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Taking care of dependents during deployments

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Spending the holiday season away from family is no easy feat, and it is a struggle military members know all too well. But when service members are given orders to deploy or go TDY, they are not the only ones who endure that struggle; that is when Cannon’s Airman & Family Readiness Center steps in to take care of spouses and little ones missing their Air Commando.

One way to care for military families is with a home cooked meal in the presence of a solid support system.

“This quarterly dinner is just one way we provide that support system for the families of our deployed Airmen,” stated Master Sgt. Rebeca Rosa-Baird, 27th Special Operation Force Support Squadron A&FRC readiness NCO. “Through the Hearts Apart program, we are able to host a number of events and socials to keep families involved in our military community while their loved one is away from home.”

“We categorize ‘deployment’ as being away from home station longer than 30 days; so even longer TDYs count,” she continued. “We have a lot of representatives come out from the wing’s various helping agencies, such as our Military and Family Life Consultants, to initiate meaningful conversations with spouses and promote the idea that we really are here to continue any support needed during an often stressful time.”

Rosa-Baird stressed that events such as the Quarterly Deployed/Remote Family Dinner are meant to be family-oriented and not geared toward counseling. She noted one of the main intents is for military families to network and meet others they can lean on who are facing a similar situation.

“For these dinners, we provide the food, activities for kids and the clean-up,” Rosa-Baird said. “This is for them to enjoy while hopefully building a unique support system. These connections are meaningful and close to home; they provide a good foundation for people to gather with others who know their struggles and sacrifices.”

This quarter’s dinner, held at the Base Chapel Dec. 1, featured a rare appearance by Santa, along with gifts donated through local donations and raffles for gift cards to several local restaurants.

“The gift cards were just one more way for us to try and provide an extra hassle-free meal for some of our families,” Rosa-Baird stated. “We were fortunate enough to have so many gifts donated that we were able to donate to our key spouses for children across the wing. We could not have events like this succeed without the continued support and generosity of our surrounding communities.”

While the dinner was another success, the A&FRC is already looking ahead to next year and to the next family event.

“For these functions to have maximum impact, it is so important for the military member to provide us with contact information for their spouse before they deploy during our pre-deployment brief,” Rosa-Baird added. “While few may not want to be contacted, we want all of our military families know we are here for them and want to support them. Spouses are highly recommended to join their Airman at the pre-deployment brief to get all the information firsthand of how we can help them.”

The A&FRC always needs additional support to make their events successful; the staff holds fast to the wingman concept. Be sure to contact the readiness center at 575-784-4228 if you want to get involved with or need information on an upcoming Hearts Apart event.