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Offutt Airmen start a new kind of social network

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Holly Taylor, 55th Communications
Squadron unit deployment manager, and her sister, Brittney Carlson, pose for a photo with Taylor's son during a Moms, Pops and Tots event on March 19. This new program is designed to bring parents with children under the age of
five together so they have the opportunity to socialize and build bonds with others in the same situation. (Courtesy photo).

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Holly Taylor, 55th Communications Squadron unit deployment manager, and her sister, Brittney Carlson, pose for a photo with Taylor's son during a Moms, Pops and Tots event on March 19. This new program is designed to bring parents with children under the age of five together so they have the opportunity to socialize and build bonds with others in the same situation. (Courtesy photo).

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Nebraska -- Moving boxes, some empty, collect in corners and along unimpeded stretches of empty walls. The landscape outside, peoples’ faces are foreign and new. Sounds echo in the new home, amplified by an excitable toddler eager to explore the space.

The new world quickly becomes one of isolation as the mission requires your spouse to leave the country. Stranded, your sole companion speaks to you in a combination of pointing, incoherent sounds and fragmented sentences.

Socializing with friends and family requires an electrical outlet, simple tasks such as running out for diapers carry with them the stark reminders self-reliance. There are no easy tasks anymore. This is where the Moms, Pops and Tots program comes in.

The brain child of Master Sgt. Amanda Limmer, the Moms, Pops and Tots program was designed to target these displaced parents with children under the age of five. Child daycare centers and local school systems naturally act as conduits for socialization. There exists a segment of the military dependent population where these outlets aren’t feasible by circumstance.

The MPTs program is in its infancy here at Offutt Air Force Base. Sgt. Amanda Limmer recently has gone through a permanent change of station leaving the budding program in the hands of Senior Airman Evelyn Hernandez and Tech. Sgt. Mary Medina.

“I've been a part of a few private organizations on base, and when I heard Master Sgt. Limmer first pitch the concept of a parent support group, I thought it would be a great program to have here on base,” Hernandez said.

In the past six months, the MPTs organization has swelled to 77 members. Several official MPTs events have already begun to bring members together, cementing bonds with people in similar situations. The social network with around the clock support is finding a niche audience.

“This organization has made it easier to have connections with other active duty parents,” said Tech. Sgt. Wendy Dupree, a member of MPTs. “It’s been nice to see the other Moms.”

Some military members aren’t waiting for the return of a deployed spouse such as single parent households, one active duty spouse or two active duty spouses on swing shifts. Regardless of family compositions, the MPTs network can meet the needs of families.

“For single parents, they may feel like they don't fit in with a key spouse program, or they are looking specifically for friends who also have kids,” Hernandez said. “Having an outlet to meet other parents, have events that help get kids out of the house, or to find trustworthy babysitters, are just a few benefits of MPTs.

The MPTs has been flexible to adapt and mold to the requests and needs of its members. Adaptability is the hallmark trait that defines this new network of parents. Requested additions to the MPTs include quarterly clothing and toy exchanges, fundraising for families in need, a babysitting roster and local-area field trips.

Perhaps it’s fitting that this program was founded by military parents for military parents. Who better to acknowledge this very specific need than those who’ve felt the strain in these early years of parenting? The program has received unanimous support from the Force Support Squadron and the aligning command of the Child Daycare Center, Family Child Care Center, Airman and Family Readiness Center and Youth Center.

“I had an opportunity to speak with Maj. Ryan Stebbins, the FSS commander, and he thought it would be a great idea as well,” Hernandez said. “After meeting with several members of his team, we decided to become a private organization so that we can maintain a committee of individuals who are personally invested in the success of the organization.

At the epicenter of the MPTs program is a private Facebook page where parents can connect and collaborate with one another. It’s the go-to lifeline for a last minute babysitter or for a trip to the local zoo. Founding members can advertise their quarterly functions through this social platform. Future plans include educational guest speakers to meet with the parents.

Through the innovation of a handful of Airmen, the Moms, Pops and Tots program, in conjunction with several FSS entities and key spouse organizations, will ensure that no parent finds themselves alone at Offutt AFB. One of the wing’s foundational focus areas is taking care of Airmen and their families. The MPTs program embodies that focus.

If your social support lies exclusively behind a thin pane of illuminated glass, the world beyond your house if a confusing grid of unfamiliar landmarks, or if your job demands an extra hour of your time, give the Moms, Pops and Tots program a call. An infrastructure of support is ready to welcome you to “Team Offutt.” For more information about Moms, Pops and Tots contact Senior Airman Evelyn Hernandez at evelyn.hernandez@us.af.mil.