Pacific edition, Sunday, June 24, 2007

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The first town-hall meeting for family members of more than 700 servicemembers deployed for the current Air and Space Expeditionary Force Rotation drew a small, vocal crowd Thursday night.

The 13th Fighter Squadron and other units deployed to Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East late last month.

A panel of base leaders presented information on services available to family members during the deployment, while spouses got to ask questions in person or via a slip of paper.

“If there’s things we can do to help you cope with your spouse being deployed, let us know,” said 35th Fighter Wing Vice Commander Joel Malone.

Some of the more pressing issues raised involved housing renovations, medication found on playgrounds and Security Forces’ extended deployment:

Housing renovationsGina Guzman, who lives near the main gate, asked when families would have to move for the next phase of housing renovations. Housing flight chief Jim Carey said families would be notified two months before a scheduled move.

“We’re looking at the October to November time frame,” he said, while assuring that families would be moved into better quality homes with the same number of bedrooms as they had.

The base plans to renovate about half of its roughly 2,240 housing units over the next five to eight years, if and as funding becomes available. Carey urged spouses affected by the next phase of renovations to get a power of attorney from their husband or wife to move if they’ll be deployed during the move time. The base will pay for the move, Carey noted.

Extended deploymentsAnother spouse asked about the recent extended deployment of Misawa’s Security Forces personnel, noting her husband has been deployed since October. New 35th Security Forces Commander Maj. Scott Sanford said a number of Air Force Security Forces personnel in Iraq were part of the extension, which originally was to be 90 days but was changed to an extra 45 days instead. Misawa had 18 Security Forces personnel extended, he said.

“Because of the Army and Marines staying longer, it’s one of those adjustments made for that more than anything else,” said Malone.

Playground hazardsAir Force spouse Megan Jackson wanted to know why base officials didn’t do a better job getting the word out about medication reportedly found at two playgrounds.

While playing at Airplane Park on the main base about two weeks ago, her 2-year-old son found and ingested what turned out to be a Japanese prescription sedative and started vomiting.

After a trip to the emergency room, her son was fine. But Jackson said she also heard that another type of medication was found about two weeks before her son’s incident on a school playground.

“Nobody knew about it,” she said.

Base officials said they plan to step up security patrols of the playgrounds and spread the word.

They also said there’s no information from base investigators that peddling of prescription drugs is going on. Malone noted that a team of three airmen designated to base clean-up duty full time will tidy up the playgrounds more often.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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