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Deployed spouse network emphasizes Air Force family

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE -- With an increasing number of Airmen deploying in today's expeditionary Air Force, more spouses and family members of these Airmen depend on the Air Force family for support.

Though the families of these Airmen remain stateside, the deployed spouse network at Ellsworth ensures they will not have to endure the separation alone.

"At Ellsworth, [leadership spouses],chiefs and first sergeants are all ready to assist anyone and make the AF career as positive for the Airmen's families as it is for the Airman," said Ellie Taliaferro, the 28th Bomb Wing commander's wife.

This network impact can also be seen in the various programs and groups here including the Chapel Activity Center, first sergeants, Health and Wellness Center, Bellamy Fitness Center, Mental Health clinic, Family Advocacy, Enlisted and Officer Spouse's Group, Key Spouses and Airman and Family Readiness Center.

These facilities are comprised of Ellsworth members and volunteers that keep families in touch with the Ellsworth community, provide any needed information and aid with any other issues that may arise during a deployment, said Tech. Sgt. Ann Mitchell, 28th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of readiness.

"With today's technology, human connection is at our fingertips," Mrs. Taliaferro said. "However, it's important for people to remember that the ease of modern technology is no substitute for the social interaction offered by these groups and programs."

The assistance offered by the deployed spouse's network is a prime example of the need for this social interaction.

"When a [deployed spouse] is struggling to mow their lawn or find a babysitter, blogging online won't usually fix their problem," Mrs. Taliaferro said. "When you connect with real people they can not only help you, you can help them."

In addition to the social aspect, service programs designed specifically for spouses and family members of deployed Airmen are also available.

These services include free family events, free oil changes, and four hours of free childcare per month at the Child Development Center and Youth Center offered by the Airman Family and Readiness Center. The AFRC also offer the Hearts Apart Morale Call program which allows family members to call their deployed loved one, for fifteen minutes, eight times a month, said Sergeant Mitchell.

Lawn care services and snow removal are provided by the Active Airmen's Council.

"These programs benefit the spouses by keeping them connected and involved with the base and the community," Sergeant Mitchell said. "It also gives them a chance to network and meet others that are in the same situation, and it can also empower them to learn how to do things on their own."

Natasha Hoke, president of Ellsworth's Enlisted Spouse's Group, has experienced the benefits of participating in these events first hand.

"These groups give me an event to look forward to during the week, and allows me to meet people that I might never have met otherwise," she said. "It also provides me a social outlet and keeps me busy."

For members interested in learning more about these opportunities, Sergeant Mitchell recommends attending the monthly deployed spouse dinners.

"At the deployed spouse dinners [the AFRC] gives all the information on opportunities and services available," Sergeant Mitchell said. "We also provide all of this information to the deploying Airmen before they leave, hoping they will pass on this information to their loved ones."

Family members of deployed Airmen may also learn more about these events through appointed key spouses within the groups and squadrons who represent unit level support and will refer family members to the appropriate base agency.