Deployment support groups here help Airmen stay focused there

  • Published
  • By Holly Logan-Arrington
  • Robins Public Affairs
When deployed airmen know their families are taken care of at home, they're better able to focus on the war-fighting mission abroad.

Robins' Airman & Family Readiness Center offers many programs to help families during their loved ones' deployments. One program in particular, the Deployment Support Group, helps children cope with the stress temporary separation deployments brings.

Master Sgt. Avis Smith, Installation Readiness noncommissioned officer in charge at the A&FRC, said the DSGs teach children about the sustainment phase of deployments so they can better understand what they're going through.

"We discuss the unique challenges of military families and provide resources that promote resiliency," she said.

In addition to group discussions, the children participate in arts and crafts that help them better handle the temporary absence of their military parent.

Renea McFeeters, an Exceptional Family Member Program specialist in the A&FRC, who helps with the DSGs, said her favorite craft is the 'homecoming jars.'

"When my own spouse was deployed, we made these for my children," she said.  "My daughter was 7 at the time, so she struggled with understanding why daddy had to go so far away. We made a jar that she decorated with stickers & markers and we filled it with Hershey's kisses."

McFeeters said every day she got a "kiss" from daddy.  

"She was able to watch those kisses disappear," she said. "As the kisses dwindled down in the jar, she understood daddy was coming home soon."

Smith said the support groups help the children see they're not the only child who's loved one is deployed.

"Sometimes it helps to know others understand how you feel," she said. "Many times there's someone in the group they know and that always seems to be an immediate comfort to the children."

DSGs also help military children better share their feelings.

"As we assist them with their activities, the children begin to lead the conversation," Smith said. "They share with us things they'd like to do with their loved one when they come home such as going fishing or going to a favorite restaurant."

Renee Daughtry, Robins School Liaison Officer, works with guidance counselors at nine Houston County primary and elementary schools with a high number of military-affiliated students to schedule the quarterly support group meetings.

"At the beginning of the school year, I work with the counselors to identify their children who have a military parent and we get those parents to sign a permission form for their children to participate in the DSGs," she said.  

Daughtry said teaming with helping agencies like the A&FRC allows participating children to learn more about services that help their families during deployments.

Any child identified by a school counselor as a military child whose parent or guardian is in any phase of deployment to include pre-deployment, currently deployed or recently returned military members are eligible for a DSG.

For more information, contact Daughtry at 478-327-5524 or the A&FRC at 478-926-1256.