Family support center is heart of readiness

Rebecca Schrader
Ramstein Family Support Center

***image1***Since Sept. 11, 2001, the global war on terrorism changed the way many Americans live, and especially the military family.
Deployments are longer, more frequent, and often more dangerous than in the past. Now more than ever, it is important we make sure we take care of our military families. At the Ramstein Family Support Center, that mission has many faces.
First, family support seeks to provide education to spouses and other family members to ensure they can take care of themselves while active-duty members are gone, allowing deployed members to focus on the mission.
Second, family support provides tools and training to units to help them take care of the families in that unit.
Finally, it provides direct support to families during all phases of deployment. Later this month, family support sponsors activities covering all three areas.
The Heart Link Spouse Orientation Program is designed for civilian spouses that have been married to an Air Force member for five years or less. It brings together base resources to give spouses a better understanding of what active-duty members do and how to access services they may need.
By the end of the day, they leave with knowledge of many military acronyms, basic customs and courtesies, how to read a Leave and Earnings Statement and where to turn for a variety of issues.
Catherine Burke, who attended Heart Link last summer, said it “caters to the needs of the spouses.”
Mrs. Burke mentioned the highlights of the class were the free child care and the “all in one” setting, including information on legal services, health benefits and education.
Attendance of base leadership (the wing commander or vice commander who briefs the class) was also seen as important, since it made spouses feel “embraced as part of the community, like we have worth,” said Mrs. Burke. “It’s casual and fun.”
Cheri Norris, another attendee, appreciated the chance to connect with other spouses, giving her some familiar faces on base and the comfort of knowing “we’re all in the same boat.”
Key Spouses are a vital link between families and the command structure. Much of the important information people receive comes from e-mails, commanders’ calls and word of mouth to active-duty members, who then ideally passes it along to the family.
When active-duty members deploy, that chain of information for families is often broken. Key spouses ensure those families are not left in the dark, and they get information they need.
Key Spouses are trained by the family support center and become a readiness resource for commanders to take care of their own.
Mrs. Burke, also a Key Spouse, values her role both for the opportunity it gives her to work with others and the knowledge she can use herself. She meets periodically with her husband’s unit commander and first sergeant, access few spouses normally have, that helps put her “in the know.” To get the word out, she sends out a newsletter, attends the unit’s newcomer’s orientation and developed a form newcomers can complete when they inprocess to the unit so she can get contact information.
In addition to initial training, the family support center holds quarterly meetings for Key Spouses to help them access information and expand their knowledge base, so they can share it with families in their units.
Anyone who has been through a deployment knows it’s tough to get excited about cooking for one or for just you and the kids.
Playing single parent can be exhausting and adds to the stress of even a “normal” day. So, Combat Care and the 435th Services Squadron invite families of deployed servicemembers to come out to the Rhineland Inn Dining Facility and enjoy a free meal. People can get information about base activities, get to know new people and let the kids meet new playmates.
Supporting the mission through readiness — it’s what family support is all about.

Ramstein Support Center
January activities

Heart Link takes place 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Ramstein Officers’ Club. Call Ramstein Family Support Center at 481-5100 or 06371-47-5100 to sign up.

The Key Spouse quarterly meeting takes place 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Ramstein Family Support Center. Call 481-5100 or 06371-47-5100 to sign up.

The dinner for families of deployed servicemembers (in conjunction with 435th Services Squadron) takes place 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Rhineland Inn Dining Facility. No reservation required.