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Whiteman AFB families showcase resiliency during “Bear Hunt”

Whiteman AFB families are participating in the bear hunt to promote a safe, responsible alternative to isolation and social distancing.

James, age 5, sits with his stuffed toy in base housing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 1, 2020. Whiteman AFB families in base housing have been displaying toy animals, drawings and creating sidewalk drawings during COVID-19 quarantine to strengthen resiliency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dawn M. Weber)

Whiteman AFB families are participating in the bear hunt to promote a safe, responsible alternative to isolation and social distancing.

Toy pandas are displayed in a window during a bear hunt in base housing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, March 25, 2020. The bear hunt is a positive, safe game to combat negative effects associated with social distancing and self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dawn M. Weber)

Whiteman AFB families are participating in the bear hunt to promote a safe, responsible alternative to isolation and social distancing.

Stuff animals are displayed in windows during a bear hunt in base housing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, March 25, 2020. Whiteman AFB families are participating in the bear hunt to promote a safe, responsible alternative to isolation and social distancing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dawn M. Weber)

Whiteman AFB families are participating in the bear hunt to promote a safe, responsible alternative to isolation and social distancing.

Chalk drawings don a driveway during a bear hunt in base housing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, March 25, 2020. The bear hunt encourages families to walk or drive around base housing responsibly to locate toy animals, drawings displayed in windows or sidewalk drawings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dawn M. Weber)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

Whiteman Air Force Base relies heavily on the lethality and readiness of the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber mission but it’s the Airmen and families supporting the mission that keep the base going.

Like many families across the U.S. and the world, Team Whiteman is adjusting to a new normal while self-isolating or quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Team Whiteman families living on base are showcasing their resiliency by placing stuffed animals in windows, creating chalk drawings in driveways and decorating doorway with children’s artwork.

A key spouse here at Whiteman AFB said other than homework and chores, she’s teaching her children the importance of working together.

“My children and I have been working together completing projects like stained glass windows and gardening, and enjoying the fresh air and quality time together,” said Ashlea Olson, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron key spouse. “My children are a little older, 10 and seven-years-old, but to see families all over base participating in things like the base housing family bear hunt and sidewalk chalk drawings, it’s a cute idea and a nice distraction.”

U.S. Airmen rely on their spouses and family members to maintain the household and everyday life to remain focused on the mission. Olson said it’s important for her and her children to remain resilient and connected to the community so that while her husband is away on military duty he doesn’t have to worry.

Olson said here at Whiteman there is always someone willing to help a neighbor, coworker or friend. She appreciates that across the Air Force there are military websites and programs with reliable information for times like the COVID-19 pandemic. As a key spouse, Olson makes sure everyone on her spouse roster stays informed and connected.

“As a military community especially here at Whiteman, it’s very tight-knit,” Olson said. “My husband has been gone more times than I can count, which has made me fiercely independent. I treat the families around me as my extended family. It’s very important in times like this pandemic, that we remain socially distant, but emotionally connected.”

This period of self-isolation and quarantine also forced WAFB leaders to adapt and overcome, U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Katie McCool, the 509th Bomb Wing command chief, spent two weeks in self-quarantine after returning from the Bomber Task Force in Europe.

“Coming back from the BTF and going straight into self-quarantine was an adjustment,” McCool said. “And more than two weeks later most families are experiencing similar adjustments. We are practicing social distancing across the wing and in some cases quarantine and isolation.”

WAFB leaders urge all Airmen and their families to take social distancing seriously in order to flatten the curve and help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We have repeatedly asked for families to maintain at least six feet of separation from others,” added McCool. “This protective measure can have a tremendous impact on anyone but especially for our children.”

McCool said outside-the-box activities like the bear hunt keep Team Whiteman connected with their community.

“Activities like these show our resilience as a community and are what makes Whiteman Air Force Base so amazing,” McCool said.