Military spouses and families hold squadron’s home-front together during deployment

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Afterburners trailed fluorescent-orange as a number of F-35A Lightning IIs took off in route to Germany to bolster NATO defenses. Underneath them, stood a small group of spouses, friends and one bundled toddler, waving goodbye.

The squadron is the heart beat of the Air Force, leaders say, and connected families are the heartbeat of the squadron.

The hundreds of Airmen in the 34th Fighter Squadron and Fighter Generation Squadron have a deployed mission to carry out in Germany, and while they are gone, those with families, spouses, partners, will be grateful for the mission being fulfilled back home.

“Whenever we deploy, especially if it is short notice, we talk a lot about the capabilities and strength of our military members,” said Col. Craig Andrle, 388th Fighter Wing commander. “It’s just as important to recognize the sacrifices and the strength of our family members back at home. We could not do this without them.”

The military life is filled with certain uncertainty – service members know they will move homes a dozen times, they will be sent on training and temporary duty assignments, and they will be deployed, likely in harm’s way. All these things will happen, but they never really know when and where, until the time comes. 

“You’re never fully prepared. Especially with a deployment, there are a wide range of emotions, from stress, to excitement for them and the job they’re doing,” said Anne, 34th Fighter Squadron key spouse. “It would be a lot easier if it were just me, but there are also kids and there’s a sense of responsibility for all the other spouses and the families in the squadron.”

The 34th Fighter Squadron, like the other squadrons in the 388th Fighter Wing, has worked hard to create a sense of family, said Andrle. Spouses and partners know they have a support network they can depend on, which will not only help during this deployment, but also with the daily demands of military life.

That family environment doesn’t happen on its own. Anne, along with others, says it’s important for people to break out of their comfort zones and get involved with unit activities, which range from spouse coffee nights, to dinners out and big family-oriented morale days where “inclusion is everything.”

“You’d be surprised how close you grow as a group with people who you probably would never meet apart from the military,” said Susan, another 34th Fighter Squadron key spouse. “We don’t all fit the same mold, but that’s OK. We’re all here for each other.”

And that’s a necessity, because there is another certainty in military life: things can fall apart while you’re deployed, transmissions, hot-water heaters, sick pets – thank Murphy and his law.

To help with those, the Airmen and Family Readiness Center is full of resources and services, as well as the Hill Air Force Base Chapel. The squadron key spouses are always willing to help sift through those and get families the information and help they need, Anne said.   

“It really is a big group effort between friends,” Anne said. “I hope we can provide help and a sense of comfort for those who need it. Sometimes I feel a greater sense of family in the squadron than anywhere else.”