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(Ohio National Guard)

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Although the United States in not directly involved in the war between Ukraine and Russia, the conflict can have an impact on local military families as they face uncertainty of what will be expected of their loved ones.

For one Springfield military family, it can mean at least one of them being put on alert and potentially spending time away on another continent for up to a year.

Capt. Courtney Slater is a full-time member of the Ohio Air National Guard, and serves as the public affairs officer for the 178th Wing unit in Springfield. Her husband Danny Slater is a civilian airline pilot but serves as a part-time member of the Guard. His unit is stationed at the Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus.

They have five children — the youngest is 5 months and the oldest being 17 years old. Being a dual-military family can cause uncertainty at times due to the urgency in which one may have to leave due to military responsibilities.

That means relying on support systems, coordinating child care and making sure that everything is in order before they leave.

"With Danny being an airline pilot, he is gone however many days a month and when he is home he has the kids home with him, at least our younger two that aren't in school full time," said Slater.

While the United States is not directly involved in combat operations in Ukraine, President Biden sent more than 10,000 troops to eastern European countries prior to the start of the war.

He could send more as the war goes on. As a result, military units such as Danny Slater's could be put on standby to support potential missions. Slater flies in refueling missions as an Air Force pilot.

If Danny Slater does deploy to Europe, it would be his second in less than a year. Last summer, as the United States was pulling out of Afghanistan, he was sent to Qatar to support that mission.

But in Danny Slater's case, being on alert doesn't always mean a deployment, and he could be gone for a short period of time, depending on the mission.

While Slater was deployed to the Middle East, his wife Courtney was pregnant with their youngest child. But he returned home well before the child was born. The couple is waiting to see if Danny will be deployed or sent away again.

"And once he leaves, I don't know if he is going to be gone for 12 hours, if he is going to be gone for 24 or 36 hours. I don't know what that timeframe looks like," Courtney Slater said.

"So for us that impact is, 'Hey, if you leave, are you going to be home for dinner? Do we have childcare for tomorrow? I plan on you being home all week while I am at work.' So that just starts this trickle down effect. So as a dual military family, we have to have plans in place," she added.

Those plans for military families are referred to as Family Care Plans. Courtney said her family is relying on built-in support networks and enacting those plans quickly.

That can be a call to her parents to coordinate child care as well as what impacts her husband's absence is going to have moving forward.

Deployments can also be tough for families, as military members can miss quality time with their children or be away during certain milestones. For younger children, it can be difficult for them to understand why one of their parents is away. Which is the case for the Slaters' second youngest, a toddler.

"You know it was hard while he was gone for those several months over the summer and with our older boys, a junior in high school, a sophomore, one in middle school, 'Dad is gone; when is he going to be back?' He is missing big life events. So, we are also managing that emotional toll that is going on with the children and how do we fill in that support and that void that might be happening," Courtney said of Danny's time overseas.

As a result, when Danny and Courtney are home, they try to take advantage of that time and be mentally and physically present for their children.

In terms of long-term planning, they rely on family care plans as well as planning on a month to month basis, which is largely driven by Danny's job as an airline pilot.

In terms of being on alert, they try to handle what can be quick and unexpected circumstances the best they can.

(c)2022 Springfield News-Sun, Ohio

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