CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. —
When it comes to being stationed at Creech Air Force Base, service members with small children have a full plate. In addition to supporting a 24/7/365 mission, parents worry about the availability, quality and cost of care their child is receiving.
The base’s remote location and limited access to the nearest Child Development Center, which is approximately one hour away at Nellis AFB, add to the community’s unique requirements.
To combat these one-of-a-kind challenges, personnel from the Air Force Services Activity headquarters in Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, recently met with military members and conducted interviews here where they discussed new and evolving childcare options.
“We go anywhere childcare is needed,” said Patti Mehrens, Chief of AFSVA child and youth programs at JBSA. “We know that if we don’t have quality, affordable and available childcare for our military, then the mission can’t get done because you’re more worried about where your children and youth are in care.”
Mehrens said the AFSVA child and youth programs are working hard to implement two new childcare programs designed specifically for bases like Creech that support the remotely piloted aircraft enterprise. The programs are known as RPA Care and RPA 2 Care, and will help enhance mission readiness by ensuring proper care for children of military families.
The care, which is unique to bases flying RPA missions, goes beyond the normal scope of options available at most installations. RPA Care gives families extended 24-hour care for their children while they are away performing their duties.
“Once we get RPA Care up and running, this type of care will be very beneficial to those service members working swings or other off shifts for weeks at a time,” Patti said. “You [the service member] purchase full-time care, and we then pick up the care outside of those normal hours to take care of the children.”
In addition to RPA Care, AFSVA will also offer RPA 2 Care. This type of care provides a professional to look after children for a short time while the service member travels to medical, dental, or other mandatory appointments.
“If your spouse has an appointment and they need childcare, there is no requirement to purchase full time care, and we will pay the childcare provider to provide care for your child during these appointments,” Mehrens said. “There is no upfront cost to the parents.”
Mehrens added that the AFSVA organization goes above and beyond to meet the needs of Airmen, regardless of the unique challenges each situation may bring.
“On Sept. 28, a family needed care for a special needs child, and they needed care by Oct. 3,” Mehrens said. “They walked in to one of our CDCs and said, we need to start childcare now.”
She went on to say that the child had special medical needs that the staff couldn’t accommodate in their center.
“Three of us worked nonstop, and we got a family childcare home opened, trained and ready to go by October,” Mehrens said.
Besides offering extended childcare, AFSVA also offers short-term childcare for families of combat wounded warriors and fallen military members. The organization also provides care for members undergoing a permanent change of station, and awards 20 hours of care at both bases during the PCS.
“We say, if we don’t have a program that meets your needs today, we will find one that fits your individual needs,” Patti said. “I think everybody would be shocked if they knew we’ve even flown to Australia to find childcare for our families there. We can’t necessarily do it overnight, but when we say it fits, it’s because we tailor our programs to fit the individual.”
For more information about Air Force child and youth programs, or child and youth programs at Nellis and Creech, visit http://www.afimsc.af.mil/Units/AirForceServicesActivity.aspx or contact the Nellis Child Development Center at 702-652-4241.