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Family Readiness lightens the deployment load

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Just a few weeks ago and for the third time this year, a story about the 162nd Fighter Wing appeared on the front page of our local newspaper.

Before telling you about this great story, I want to first thank Capt. Gabe Johnson for the incredible work he's been doing as our Public Affairs officer. In his relatively brief time in our unit, Gabe has established tremendous relationships with both the Tucson print media and the television stations helping to bring about the continuous favorable exposure of our wing to the public. Captain Johnson is one of the superstars of the 162nd.

The story from the front page of the April 18 Tucson Citizen focuses on the Yebra family. Staff Sgt. Juan Yebra is one of the 19 members of our Security Forces Squadron currently deployed to Baghdad. This is really a great story and if you didn't see it in the paper just stop by Public Affairs and you can look at a copy.

Besides telling a really nice family story, the article also touches on the efforts of our Family Readiness volunteers. The volunteers consist of unit members, retirees and spouses; and these folks are performing a wonderful service for our deployed friends and their families.

Family Readiness preparation for this deployment was more robust, more aggressive, and will ultimately prove to have been much more effective than past efforts. We've learned from experience and have hopefully set up a program which will make both the deployed member and his or her family feel as comfortable as possible in the very difficult situation before them. 

Among the many services available, the families were offered a dedicated volunteer to make periodic contact and help get them any assistance that they might need. Nearly all the families accepted the invitation and we are progressing nicely. The vast majority of our deployments involve only a few members deployed for varying amounts of time in various locations. We've missed some opportunities to help people in the past but I believe we're really on a great track now.

This is the largest and longest deployment we've experienced in the 162nd and it's off to a strong start. But before our Security Forces return, we have several more members deploying into harm's way and Family Readiness will redouble their efforts to assist every single family.

One example of a service provided for our families is in mailing packages to the theatre. All the family needs to do is bring in the goods that they wish to send over and Family Readiness is taking care of the rest including the shipping cost. We've already sent more than 90 packages to our Security Forces men and women. Obviously the program is extremely successful given this level of participation by the families of our warfighters.

We also have a new Family Readiness coordinator for the wing. Mrs. Barb Gavre, a recent retiree, has accepted the position and she has come on board at our busiest time ever. She has her hands full keeping track of our deployed members and the volunteers, all the while getting her arms around her responsibilities here at the wing. If you are interested in helping our deployed members as a Family Readiness volunteer, please contact Barb at (520) 295-6566.