Families should look out for one another during deployments, general says
January 29, 2005
RAF LAKENHEATH, England — The 48th Fighter Wing commander urged families to look out for one another while more than 1,100 members of the wing are deployed to various countries in the Middle East.
During a town hall meeting Thursday evening, Brig. Gen. Mark T. Matthews told spouses of deployed airmen to watch for anyone having a tough time during the separation.
“If you see someone who needs some help, help them,” he said. “I don’t want anyone left out.”
This month’s departure of troops marks the third time the wing has deployed in Matthews’ 18 months as commander. Each time, he said, he worries more about the people left behind than the folks downrange, he said, and urged the spouses to keep an eye on them as well.
“These are the people who have to pick up the workload while your spouses are deployed,” he said. “Talk to your peers. ‘How’s your husband?’”
The meeting followed a monthly free supper for spouses and families of deployed troops at the Knight’s Table dining facility. Several groups on base take turns providing the meal under the auspices of the Family Support Center. About 200 meals were served Thursday evening.
Matthews answered questions and talked about upcoming events on the base for one hour, highlighting programs for spouses and children offered on the base.
“We’re one team and we consider family members part of that team,” the general said.
Nancy Adams, who coordinates child care at the base, discussed the various programs on base for child care, including one called Extended Duty Care for when spouses have classes or doctor appointments and no one to look after children.
When a mother of teenagers asked about activities for that age group, the general turned the floor over to Laurel Edgar, who coordinates such things on the base. She said events are held each month for teens, including a shopping trip to London next month.
“We would love to see a lot more participation,” she said.
Some questions strayed from the deployment to other issues. One person asked about the safety of traffic lining up on the road at the entrance to RAF Feltwell. She said a car passing the line nearly hit her as she left the base.
Col. Neal McElhannon, commander of the 48th Mission Support Group, said the problem will ease somewhat when the base exchange reopens at RAF Lakenheath next month, allowing the temporary facility at RAF Feltwell to close.
“The amount of traffic will significantly reduce,” he said.
He also said plans are being drawn up to construct a new entrance at the base to pull more traffic off the road during identification checks.
Matthews reminded the group that the base is one of three in the running for the Air Force Installation of Excellence Award. The team of inspectors will be on the base in two weeks and the general asked people to help keep the base tidy. The award is $1 million.
“I think we have a great shot,” he said. “In fact, I expect to win it.”
The base received $100,000 for winning the award at the U.S. Air Forces in Europe level. The money is being used to improve Defender Park near the shoppette and gas station, he said.
Some spouses spoke up to praise the effort of the wing during the deployment, saying the departure went smoothly and they are having success making contact with their spouses.
One woman said the mail was getting to her husband in just a few days.