Air ForcePAM FANSLER wasted very little time during her visit to the islands last week finding the Hickam Air Force Base's Family Support Center and its bank of seven personal computers.
families get aid in
Hickam's Family Support Center
offers a program to prepare
for the separation
By Gregg K. Kakesako
Her husband, Chief Master Sgt. Tony Fansler, an Air Force reservist from Indiana, had been called to active duty on Sept. 20, just nine days after the worst act of terrorism in the nation's history.
"In less than 24 hours after he was called up, he was in the air," Pam Fansler said. "I think he is doing the right thing to protect our country."
Fansler, a member of a KC-135 jet tanker refueling unit currently assigned to Hickam from Grissom Air Force Base, said he is used to being called to active duty.
During his 26 years in the Air Force and the reserves, Fansler, a boom operator, said he has made numerous visits to Hickam. He and his crew were among the first 5,000 reservists and National Guard personnel mobilized after terrorists hijacked three commercial jetliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
LAST WEEK, Pam Fansler and five other wives flew to Hawaii to be with their husbands for a few days. "I bought some stuff like homemade cookies for the guys," she said.
Among the services Tony Fansler and his crew took advantage of while performing their active duty here was to check their e-mail and their family finances using the computers at Hickam's Family Support Center.
The computers and e-mail service are just one of nine programs offered by the center, ranging from child-birth preparations to financial planning to preparing the family for deployment. The support center is now open 12 hours, five days a week, and is supported by a staff of 15.
Cheryl Paiva, director of Hickam's Family Support Center, said one of Hickam's newest programs deals with family readiness and was a result of "the lessons learned" from Desert Shield and Desert Storm a decade ago.
"The program is to help families whose members are deployed," Paiva said.
Master Sgt. Helen Noel, the center's deputy director, said their job is "to act as a liaison between the deployed members and their spouses."
Paiva said: "When a spouse leaves on a short notice or no notice, that is when you have problems."
Noel, who has been in the Air Force for 16 years, said during Desert Storm many families weren't prepared when their spouses were called to war. "It was hectic," she said. "There was a lot of things to think about at one time."
All Air Force personnel are given an information packet once they are notified that they will be deployed. Included in the packet is a deployment and redeployment checklist and a personal readiness record. The personal readiness record is to help the Air Force member and his or her spouse compile ahead of time personal information such as marriage and birth certificates, wills, financial records, insurance papers, and emergency contact addresses and phone numbers.
The checklist covers items such as whether the spouse is able to access the couple's checking and savings accounts; knows how to prepare federal and state income taxes; knows the expiration dates of the couple's various vehicle items such as license plates, insurance and safety sticker; and knows the name of their landlord.
AMONG THE SERVICES offered is a free oil change and a routine auto checkup to ensure the family car is running properly before the Air Force member leaves on any deployment lasting 30 days or more.
Some of the services available under the family readiness program include free, once-a-week 15-minute videophone calls from the Family Support Center to the deployed Air Force member; special e-mail accounts established at Family Support Center computers; monthly follow-up calls from center staff members to families to address their questions and concerns; support groups; and referral counseling.
Paiva said Air Force family members also receive a special personal identification number that they can use from their home phone for one free, 15-minute call per week to the deployed member. The Air Force Aid Society also provides global prepaid telephone calling cards for those deployed for 30 days or more.
"As long as the Air Force member has a phone number, the family member can reach him by phone," Paiva said.
She added that the Air Force Aid Society also pays for four hours of child care, one Saturday a month, for children 6 months to 12 years old to give some time off to the spouse left with the care of the children.
For single Air Force personnel, the checklist is also to remind them that they need to take care of things such as turning off phone service or finding someone to take care of their pets, Paiva said.
Like the current crisis facing all Air Force personnel, Paiva said "there are so many things going through their minds, especially what their mission will be, and our job is to help them get prepared.
"Most importantly, what we do is to make sure our families are connected. "We learned a lot from Desert Storm. We are better prepared now."
Pam Fansler agreed. "I love these services," she said. "I use them regularly at Grissom."