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Tuesday, February 17

Base network tends to needs of the families left behind

By Honolulu Advertiser

KANEOHE, Hawaii - When Marine 1st Sgt. Douglas Power deploys next month, he'll be leaving behind his wife and their children. But he goes with confidence, knowing they'll have all the support they need in his absence.

Power and 150 other members of the 3rd Radio Battalion (formerly the 1st Radio Battalion) are scheduled for deployment to Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The battalion, its final destination still uncertain, will maintain an open line of communication across the battlefield.

After 23 years in service, Power has learned that when he's deployed, no matter how well he works to head off possible problems, they still arise."The families are back home with the day-to-day grind and it never fails, it's Murphy's Law," Power said. "Everything that can go wrong will go wrong."

Help is available from three sources - the chaplain's office, the Family Support Center and the Key Volunteer Network, which is made up of spouses of Marines.

Power said his family has used every service available at least once, but the Navy Relief Society was a big help when he was away and the van broke down. The organization not only found a mechanic, he said, but also got the van to the base gate so that it could be towed to the repair shop, and provided an interest-free loan to pay for the repair.

"It's really comforting to know that they've got a helping hand, somebody to turn to," he said.

Power's wife, Gretchen, said she now takes advantage of services that she hadn't used often because the family lived away from the base.

"Younger wives are leery to use the services," she said. "They're afraid it is going to affect their husband's career."

But she's especially grateful for the resources during an emergency. She said the Key Volunteer Network steered her to the American Red Cross when her father-in-law died and she needed to reach her husband, who was then in Korea.

Key Volunteer coordinator Janelle Kennedy, whose husband will deploy with the 3rd Radio Battalion, said the support group has made things less stressful for families of service members.

The Key Volunteers are trained to recognize and ease stress. They also plan recreational activities and hold prayer meetings.

"Sometimes we would go out and have a great time and other times we'd go out and, in the middle of laughing, one of us would break down and start crying because the emotion is right there at the surface," she said.

Lt. Col. Mark Aycock, commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion, said: "We call (the Marine Corps) a band of brothers but it's a much larger thing. It includes all the family members. And if I know that the Key Volunteers and the Family Service Center are taking care of ... family members ... back here, then that will allow the Marines up front to focus on their mission."