Deployed airmen get connected

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To help deployed Air Force people stay in touch with their families, family support center workers here recently mailed off more than 40,000 AT&T Corp. phone calling cards as part of an annual Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation program.

The 60-minute calling cards have also been sent to military members stationed overseas in Europe and the Pacific, Air Force Personnel Center officials here said. The phone cards were activated Dec. 10.

The VFW, now in its fourth year of sending the cards, teams up annually with the Air Force Aid Society to distribute the cards worldwide in what's known as "Operation Uplink."

"The folks from the VFW understand the needs of our deployed airmen. They've been there, and are now giving again," said Peggy Rayfield of the Air Force's Family Matters Operations here. "Thanks to help from Wal-Mart, Hallmark and Federal Express, the VFW will send out more than 160,000 cards this year."

The phone cards will be available for airmen through installation family support centers. Personnel units will distribute them at deployed locations.

Besides the phone cards, base family support centers provide e-mail, video phone connections, morale calls and outreach programs for spouses. Pre-deployment briefings and other information help families understand and plan for family stresses before, during and after deployments.

"The FSCs provide computers and assistance for family members for sending and receiving e-mail to help them keep in touch with their deployed spouse, father or mother," said Rayfield. "They also offer a variety of other programs and services to include video and digital cameras, stationery kits and brochures on all aspects of the separation process."

The Air Force Aid Society programs "Give Parents a Break" and "Car Care Because We Care," spouse support groups and reunion briefings help with the most difficult parts of the deployment process.

"Often the most neglected part of the deployment process is coming home," said Rayfield. "We have developed a number of tools to assist our families through the deployment.

"Besides helping them stay in touch during the separation, we want the deployed member to know that his/her family members will be taken care of during their deployment," she said.

"Knowing this helps them better serve their country." (Courtesy of AFPC News Service)