101st Airborne Families Set to Separate

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

They made baby baskets for infants born with their dads away and operated a pantry with diapers and food for spouses in need. Some wearing maternity clothes, they washed cars to raise money for a welcome-home party for the men.

Now, about six months after their husbands' return, the women are preparing to do it all again. The 101st's 3rd Brigade fought in Afghanistan. This time, all three brigades in the division are deploying to an undisclosed location in the area of U.S. Central Command, which includes the Persian Gulf.

"Everybody's in the same spot," said Cox, 29, who leads a family readiness group that meets regularly on post. "Army, military wives understand each other and you get this close-knit family."

The 101st, based at Fort Campbell on the Tennessee border, is the Army's only air assault division. Shots fired from 101st Apache helicopters started the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

With the husbands in Afghanistan, Cox received calls from wives with family emergencies. Others needed to borrower a scanner so they could e-mail photos to their husbands. Some calls were about marital problems; she referred those to a chaplain.

"Most of the calls were, 'I just need someone to talk to,'" said Cox, who is pregnant and has a 2-year-old.

One goal of the family readiness groups is to help young spouses - some just teens - who are new to military life and need tips on everything from understanding medical benefits to knowing where to buy furniture.

When four aviators from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also based at Fort Campbell, died Jan. 30 in an helicopter crash in Afghanistan, wives from the family readiness group took food to the soldiers' homes and comforted the spouses.

"The backbone of most military families is actually the spouses, in this case most likely the wives," Chief Warrant Officer Carlos Quintana said. "I believe that their support is basically what puts everything together."

Cox's group keeps in touch with newsletters, a calling tree and e-mail. She said the biggest lesson the wives learned with their husbands in Afghanistan was to turn off the television so they didn't dwell on every report.

"Most of the time we got worked up over nothing," Cox said.

Heidi Taylor, 23, said it is easier to talk to the other wives than even family members - who mean well but ask difficult questions.

"It is hard to explain to them every time they call and they're saying, 'When are they going to be home?' and you don't know," said Taylor, who like Cox is pregnant and has a 2-year-old.

Tammy Roels has had similar experiences.

"I think sometimes they think you have this knowledge because you're the wife that nobody else has and that you're going to tell them," she said.

While they missed their husbands, some of the wives said they took somewhat of a guilty pleasure at times in having more free time.

Some of the wives said their best experience as part of the group was getting the opportunity to call soldiers' family members to let them know what time the soldier would be home. The welcome home party was also a success.

"You turn that freedom into something else, supporting the wives," Cox said. "It happens naturally. All of that time you put toward their jobs and their world, you don't have to do that any more."


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