U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (NNS) -- As much as becoming a father adds a sweet dimension to your life, it can also cause your stress levels to grow ten-fold; particularly if you're deployed on the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) protecting your new and expanded family's freedom from afar.
"My biggest fear is, 'are they going to know me or am I just going to be this strange guy that's holding them," said Senior Chief Gunner's Mate James Hoppa, who had twins in February. "I think it's more the question of am I going to attach to them when we get back? Secondly, how do I reintegrate back into the fold, now that I've been gone for so long and my wife has created this routine and life without me? How do I work myself back into that without stepping on her toes?"
A deployment as a new parent Sailors and Marines may have these questions and start to have anxiety when it gets closer to return back to homeport. The good news is that there are numerous resources available for Sailors, Marines and their families.
On one side, your newborn will not remember you being away for the better part of the first year of their life, but some new dads worry that their children will not remember them or may treat them differently when they return. On the other side, there are plenty of things to be excited about when finally returning home after so long.
"For us here on the ship, we have United through Reading, which gives the children an opportunity to see the face of their father, mother, aunt , uncle, or whomever it may be because we want everyone to be connected to their families," said Lt. Gary Pepper, one of the chaplains assigned to the Bataan.
Chaplain Pepper has been separated from his family for a sum of one and a half years in his military career and says that he and his wife have relied on family and friends to support their family. In addition, they've used other resources available to military members such as the Family Readiness Group (FRG), Fleet and Family Support Center and the command Ombudsman to stay connected while separated and stay abreast of current news.
"Family Readiness Group basically kept my family informed about everything without actually telling them anything that would put Sailors or Marines on board at risk," said Damage Controlman 2nd Class Dino Godfrey. "It gave my family back home a clearer state of mind and made things easier for them. There will be times when we can't talk and the FRG will keep them posted and updated on everything that we're doing."
Another resource that Godfrey advises new fathers in the fleet to use is Fleet and Family Support Center for assistance.
"I use Fleet and Family Support Center a lot, It's a great resource and I think people underestimate how much they can help," added Godfrey. "The New Parent Support, was a good workshop when I came back after my first deployment because my child was still so new to the world."
Godfrey concluded by passing on advice to new deployed fathers: "just give it time, he says. Your family loves you, they miss you, they want nothing but the best for you, and they want you to come back in one piece. They're waiting for you at home with open arms and nothing but love inside their hearts. So, do your job out here so you can get home."
These Sailors, along with the many new fathers aboard the Bataan, eagerly count the days until they return home, but they can rest assured knowing that there are numerous resources to help get them and their families through the ups and downs of the journey.
Bataan and its amphibious ready group are deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
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