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Resiliency helps families adjust during deployments, after homecomings

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- The four pillars of resiliency - physical, mental, spiritual and social fitness - are often used to illustrate a healthy Air Force lifestyle.

Perhaps one of the most relevant uses for these principles is when a family is struggling to cope with a deployment, or is working to pick up where they left off after their Airman comes home.

Tech. Sgt. Pamela Valadez, Airman and Family Readiness Center NCO in charge, said families can face a variety of challenges while their Airmen are deployed.

"Being a single parent, worrying about their Airman's safety and working out a long-distance relationship can all take their toll on military families," Valadez added.

After spending several months apart, an Airman's homecoming is often a highly anticipated event. Valadez explained, however, that military families sometimes struggle to ease into their former routines.

"Roles that are shared, or even handled by the active-duty member, are taken on by the person left behind," Valadez said. "Sometimes this isn't anticipated, and feelings of not being needed are felt. Parenting styles may have been different and children will need to adjust, which can be a stressful process for everyone."

Ellsworth is home to approximately 658 single Airmen, and Valadez said working toward their "new normal" can be difficult, as well.

"They may have feelings that friends have moved on," Valadez explained.

Valadez emphasized the importance of networking with other people to work through stressful times.

"I encourage people to attend events that give them the opportunity to get involved and meet others who are going through exactly the same thing," Valadez added.

The AFRC offers several classes and workshops for military families, including ones centered around resiliency, couples and financial planning. Programs such as Play Pass - allowing Airmen and their families to receive discounts on Outdoor Recreation trips and Youth and Bellamy Fitness Center activities - and free childcare opportunities can also be used to help strengthen the bonds between Airmen and their families.

Valadez encourages people to take advantage of sources of support, whether that means the AFRC, a chaplain, Military One Source or even the local community.

"The programs and resources offered to Airmen help keep their families taken care of and busy while their loved ones are away, and assist with reuniting the families upon their return," Valadez said. "Without a family that is happy and healthy, our Airmen will not be happy and healthy, and we need them to be in order to accomplish the mission."

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