It takes a village

  • Published
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Dad is 60 feet underground ensuring the president is equipped with a 24/7 nuclear deterrent force. Mom is 7,000 miles away providing anti-terrorism support around the globe.

Claire is 20 months old, surrounded by advocates and is already proving resilient in the face of adversity.

1st Lt. Aaron Kerkhoff, 10th Missile Squadron missile crew commander and father to Claire, pulls 24-hour alerts in the 13,800 square mile missile field of Malmstrom Air Force Base. Her mother, 1st Lt. Deanna Kerkhoff, 341st Contracting Squadron contracting officer, is deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“I realized that I have a duty to our country, regardless of my parenting status and preferences,” Deanna said. “Many others before me have answered that call honorably. So now, it’s my turn.”

Deanna’s decision to volunteer for a deployment was a difficult one made easier by help from family, friends and Air Force programs like Family Child Care and Missile Care.

Anyone with children would agree that it takes a village to raise a child and in the Air Force that saying rings true.

FCC programs consist of in-home care provided by licensed and affiliated providers. Providers are available daily, which include nights and weekends, and unusual hours of care for children 2 weeks to 12 years of age.

In unique circumstances, the Air Force offers Missile Care, sponsored overnight childcare with an FCC provider while parents are away on duty.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have amazing providers caring for Claire ever since she was 6 weeks old,” said Deanna.

Ellen Prescott, FCC provider, is Claire’s primary care provider. She cares for up to six children during the day and as the mission requires.

“I love being able to use my education in a meaningful way, all while supporting the Air Force mission,” Prescott said. “I am here to support military parents and provide a caring, safe environment for their children.”

Prescott has cared for Claire since she was 6 months old.

“I truly feel like Claire is as much a part of the ‘Prescott’ family as she is a part of the ‘Kerkhoff’ and I can already tell that the exact same things will be true during her times with our Missile Care provider,” Deanna said.

Lisa Maas, FCC provider, is Claire’s secondary provider and is ready to keep her for eight days per month as her father stands alert in the missile field for more than 24-hours at a time.

“Military life isn’t a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job,” Maas said. “It includes temporary duties, deployments and unpredictable hours. Unfortunately, this often takes parents away from their children for days at a time. As an FCC provider, my job is to support the mission.

“My hope is that by being able to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children while their parents are away, the parents can be more focused on their job and less worried about their little one,” Maas continued. “For the children, being able to keep them in a home setting and integrate them in with my family and our routine seems to help ease the stress of mom and dad not being here.”

The Air Force provides multiple programs that enhance the capacity of Airmen to effectively manage family, work-life balance and service specific challenges.

“It takes a good deal of resilience to go about Claire’s day-to-day routine with a daddy who is often out in the missile field at odd intervals,” Deanna said. “It’s a very trying schedule at times, and whether she knows it or not, it makes her more resilient all the time being able to deal with the challenges life throws her way.

“This (deployment) will likely be the biggest change she’s ever experienced, but I have faith that we will all be just fine, even stronger individually and as a family because of it,” Deanna continued.

For more information on childcare and support offered at Malmstrom Air Force Base visit