Readiness NCO making an impact

  • Published
  • By Mark Wyatt
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
Deployments are something servicemembers experience. Dealing with separation is something families experience. The Airman and Family Readiness Center has an NCO that has been helping personnel take on the challenge to get through the deployment process.

"Deployed family members depend on the Readiness Program to provide them with information, resources and tools to cope with separation," said Robyn Endo, Airman and Family Readiness Center director. "Master Sergeant Merring immediately commands authority in all things related to family readiness; but at the same time, he is one of the most compassionate and accessible senior NCOs I have ever met in my career."

A dental technician for 16 years before applying for the special duty position at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Merring was looking to do more.

"I thought that I was a good senior NCO in the Dental Clinic, but I wanted to be a good senior NCO for the Air Force," said Merring.

The A&FRC director believes the readiness program is the warm touch, the voice at the other end of the line and the patient ear for those affected by deployment.

"As the family readiness coordinator, the position really focuses on the readiness perspective," said Merring. "I try to help members prepare for the deployment process, making sure that they don't worry about their families while deployed."

Every day, Merring, and our whole staff, offer that personal and compassionate service that every deployed service member and civilian deserves for themselves and their families, Endo added.

Reducing the negative effects a deployment has on a family is Merring's day-to-day motivation. And that can be a real challenge.

"The job is as rewarding as it is difficult to do," said Merring. "It's hard physically, and it's hard mentally and emotionally."

Merring says the process involves more than just checking in with families once a week.

"The focus begins two months prior to a deployment; we do a pre-deployment interview that we encourage spouses and older children to attend," Merring said. "We go over things to help minimize the negative effect the whole deployment process has on a family."

He then meets with families through many of the programs offered at the A&FRC.

"Hearts Apart is something we do once a month for families of a member on a deployment or remote tour," said Merring.

The monthly program held on base generally includes an activity and a meal for families to meet others experiencing the same challenges.

"Our monthly Hearts Apart program enables families to network, form friendships and develop new skills to be pro-active and engaged in their own success," said Endo.

Merring suggests that families continue to attend the programs even after the deployment ends.

"I encourage, for multiple reasons, that families continue attending the Hearts Apart program for at least a couple of months after the deployed loved one is back," he said. "This serves a few different purposes, least of which is I get to see the family together again, but families also get to see mom and dad eventually do come home; they are a complete family again."

The reintegration process is another important step during the deployment cycle Merring finds himself involved in.

"When the servicemembers return from a deployment, we assist in the reintegration process," he said. "It's a complex situation and every family handles it differently. The A&FRC offers several programs to assist in that process"

Merring also ensures that he remains in contact with school counselors and other base agencies at a family's disposal, such as key spouses.

"Another invaluable resource for families are the key spouses," he said. "Families of a deployed member may want to talk to another family who has experienced the same challenges. The Key Spouse program here is as valuable a tool for deployed families as any available to them."

A Key Spouse volunteer is usually the spouse of a military member who is willing to share a few hours a month to connect with families of a deployed member.

According to him, only half of servicemembers he assists as part of the duties as readiness NCO are Air Force families. He meets every other month with readiness representatives in the Coast Guard, Army, Navy and Marines to ensure he better serves his customers.

For Merring, nearing the end of his assignment and his career, finding his purpose is simple.

"The reality is I don't know how we would get the mission done without the support of our families," said Merring.

According to the A&FRC director, success can easily be attributed to the NCO who manages it.

"This program can only be successful if the right person is at the helm - it requires someone who truly cares about people, and someone who can be their advocate when needed," said Endo. "Master Sergeant Merring is a phenomenal Readiness NCO and he has been an invaluable member of this team."

Merring looks back on the past three years as something he learned a great deal from.

"As the Readiness NCO, if you're looking for the recognition, you're probably not going to get it," he said. "But you'll be recognized from the families that you help."

And for Merring, that's all the appreciation he needs.