DOHA, Qatar - "The dog has to stay in quarantine for how long? Seriously ... he needs a passport and a chip? Can I chip the kids too. ... What do you mean there is no commissary?"
Let's face it, moving is stressful. For military families, a permanent change of station generally involves two components: practical and emotional. The amount of work involved in the move can be overwhelming in normal circumstances. Incorporate a deployment to Southwest Asia, and prepare for senses overload!
If you are like most seasoned military spouses, someone says move and you have your handy-dandy binder in reach ready to roll.
These spouses know that researching, planning and organizing helps mitigate the emotional stress and turmoil of the move. However, leaving family and friends is never easy.
And neither is starting over in a new unfamiliar community in another country.
For this reason, Camp As Sayliyah's Family Readiness Group joined forces with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing's Family Right Start Program to create the Joint Services Family Readiness Group.
The JSFRG was created to ease the stress of families transitioning to the Middle East and an opportunity for its seasoned military members and spouses in the area to put their local knowledge to good use.
"Deployment to this area is very different to deployments in other areas of the world," said Leslie Watkins, wife of Brig. Gen. Roger Watkins, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing's commander. "More in-depth support is needed when the families first arrive and there is a certain level of isolation that our families are not accustomed."
The intent of the program is not only to educate and pass on information of lessons learned, but to create a social support system.
"The appearance of lost independence when first arriving was daunting," said Wendy Wozniak, wife of Col. William Wozniak, Camp As Sayliyah installation commander. "Yet, I found this to be a false perception. Within a week of arriving, I found the people here very helpful and a strong support network in place. I want to ensure that other military families who move to the area also become familiar with this knowledge."
"This program is about emotional and practical support," said Capt. Natasha Porcher of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing's Airman and Family Readiness Center. "We want to create a communication network for the incoming families that are having the same experience to help them get through it, and even make the process somehow easier. We want our families to feel like a resident versus a tourist."
As part of this initiative, the JSFRG hosted a family meet-and-greet potluck dinner for approximately 80 military families on Camp As Sayliyah just before the start of the new school year Aug. 23.
Each brought a dish that represented their family and the children enjoyed time playing games and swimming in the pool, while the parents had an opportunity to talk with military and family members who understand the nuances of the area.
The objective: to ensure families are taken care of and no one is left behind or left out.
"We felt this was a great opportunity for the children to make friends and create bonds, so when school started, they would know someone and feel excited about attending, rather than stressed," said Watkins. "This was also a great opportunity for the parents to plan car pools and discuss any issues or concerns."
"Partnering with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing's Airman and Family Readiness Center serves both our services," said Capt. Nicholas Soroka, Headquarters, Headquarters Company commander and CAS Family Readiness Group coordinator. "Each service has its strengths and we're too small a community not to give the best to all of our families in the area."
Getting involved with the Family Readiness Group in your new area will help ease the transition of your move by lessening the emotional stress and turmoil. Do your research and help turn PCS moves from doom-and-gloom into an exciting new adventure. It's also another opportunity to add a useful chapter to that handy-dandy binder.
Be sure to check out the latest news and happenings for Camp As Sayliyah and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing on Facebook.