A&FRC prepare, reintegrate Airmen, families during deployment season

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hailey Staker
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles about how Ellsworth AFB units prepare its Airmen and their families prior to, during and after deployments.

With many members from Team Ellsworth returning from deployments this summer, the Airman and Family Readiness Center will continue its mission of providing Airmen and their families' resources to remain resilient.

The A&FRC provides briefings for active duty personnel during pre-deployment and reintegration; however, they also take care of the families during deployments.

"We discuss some of the emotional cycles of deployment and phases you are going to go through," said Master Sgt. Jennifer Plascencia, A&FRC readiness NCO in charge. "For the active duty members, sometimes it's easier for them to stay focused on preparing themselves and getting their checklists taken care of."

Plascencia added how some spouses may not be sure what to expect during a deployment. These uncertainties include household and financial responsibilities, as well as finding where routine vehicle maintenance can be taken care of.

"Our biggest focus is in-between the pre-deployment and reintegration by taking care of the families," Plascencia said. "We encourage people to go to our website at www.ellsworthafrc.org. We are a great information referral, so we can suggest different things that we know of. You can check public bulletin boards, which can have lawn care services or childcare services information so we give them directions on where they can find the resources they need."

While the Airman is deployed, the A&FRC provides programs through the Air Force Aid Society, Child Development Center and Youth Center for the families of deployed members.

"Through the AFAS we can give spouses and families of deployed personnel a free oil change every six months the spouse is deployed," Plascencia said. "We also offer the Give Parents a Break program, which is four free hours of childcare per month through the CDC and youth center, generally the last Saturday of the month."

The A&FRC also tries to host monthly events for spouses and families, with their next event being a pool party downtown. Other programs include the United through Reading program and Operation Dream.

"We also offer the United through Reading program where the active duty member can come in and read a story that goes straight onto a DVD we record, and then they can bring it home to their child or to their wife," Plascencia said. "Operation Dream-pillowcases with pictures. You can put a picture of your family and take it with you, you can put a picture of yourself and give it to your family before you deploy or pictures of dogs, or pets for single people who are gonna miss their pet while they are gone. It helps to keep a connection with the person that is gone."

She added that communicating via video software allows children to continue to see their parents while they are deployed. When they return, the child may not understand why their parent isn't on the computer at that time, but they will have maintained familiarity with them.

Spouses and families can also call or come into the A&FRC at any time request information such as books that discuss challenges of long distance relationships or what it is like to be apart from someone. There are also activity books for children that talk about reintegration or deployment.

Once Airmen return, the reintegration process begins. The A&FRC hosts reintegration briefings twice a week in order to provide the mandatory briefing for Airmen, and families are encouraged to attend as well.

"We discuss the hardships of coming home and the stresses of change and getting into a new routine," Plascencia explained. "Reintegration can take up to eight months. There have been studies done that people just aren't quite getting back into their routines, they aren't quite seeing where they fit in. We suggest parents take their children and do one-on-one time with them and reconnect with them and reestablish the bonds that they once had before and with the spouse."

"Sometimes you think you're just going to reconnect but it's ok to get a babysitter and spend two hours away," she continued. "It's ok to take a couple hours and spend one-on-one time and it doesn't have to be family specific. If you are a single Airman, boyfriends, girlfriends, close friends, or people you hung out with, we encourage that one-on-one time with the close people in your life."

The A&FRC can also aid in getting couples in contact with a military and family life consultant if the reintegration process is not working out the way they anticipated.

"I've had spouses come in and say things aren't really working the way we want them to and then we can get them sitting down with the military and family life counselor or the chaplain," she added. "Sometimes it's just a matter of the spouse getting stuff off their chest of how their active duty member's been and how they've changed since they've gotten back from their deployment."

For more information, contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center or check out their website at www.ellsworthafrc.org.