Military Families: Support at home, in the unit, abroad key to mission success

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
  • 436th AW Public Affairs
Nearly every day, American warriors take their turn wielding the nation's sword and shield, and defend America's interests at home and in world-wide theaters of operations - a notion not new to the U.S. Air Force.

Possibly as noble as the image of an Airman flying, fighting and winning is the reflection of the family left behind, pulling together through the separation and winning their own 'battles' on the home front.

One warrior, the operations officer for the 436th Operations Support Squadron, took to the sky recently to head for Ali Base, Iraq, to take command of the 407th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron there. As Lt. Col. Carl Rahn geared up mentally, physically and spiritually for his first deployed command assignment, his wife prepared for another long haul for the family in his absence.

Melody Rahn, a stay-at-home mother to their teenage daughters, is seasoned at deployments and the Air Force lifestyle. She hopes by sharing her family's experiences, she will aid couples new to the military who might be struggling with deployment-related stresses.

"My first emotion was, 'Wow, he will be in command!'" said Mrs. Rahn, who has been married to the colonel for 18 years and has worked behind-the-scenes for the family here and at five other bases. "I know he has worked long and hard in his different jobs, and I know he is a great leader and will bring at lot to the unit there. He really enjoys the whole mission and what he will be doing. Being able to be there a full year will enable him to see projects through - from start to finish. The results of those transformations will be very fulfilling."

People ask if she'll go back home to Minnesota where her family is during the deployment. Mrs. Rahn's reaction is always the same, she said. "We are already home and this is where my family is."

"I am with family - we will take care of each other," she said. "My military friends here understand what I am going thru, many have or are going through a deployment now or in the future. My military family understands the strange things that happen (with deployments). We choose to live on base, and with that Carl has the comfort of knowing that neighbors are very supportive and will help at the drop of a hat."

Two years ago, Colonel Rahn served as the director of operations at the 332nd EOSS at Balad AB, Iraq. That deployment prepared him for the year-long tour he just embarked on, he said.

"I was impressed with the pace of events and the combat environment in which we asked our Airmen to work and live," Colonel Rahn said of the Balad deployment. "The way our Airman were able to attack the mission head on and get up to speed in a very short time was astonishing. I am thrilled to be able to lead in a similar environment as a squadron commander."

The mission is very important to regional stability, said Colonel Rahn, who explained that his unit supports ground operations, training operations, as well as intra-theater combat-support operations key to the security efforts required to stabilize the country and eventually enable self-reliance.

"My goal is to ensure the unit under my command does its part to help us stabilize Iraq and win the Global War on Terror; in the process return folks to their home units as more (well-rounded) and better Airmen," Colonel Rahn said. He explained that though Airmen should return home improved, preparation and training prior to deployment is still paramount.

"Be physically and mentally prepared," said the colonel. "During my previous deployment, I could easily see the difference between a physically-fit Airmen and one who wasn't. It is imperative that we are ready to adjust to the new deployed environment quickly, and that takes focus and stamina, especially when adjusting to extreme climates we find ourselves in."

Pre-deployment training helps, but the people make the difference, said the colonel, who is charged with commanding the unit which manages the airfield, operates the air traffic control tower and operates intelligence facilities. "My family and I have been blessed with great friends and co-workers, and I am sure my family will continue to be treated like part of the Dover family while I'm gone."

For the younger, less-seasoned families who may not have the same experiences as the Rahns, Mrs. Rahn has advice.

"Faith, trust in God and in each other has helped us through all the trying times," Mrs. Rahn said. Still, there must also be other strong elements to the relationship, she continued.

"You need to be able to communicate and be honest with each other," she said. "This does not happen overnight, it is not something that you do once, and you are good for the marriage. You have to continue to practice (these virtues) - all the time when your loved ones are home or away."

Though she explained having two teenage daughters keeps her schedule hectic, Mrs. Rahn still tries to stay involved in her husband's unit and with the rest of her military family while he is gone.

"I go to squadron functions, keep active in Officer Spouse's Club activities, and take advantage of programs offered on base," Mrs. Rahn said. "Bottom line is: continue to stay busy."

For Colonel and Mrs. Rahn, communication with their children is also very important, they said.

"They have seen him go all their life," said Mrs. Rahn of her daughters. "It is a way of life for our family, so in a way, this is part of our life."