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624th RSG families take care of homefront while loved ones are deployed

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Erin Smith
  • 624th RSG Public Affairs
Some of the Air Force's most important members have never packed their bags to deploy in support of a contingency operation, nor have they ever donned the uniform. Instead, their job is on the home front. They are military spouses and their contracts begin on their wedding day. 

The 624th Regional Support Group reached out to some of these spouses Sept. 27 during a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program mid-deployment event at Hickam Air Force Base. About 28 spouses of deployed 624th Civil Engineer Squadron members were at the event, designed to minimize stresses of military service encountered as the result of deployment and family separation. 

The YRRP, run by the 624th RSG Airman and Family Readiness Center, offers information and support to military spouses during a deployment. It also helps educate members and families about resources available to assist them and connecting members to service providers before, during and after deployments. 

The resources include Military One Source, financial planners, chaplains, social workers and psychologists available to offer counseling. 

"There are so many services the family members don't even know are available to them," said Chief Master Sgt. Brian Wong, 624th RSG command chief. "This was an opportunity to share information, experiences and feelings. It's therapeutic to talk and share experiences among one another. It's important for us to support the families, an important part of the three-legged stool of Reservists have to support, which includes Reserve duty, civilian jobs and family members." 

Key spouses from each unit help make the YRRP successful. Their job is to reach out and make direct monthly contact with the spouses of deployed members. 

"For many of the spouses, this is their first deployment so they are anxious about it," said Arsi Belong, a key spouse with 624th CES whose husband is currently deployed. "We reach out to them to let them know they have someone to talk to who is going through the same thing." 

Though the event provided much-needed information to these spouses of deployed members, it was also sprinkled with humor - one thing that can help make deployments bearable. 

The keynote speaker was motivational speaker, Michelle Cuthrell, an Army spouse from Ft. Lewis, Wash., and author of the book, "Behind the Blue-Star Banner: A Memoir from the Home Front." 

She opened by holding up a sign that read, "I am an Army wife. What's your super power?" She went on to explain the thankless job and the additional duties that come with being a military spouse, straddling the fence between military and civilian life. 

She talked to the spouses about surviving deployments and let them know that, "You don't marry a fighter without a soldier somewhere within yourself." 

"Refuse the victim mentality," she said. "Allow them to do the job they have been training for during their careers. We spouses have to do the job we too have been training to do." 

She talked to them about setting goals to accomplish while their husbands are gone and to picture themselves running to embrace him as he steps off the plane. 

Though spouses have to pick up much of the slack around the household when the other half is deployed, they are not the only ones left behind. The children of deployed members also see marked changes in their lifestyle. 

"We have to do a lot more chores and take on more responsibilities and get better grades," said Rosebel Belong, 16, whose father is deployed to Afghanistan. "Mom is harder on us. She wants to keep us in check and in the safe zone since Dad is far away." 

For teens like Rosebel, sports and extracurricular activities like mock trial, Lacrosse and Civil Air Patrol help fill her days while her father is away. 

"We talk at 6:30 a.m. on Skype and whenever we get home, he always has perfect timing," she said of his phone calls. "I'm always like, 'Wow, how'd you know we just got home?' We try to talk to him at least once a day." 

She also tries to send him care packages full of his favorite treats often. 

"We really miss our dad and I want him to know that," she said. "I don't count the days because it makes it feel longer. I just keep looking forward. I don't want to be dreadful but instead, want to be happy through the experience." 

For more information on future Yellow Ribbon events, contact Master Sgt. Janet Hudson, 624th RSG A&FRC Superintendent at 448-3819.