June 1, 2012

EFMP helps AF families with needs

by Senior Airman C.J. Hatch
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Jonna Dukes, daughter of Tech. Sgt. Zenobia Muhammad, 56th Maintenance Operations Squadron scheduler, sits with her service dog, Bailey. Jonna received her service dog with the help of the Exceptional Family Member Program, designed to help those in the armed forces who have family members with special needs. For more information on the EFMP, call the Airman & Family Readiness Center at (623) 856-6550.

There is no perfect family; they all have trials and hardships. In many cases the Air Force is prepared to assist.

The Defense Department created the Exceptional Family Member Program to help families with special needs.

According to Military Homefront, there are more than 100,000 military families who have members with special needs.

“Those include spouses, children or dependant parents who require special medical or educational services,” according to the Military Homefront. “These family members have a diagnosed physical, intellectual or emotional condition. The EFMP works with these families to address their unique needs.”

One such family here at Luke is that of Tech. Sgt. Zenobia Muhammad, 56th Maintenance Operations Squadron, and her daughter, Jonna Dukes, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy as a child.

“There’s nothing like a mother’s intuition,” Muhammad said. “Jonna was two months old, and I remember thinking something’s just not right. So, I took my daughter to the doctor, and he said everything was fine and that she was meeting most of her milestones. I still had that feeling, so I went to get a second opinion and learned she has MD.”

Muhammad needed a service dog for her daughter and approached the EFMP representative on base for help locating a program that could help her. The waiting list for a service dog is two to five years and they are very expensive.

“Judy Pierson, Luke’s EFMP coordinator, provided us with information and an opportunity of a lifetime, Muhammad said.

The family was recently awarded a service dog named Bailey with the assistance of Pierson.

“We are currently going through training with Bailey,” Muhammad said. “We are learning CPR for the dog right now. Preserving the service dog’s life is a priority. Because of the cost involved with training a dog, $10,000 to $20,000, and how young Jonna is, we all had to learn CPR. ”

CPR was not the only thing the family had to learn with a service dog. They had to learn the rules and guidelines for owning a service dog.

“Because Bailey is a service dog, we have to understand the rules on where Bailey can and can’t go, how close he must be to Jonna, those kinds of things,” Muhammad said. “There are also rules about how clean he is to be kept. There are fines or a certification can be revoked, meaning your dog is no longer allowed to go into nonpet friendly environments like a restaurant or store. Those are some of the penalties for not following service dog guidelines.”

As a service dog, Bailey is trained to obey commands, some of which are unique to service dogs. Bailey can open doors, turn on lights or pick up objects from the floor.

“We haven’t learned the right command yet, but Bailey will lie down and help Jonna up if she falls,” Muhammad said.

A big part of a having a service dog is recognizing when the dog is working and when the dog is a part of the family.

“We have distinct guidelines to determine when Bailey is working and when he’s at home just being part of the family,” Muhammad said. “Sometimes after spending thousands of dollars and nearly two years training the dog, they end up being just a pet and are unable to provide their handler the independence they were trained to give.”

Muhammad acquired Bailey when she received a call from Pierson at the A&FRC saying, “fill out this packet and have it done in the morning.” The Foundation for Service Dog Support, an organization who trains service dogs primarily for military members and other members serving the community, was requesting applicants in a rare situation where an unplaced service dog two weeks from graduation became available. This opportunity saved the family thousands of dollars and eliminated the wait period.

The EFMP was created and designed to help military member in times such as those experienced by Muhammad and her family. The Air Force works to help families in the program as much as they can.

“The Air Force’s needs still come first, but they are concerned about our families,” Muhammad said. “The program is designed not to send us somewhere we can’t receive the services we need for our family members.”

All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.



Marines provide joint training

Five Airmen and three Navy Seabees joined 44 Marines June 15 through 29 in advancing their leadership skills during a condensed two-week Corporals’ Course at Luke Air Force Base. The course is designed to help E-4s transition into leadership roles as junior NCOs. Though the course was condensed, nothing was left out of the curriculum,...

Program helps those leaving military

Leaving the military and entering the civilian world can be a hard transition for many people to make. The Transition Assistance Program is one way the military helps those leaving the service. The Defense Department’s TAP program was designed to smooth the transition of military personnel and family members leaving active duty. The program has...

People First May 11, 2012

Editor’s Note: The “People First” section is compiled from information from the Air Force Personnel Center, TRICARE, 56th Force Support Squadron, Airman and Family Readiness Flight, Veterans Affairs, the civilian personnel office and armed forces news services. For the complete story, go to the web address listed at the end of the story. Officer development...


Statute restricts GMV use

For those of you with government motor vehicles in your units and yes, your unit purchased car or golf cart is considered a government motor vehicle, I have a question for you. Are you aware of what constitutes official use and misuse of these vehicles? The same statute that restricts the use of military air...

Copying military identification cards prohibited by law

Has anyone ever requested a photocopy of your military photo identification card? Did you know that photocopying any type of federal government ID card may be prohibited by law under TITLE 18 U.S.C. § 701: U.S. Code. The law states: “Whoever manufactures, sells or possesses any badge, identification card or other insignia of the design...

Pentagon seeks less for construction, more for conservation

The Defense Department is asking for less money for military construction and more for energy conservation in its fiscal 2013 budget request, the deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment told a Senate panel March 21. Dorothy Robyn said her staff uses joint planning and rigorous analysis to ensure that the right mix of...


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>