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Reconnecting Through Quarantine: Isolation brings military family closer

Two young children use an IPad to FaceTime with their father.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Chris, 509th Operations Support Squadron director of operations, video chats with his youngest children, in their home at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. Chris completed a mandatory two-week quarantine after returning from an European temporary duty location. (Courtesy photo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

Whiteman Air Force Base is home to the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, but the bombers are not the only asset to possess the ability to go undetected.

One WAFB family used stealth to their advantage during a two-week quarantine that was used as a precautionary measure to combat the potential spread of coronavirus.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Chris Conant, 509th Operations Support Squadron director of operations, and his family are one of many across the base experiencing the challenges of mandatory quarantine.

"I automatically quarantined following my return from a temporary duty overseas," Conant said.

During his most recent TDY, Conant stayed in virtual contact with his wife and children, which made his transition into quarantine easier for the family.

"I was expecting him to need to quarantine," his wife said. "We came to the conclusion that whether or not he had the virus, for our family of five, isolation somewhere in our house was the best choice." 

Isolation in their family home came with a set of unique challenges.

"When he came home, I made sure to have the toddlers in bed already," his wife said. "We wanted to make sure we didn't cause any undue stress on them, expecting toddlers to maintain the 6-foot distance, seemed nearly impossible." 

Conant completed his quarantine in the master bedroom of their family home, ensuring he maintained the recommended 6-foot distance from his wife and their four children. He said it was important to remain isolated for the health of his family, even keeping his trash and dirty laundry separate.

"My two youngest, they didn't even know I was in the house," Conant said. "The most challenging was hearing the kids laughing, having fun, or hearing them cry, and there was nothing I could do to help them."

Being unable to interact with his family physically was difficult. In order to remain resilient the family focused on communication. They frequently used the internet to stay in contact, and periodically, his oldest children would talk to him through the bedroom door. 

"Having him in the house, but out of sight was weird," his wife said. "We treated it like a short TDY. The children would video call him. We enjoyed being able to see his face and his mustache."

After the two-week quarantine concluded, they enjoyed a family reunion. 

"Like most families, we had to adapt," Conant said. "There is no ideal situation during a time like this. As a family, we had to find what worked best for us. I know my wife is happy it's over and she has help again."

His wife echoed his statement saying it was a happy reunion for the children and attributed their military lifestyle to their ability to adapt.

"I believe the military has prepared me for moments like this," his wife said. “I'm comfortable handling the kids alone when I need to. We knew, as a family, what we had to do. We knew that it was for our safety and the safety of others. I've been in contact with other spouses, and it's comforting to know we aren't alone during this pandemic. As a family, we've gained so much gratitude for each other and our community.”

Whiteman leaders declared a public health emergency March 22, and implemented measures to help the base protect its people and mission capabilities.

Families are reminded to do their part to help flatten the curve associated with the COVID-19 virus, by washing their hands for at least 20 seconds, maintaining 6-foot distance from others, only leaving the house for essentials, and wearing a protective mask to prevent the spread of the virus when they can’t practice social distancing.

For more information on Team Whiteman’s resonse to the coronavirus, visit www.Whiteman.af.mil.