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    'Calgon, take me away!' says one military spouse dealing with deployment stress



    Story by Master Sgt. Trudy Woodcock 

    Joint Force Headquarters, Wyoming National Guard

    CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Separation may make the heart grow fonder, but for military families, it can also be challenging and stressful, especially during deployments.

    Today, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Erdmann with the Wyoming Army National Guard’s C Company, 5th Battalion, 159th General Support Aviation Regiment, is on his fifth deployment during his 10 years of marriage.

    Erdmann and 30 other members of the unit are deployed for 12 months which included two months of predeployment training at Fort Hood, Texas, and 10 months in Afghanistan. Those 10 months began in March.

    This is also the fifth deployment for Tiffany Erdmann, and their 8-year-old daughter. Tiffany is a student at Walden University striving to earn her master’s degree in education specializing in reading and literacy. She also is a substitute teacher, a Brownie leader, and has a German exchange student living with them until mid June.

    According to Tiffany, each deployment is different, both for her husband and her family. For the family, some of the differences include where she is in her career choices, the ages of the children, family dynamics, and other issues. For her husband, she said the obvious difference is the location, length of deployment, access to telephones, computers/webcams and dangers.

    “As children get older, they understand more about the danger Daddy can really be in while deployed, making the nights harder,” she said. “My daughter has a hard time at night, as she is tired, and her imagination tends to run wild.”

    Families deal with deployments and the challenges associated with them differently.

    Tiffany says the family is coping as they have to, sometimes well, and other times struggling. Brandon’s parents live in Cheyenne and are wonderful as well his two oldest children, ages 19 and 20, who also live in Cheyenne. Tiffany’s mom and sister live three hours away, and are also very supportive.

    “Make sure to take time for yourself and ask for help, there is no reason anyone has to feel 10 feet tall and bullet proof; there are organizations setup to help when Soldiers and Airmen are deployed,” Tiffany said.

    Some challenges families may encounter are having limited friends they can talk to, confide in or even finding someone to give them a break from the additional chores, said Wyoming National Guard Family Programs Director William Breckenridge. “There are a number of programs in Wyoming to provide support for families,” he said.

    One such program is the Wyoming Military Assistance Trust Fund which was established in 2004 by the legislature. The fund is there to help when big ticket items break, must be repaired, or even replaced. It is designed to take the stress away from the families when possible, which then should keep the service member focused on the mission while deployed, Breckenridge said.

    In coordination through networking, Breckenridge says there are Family Readiness Group individuals assigned to each unit and Family Assistance Center personnel assigned around the state to provide families with assistance as necessary. In addition, there is an Interservice Family Assistance Committee that has agreements with partners throughout the state to assist families.

    According to Breckenridge there are behavioral health teams available to provide tools to assist with resiliency and reintegration for service members and families.

    Through the deployment cycle, both military members and family members develop greater coping skills and in most instances become more self reliant and adaptable.

    Tiffany says she has learned to do more herself than she thought she could and that friends have told her she’s a much stronger woman emotionally with each deployment.

    “I know I need help with yard work, snow shoveling, and things that usually my spouse takes care of while home,” said Tiffany. “Fixing leaky faucets, putting up a fence or just having someone there to watch my daughter so I can take a peaceful hot shower by myself is helpful.

    “I have learned how to do a lot of things on my own, I’ve put toys together, dug holes, cut trees down, and locked myself in the bathroom to cry so no one would hear me,” Tiffany said. “I’ve learned how to get through the loneliness without going crazy, and I’ve also learned to be cautious about who I choose as my friends,” she said.

    Tiffany recommends spouses and family members find reliable friends who can help them under stress. “Find someone to watch your kids periodically so you can cry and rejuvenate as you need it.” She also said she reminds other to not to expect to hear from their spouse every day. They call when they can, and they are under tremendous stress so be grateful to talk to them at all. “One thing my husband tells me is he wants to know what is happening at home even though we have been briefed not to, he still wants to know,” said Tiffany.

    Breckenridge says they suggest to families they minimize sharing too many details of home repairs, struggles, etc., to ensure the member concentrates on the mission. He and his staff ask families to instead take advantage of the resources available through the family program.

    Tiffany says for other moms, “Calgon, take me away!” She said she recommends taking time to relax and rejuvenate.

    In past deployments, she has reached out to a couple of other wives, some from the same unit, some from another deployed unit, living in the same town and they would have dinner once a month and just talk about ...”stuff”. Why? Because, Tiffany said, they were all going through very similar circumstances and they understood what they were going through, whereas other friends or family can sympathize, but had no idea how they felt or what they were going through.

    Breckenridge said there are so many resources available for families and the program focuses on continual reinforcement through the use of social media, mailings, and direct phone calls to ensure families are able to utilize the resources and make the deployments less stressful.

    Any military families from any service component can call 1-866-992-7641 to obtain information and assistance. Breckenridge emphasizes that military families do not have to be deployed to access these services. Staff are available 24/7 to assist the military family community statewide.



    Date Taken: 04.12.2011
    Date Posted: 04.14.2011 18:02
    Story ID: 68767
    Location: CHEYENNE, WY, US 

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