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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Air Force and Navy spouses who have a husband or wife deployed heard some good news at Thursday’s town hall meeting: Volunteers are waiting in the wings to shovel snow this winter.

The spouses just will have to ask for help.

“If you don’t let us know what you need, we can’t fix it,” said Master Sgt. Steven Flack, 35th Mission Support Squadron first sergeant. “I have young airmen willing to go out and shovel snow for anybody.”

Base leaders acknowledged finding someone to shovel snow during a Misawa winter can be worrisome for pregnant wives or parents of young children. But they also drove home the message that help — for almost anything — is a phone call away.

More than 200 airmen from Misawa are deployed for the current Aerospace Expeditionary Force cycle; another 350 are to deploy for the next AEF rotation in January, base officials said. The Navy at Misawa also has sailors deployed, though base officials said they didn’t know how many.

Two town hall meetings were held Thursday in the Enlisted Club ballroom, the first for spouses of deployed servicemembers under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Sam Angelella, 35th Fighter Wing and base commander.

“I don’t want them to feel that they’re alone when a family member is deployed,” Angelella said after the two-hour session Thursday morning. “They shouldn’t feel like there are roadblocks [to solving problems].”

Every family member should have a contact from the spouse’s squadron. For the Air Force, that’s either a first sergeant or readiness-assistance volunteer; for the Navy, an ombudsman. The Airman and Family Readiness Center can point a spouse in the right direction, officials said.

Attendance was light during the morning session but the questions were many, from spouses who either e-mailed in advance or wrote their concerns on slips of paper. One family member observed that some spouses seem to be completely neglected while others are “flooded with attention” while their partners are deployed.

There’s probably no way to standardize this treatment, said Chief Master Sgt. Tom Missel, the wing’s command chief master sergeant, noting that some families may need contact two or three times a week while with others, a month may be too often.

“First sergeants and squadron leaders walk a fine line between being overbearing and not caring at all,” he said.

Mayfield Williams — whose husband, Capt. Michael Brusca, is deployed — said she would find it helpful if “I was scheduled, someone was responsible for me this week” instead of a well-intended blanket offer to “call and come by anytime.”

“Everyone offers to help you but I’m not comfortable inviting myself over,” she said.

Not all Air Force programs for family of deployed spouses are open to Navy spouses, said Michelle Cox, ombudsman for Command Task Force 72 at Misawa. “Sometimes that’s difficult for our spouses to figure out.”

One program not available to Navy spouses is the Air Force Aid Society’s “Car Care,” which provides spouses of airmen deployed 30 days or more with a free oil and filter change and vehicle lubrication. Navy leaders said they would look into it.

Looking for help? They've got you coveredSeveral events are planned this month and next at Misawa for family members of a deployed spouse. They include:

¶ Free bowling party: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Walmsley bowling center, followed by a meal for families of deployed servicemembers at Grissom Dining Facility.

¶ “Give Parents a Break”: Four hours free child care for Air Force, Navy and Army families, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Zeamer Child Development Center. Bring your passport or deployment orders to the Airman and Family Readiness Center to get your certificate, then sign up at the CDC. The next night is on Dec. 15.

¶ Re-integration briefing: Held at 10 a.m. Tuesdays at the base chapel, to help family members learn about common reactions to the return and reunion process.

¶ Gingerbread man picture-frame class: Make a gingerbread man picture stand for your deployed spouse from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 2. Bring a headshot of yourself.

¶ Free holiday party: 4 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 28 at the Weasel’s Den. Go-Kart rides, mini golf, food, games, crafts, face painting, slides, rock wall climbing and Santa Claus.

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Families of deployed spouses also can use the “We Care Passport,” a program funded by 35th Services Squadron that provides free services and discounts, from a free tour with Misawa Information Tickets and Travel office to free Sunday brunch. The passports change from month to month and are available through the deployed spouse’s first sergeant, readiness assistant volunteer or ombudsman.

Teenagers also can partake. Passports available at the Teen Center provide free Go Kart rides, bowling, Sunday brunch, movie passes and a pizza.

Also in November, for all families, Misawa is celebrating “Military Community Family Appreciation Month.” Families may win prizes by taking part and documenting activities in which they participate as a group. “It could be as simple as grocery shopping together.” said Master Sgt. Kimberley Tobiere, Airman and Family Readiness Center superintendent.

A winner will be selected from each category: parent/child (or parents/children), married couple and single unaccompanied member and friend(s).

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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