Focus on the Force: Retired lieutenant colonel volunteers time to help new fathers

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dillon White
  • 341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
Being a father is not taught in conventional classrooms in high schools, but Malmstrom personnel and members of the local community can take advantage of a night class devoted to new fathers.

The class is generally held on the third Thursday of every month at Benefis Health Care in Great Falls, Mont., and taught by Joseph Furr, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and current civilian contract employee here.

The father of two received his instructor training initially in the Air Force.

"I was on a court martial in England in a case where an individual had shaken a 2-year-old to death. When the Air Force offered the new-father-class training several years later, I felt it was my calling to do it," Mr. Furr said. "It really feels like I'm doing the Lord's work." 

He has condensed the six-hour version he was taught into the two hour class he now teaches.

The fathers-to-be receive hands-on training with dolls and a wide-range of parenting skills are covered. The men hold their "babies" throughout the entire class and are taught how to change diapers, sooth crying infants and bottle feed their new arrivals. The class also covers how to care for a sick infant.

"I have met men from all walks of life, ranging in age from 18- to 50-years-old and with many different careers," Mr. Furr said. "Every class is rewarding and somebody is always asking new questions that keep me on my toes."

Mr. Furr relays questions he does not know the answers to to his mentors at the hospital who include Jean Stillwell, Benefis nursery registered nurse, and Dr. Craig Matelich, Great Falls clinic pediatrician.

"Many men have never been taught the life skills of parenting because they grew up in a family with two or less kids per family," Mr. Furr said. "Families from my generation had six to eight kids and the older children would help the parents with the younger children. Someone from a younger generation may not know how to change a diaper."

In addition to the academic and hands-on portions of the class, Mr. Furr tells his class stories about his own children and experiences. This gives the class a comfortable atmosphere where the students can speak about their thoughts and emotions regarding becoming a father.

To enroll in the new father's class, people should call the Benefis hospital childbirth education coordinator at 455-5553.