OAK HARBOR, Wash (NNS) - More than 100 active duty and Reserve personnel and their families attended an Individual Augmentee Appreciation event at the Convergence Zone aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, Oct. 28.

During the event, service members and their families learned how to cope with changes caused by Individual Augmentee (IA) deployments, through guest speakers and by sharing their own stories.

"It's a chance for us to celebrate the return of IA's and honor the departure of the ones who are leaving," said Kelly J. Gilman, an individual deployment support specialist (IDSS) at the Fleet and Family Support Center aboard Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. "The goal of the event is to have a network opportunity for the IA's, and there is no better resource than a returning IA for someone who is getting ready to go to the same place, so we hope they get a chance to meet and then sit down and talk to each other and network."

Topics during the event included transitions, emotional well-being and reconnecting couples.

Capt. Jay Johnston, NAS Whidbey Island commanding officer, thanked the Sailors and their families for their service and sacrifices during his opening remarks.

The Fleet and Family Support Center, Military One Source, Navy Relief Society, TriCare and FOCUS Project also provided attendees information about resources available to assist with their transition back from deployment.

During the event, family members were recognized for their sacrifices and were given a chance to share their stories as their loved ones were on deployment.

"Events like these are so important," said Dawn Laumb, wife of Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Martin Laumb assigned to Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) aboard NAS Whidbey Island. "Because of Kelly Gilman and everyone who's involved with the IA community, you have a sense of family and it is the first time I felt safe and that I felt I had a family I could run to.

"Whether I had something exciting to share or I needed that hug because I was having a really bad day; it's because of Kelly and the command and the entire base and the support that they have for the IA families just makes a huge difference everyday my husband was gone."

Personnel Specialist 1st Class (SW) Ron Zuber, of Benton, Ark., is assigned to Personnel Support Detachment (PSD) and is scheduled to leave for a global support assignment (GSA) in June.

"I came here this evening with my wife so we could talk with the Sailors that went to these types of assignments; and to know what to expect since this is not a regular deployment," said Zuber. "I'm happy that I came tonight because you receive a lot of information from people who went through it."

Family members also received support from other families during the event.

"I'm a little sad that my husband is leaving, and that is why I came here tonight; to listen to other families and other women about what they had gone through and the support system they had while their husbands were gone," said Geri Kai Zuber.

"The advice I would give a family member would be to attend the pre-deployment briefing for their service member," said Gilman. "I offer a lot of information and resources. I'm the person that contacts all our IA's families, once, if not twice monthly, just to make sure they're doing okay. Some of them, maybe the younger spouses that have not experienced deployments before need more attention, and I'm happy to give that."

To date, 241 NAS Whidbey Island Sailors, active duty and Reserve force have served as IA's.

"I think the IA communities are phenomenal people," said Gilman. "They have very strong family members. I think they're strong themselves, and what I hear over and over again is, I can't wait to go make a difference. They believe in what they're doing, and it's my honor to support them. I believe in what they do."

For more news from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/naswhidbey/.