here hugging them when they return from deployments, said Colonel Decknick. The FLAIC provides those Airmen with personalized bags containing notes from community members, local churches and schools.

In addition, parents of returning Airmen are contacted, with permission of the active duty sponsor, to provide welcome home letters for the packages.

Though FLAIC is exclusive to the 820th SFG, others can learn more about how the committee is organized by accessing the group's Web site at www.820flaic.com.

"We want to develop a culture of, 'No Airman or loved one left behind,'" Colonel Buxo said. "This is something we are committed to in principle, not just something we do."