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Airmen deploy just prior to holidays

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- For Sarah McIntyre, Christmas won't arrive until mid February.

Mrs. McIntyre is the wife of Senior Airman Glen McIntyre, who deployed Sunday afternoon with more than 100 active duty Air Force, Air National Guard, civilian and active duty Army members of the 116th Air Control Wing. Mrs. McIntyre said Christmas is about being with family and she will postpone the festivities until she can share the joy of the season with her husband who is scheduled to be deployed for about 45 days.

"I am saving all the Christmas presents, mine and his both, to have when he gets home," Mrs. McIntyre said. "No Christmas this year; we are going to wait until he gets back."

Not only will this be Mrs. McIntyre's first Christmas without her husband, it is also the first time she dealt with the stress of deployment. Airman McIntyre, a member of the 12th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, deployed with other members of his squadron to a forward operating location in Southwest Asia.

Other squadrons that deployed in support of the 12th ACCS were members of the 116th Communications Squadron, 116th Computer Systems Squadron, the 116th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the 116th Maintenance Squadron, said Maj. Renee Massey, public affairs representative with the 116th ACW.

Mrs. McIntyre said the idea of him missing the holidays makes it more difficult for her, but getting involved with the 12th ACCS support group has made it easier to prepare for the deployment.

She said she enjoys networking with other wives in the same situation and she feels comforted knowing people know who she is and how to contact her if the need arises.

"There are a lot of resources and I am really glad for that. If something goes wrong then I know there are people who I can depend on to help me through it," Mrs. McIntyre said. "It's good to know that the Air Force takes care of the families back home too."

Eileen Byrd, family readiness coordinator for the 116th ACW, said the wing knows how important it is to take care of the families of deployed personnel.

Ms. Byrd said she would call herself a resource, if a spouse has an issue or dilemma she does whatever she can to help resolve it whether their car breaks down or they need help with yard work.

Tech. Sgt. Mike Bullard, NCO in charge of readiness at the Airmen and Family Support Center, said one of the many other programs available to help families of deployed members cope with the absence of their loved one is the morale call program, which includes video conferencing calls between the deployed member and their family.

Other things available through the A&FRC are monthly coupons available from community vendors, a free oil change and free child care each month while their spouse is deployed through the Give Parents a Break program at the Child Development Center. The Give Parents a Break program coincides with the Spouses Game Night, which gives spouses a place to fellowship with other Air Force spouses, while enjoying free food and door prizes.

"If you can keep your mind and your kids busy, the next thing you know your loved one is coming home," Sergeant Bullard said. He added it is important for families to get out and get involved in things, while their loved ones are deployed.

The center is not just available to help families cope with deployment during the holidays it provides support programs year round to assist families dealing with deployment.

"We just want to let them know there is someone there to support them," Sergeant Bullard said. "We stress to them there is an avenue they can contact with stresses and concerns."

Sergeant Bullard who helped many of the Airmen who deployed Sunday prepare for deployment said he feels deploying just before Christmas and New Year's can be more stressful on a family.

"The traditions are a time for fellowship with friends and family and when your loved one is being sent out right before Christmas it can cause extra stress," Sergeant Bullard said.