Air Force Reserve Unit Strives to Support Family Members
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 4, 2009 An Air Force reserve unit in Massachusetts does its utmost to support family members of deployed servicemembers, a noncommissioned officer assigned to the unit’s family readiness center said today.
“We keep connected with the families while their loved ones are deployed,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Margaret Sullivan, one of five military members who work at the 439th Airlift Wing’s Airman and Family Readiness Center. The center, Sullivan said, also has a student hire and a full-time volunteer.
Based at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Mass., just north of Springfield, the 439th Airlift Wing was among seven National Guard and reserve units that received 2008 Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Awards during a Feb. 13 Pentagon ceremony.
“We’re kind of like an extended family,” Sullivan said of the mission of the family readiness center, noting it provides answers to families’ questions and sponsors family-centric programs and events.
“We have a Family Day coming up in August,” Sullivan said. Such gatherings, she said, serve to keep servicemembers’ families together and connected while their loved ones are deployed.
“Operation Pillowcase” is another example of the 439th’s family-support operations, Sullivan said. The initiative involves taking photos of deploying servicemembers, transferring their images onto pillows, and mailing them to their families.
“We got a thank-you card recently from a young man who said he was so happy … and he sleeps on that pillow every night,” Sullivan said.
The unit’s family readiness center supported more than 21,000 servicemembers and their families in 2008, including deployment and reintegration programs for more than 900 activated and deployed unit members and their families, according to unit documents. The center also provides important information to the families of new servicemembers attending initial training and technical training schools.
Local Boy and Girl Scouts chapters, schools, and other organizations have been generous in providing donations used to help fund programs for servicemembers’ families, Sullivan said.
“We really do tie in with the community,” Sullivan said. “We have this wonderful working relationship in this area, and everybody just comes through for us.”