Committed to caring: When your Airman is deployed, stay connected

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
A deployed Airman who witnessed his wife giving birth to their child via live Internet video recently said the experience "was amazing...there are really no other words to explain it."

Though deployed, the Airman had a front-row seat to an important life event. His supervisor, a master sergeant, also made sure the deployed Airman was steadily informed on when the event would take place. He did his part as a supervisor to make sure they "stayed connected."

"Staying connected accomplishes two things," the master sergeant said in a related news story. "If a service member knows the family is doing well it makes it easier to concentrate on accomplishing the mission, and if the family knows (the service member is) fine they worry a little less about their deployed loved one."

Why it's important

The importance of "staying connected" may mean more now than ever before in the Air Force. In 2011, statistics show that deploying Airmen are gone an average of 179 days or more for each deployment rotation. Also, Air Force demographics show that among the 330,057 Airmen serving on active duty, they support 448,940 family members. Combined, that's nearly 779,000 people tied directly to the Air Force's mission, and doesn't count Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel and their families.

Whether Airmen have immediate family members they provide care for, or if it's family back in their hometown, officials say it's important for all Airmen and their loved ones to stay connected as much as possible during every deployment. That's why staying "connected," is also part of Air Mobility Command's Comprehensive Airman Fitness, or CAF, culture that began in July 2010.

"As human beings, we are instinctively wired for interaction and connection," according to a December 2010 AMC talking paper on CAF. "However, connection isn't something that happens by chance. It requires intentional effort to develop the skills to effectively reach out to others in ways that add value to both their lives as well as our own."

AMC's CAF culture ties "connecting" with four other Cs: caring, committing, communicating and celebrating. With the five Cs, along with four pillars of fitness -- physical, social, mental and spiritual -- the goal of CAF "is to strengthen and sustain a culture of balanced, healthy, self confident Airmen and their families whose resilience and total fitness enables them to thrive in an era of high operational tempo and persistent conflict around the world."

Growing capabilities

An Airman deployed today has many options available to communicate and connect as well. Twenty years ago, deployed Airmen mostly had traditional means of communicating back home, such as by telephone or through hand-written letters. Now, 21st century technology has brought many more opportunities with the Internet to include electronic mail, video and instant messenger applications in addition to standard mail and telephones.

According to an article at, entitled "Quick Tips for Communicating During Deployment," following are some other ways to "keep the connection" during a deployment.

-- "Be sure you have the right address. That way your letters and e-mails will arrive on time."

-- "Answer any questions your service member may have asked in an earlier message. You'll keep the conversation going and keep your family member from wondering or worrying."

-- "Learn about any guidelines for military mail."

-- "Be creative. Letters and e-mails are great, but try adding variety with audio recordings, DVDs, or video recordings."

-- "Express yourself clearly. Remember that you won't be there to explain what you mean when your family member reads your message."

-- "Send frequent packages. Ask your family member what is most needed, and be sure to include special treats, funny notes, and anything else that might bring a smile."

-- "Be honest. You don't have to pretend that you're feeling fine when you're not."

-- "Use the Internet for more than e-mail. For instance, you can create a Web page with pictures and news, 'talk' with your family member in chat rooms, or use a scanner to send newspaper clippings or a child's report card."

-- "Try not to worry if you don't get a quick response. Your service member may be in an area with limited mail or e-mail service, or may simply be too busy to respond right away."

-- "Think about making a 'flat daddy' or 'flat mommy' for your child." Various sources, including, offer ways to learn more about making a large-size, cut-out, mounted photo of a deployed parent that will help children communicate with deployed parents.

Sources available to all Airmen

At every Air Force base there are Airmen and Family Readiness Centers staffed with people specifically trained to support Airmen and their families in dealing with deployments. There, they have information and programs available to not only support "keeping the connection" going but also supporting every-day issues that arise.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley noted the importance of the centers in a 2009 speech.

"Our Airmen and Family Readiness Centers have been incredibly successful in helping our Airmen and their families address a wide range of concerns, including education, employment, housing, retirement, childbirth and parenting," he said.

Also, like the effort made for the deployed Airman to see his baby born over Internet video, supervisors are considered to be the people who can have one of the biggest impacts on a deployed Airman's life in helping them to "stay connected," retired Chief Master Sgt. Rod Ellison, former command chief for Air Education and Training Command, said in January 2010. "Airmen don't care about how much you know until they know how much you care."

Overall, whether it's the family member back in the United States or the Airman deployed overseas, staying connected requires a "dedicated effort" by everyone. And, the end result is a more "resilient Airman and Air Force family, " something the CAF culture is building upon.

"As leaders, we want people to know that AMC cares about you and your families," said Col. Michael Hornitschek, 375th Air Mobility Wing Commander at Scott AFB, Ill., in a Feb. 3 news story. "We also want you to know the more resilient you are, the better equipped you are to deal with the rigors of military life. We don't want to just survive through challenging times, we want to thrive."