News

EP-3E crew communicate with families

"The families of 24 EP-3E crewmembers detained on Hainan Island off mainland China are now allowed to communicate, via email, with their familes back home.Their messages are being received and they're getting messages back, said Candy Marriott, spokeswoman for the crewmembers' families residing on and around Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Marriott, who spoke one-on-one with the media Tuesday afternoon at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station's CPO Club on Ault Field Road, is the wife of Capt. William Marriott, commander of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 10.Email from the families, along with any other personal items for the crewmembers such as toiletries or magazines, are delivered to the aircrew via State Department Defense Attache to China, Army Brig. Gen Neal Sealock, through Chinese officials and then to the 24 crewmembers, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig R. Quigley, said in a news briefing at the Pentagon on Tuesday. Return messages are routed the same way.The families' anxieties are somewhat relieved by the ability to send and receive messages, and by reports that crewmembers are being treated well, Marriott said.While the families are still feeling anxious and worried, the intensity of the emotions has somewhat diminished, Lt. Jon Conroe, Navy chaplain, said Tuesday afternoon at the same Whidbey air station interview.Later this week, families will have the opportunity to get together with each other and with representatives of Fleet and Familiy Support and the chaplain's office, Conroe said. This will provide family members the opportunity to talk with each other and counseling personnel, if desired.They are finding a lot of solace with each other, Candy Marriott said. No one understands a military spouse's life like another military spouse, she said. The local spouse clubs have been busy providing support.Preparations are beginning for the homecoming. Two spouse clubs got together Tuesday morning to make welcome home banners, Marriott said.Homecoming will be overwhelming for the families, Marriott said, with the anticipated celebration throughout the civilian and military communities. This isn't just like getting back from a regular deployment, Marriott said.Importantly, plans are being made to help EP-3E crewmembers and families with reintegration as a couple and a family, Conroe said. Joint Personnel Recovery Agency and the Missing Personnel Office of the Secretary of Defense office, two organizations that are known to be top experts in the country on this sort of counseling, will assist the families after the homecoming, Conroe said.Both the crewmembers and the spouses left at home are going through emotional stress, which can affect their relationships later. The Navy's goal is to help each couple deal with these emotions together, Conroe said.This counseling strengthens who you are as a couple (versus) tear you apart, Conroe said.Counseling or support group needs for the crewmembers' children will be determined later this week when the families get together with Fleet and Famnily Services and the chaplain's office, Conroe said.While the waiting continues, the spouses are keeping their emotions in a holding pattern, Conroe said. They are keeping hope while trying not to get too hopeful, and are remaining anxious, but trying not to get too anxious, Conroe said.They want their people to come home, he said. The Pentagon addressed that very sentiment for the families.You've got the best efforts of the United States government under way to try to bring about the soonest release of of their loved ones and get them back home, Quigley said.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611 "

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