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Remote Parenting

Capt. Joseph Matejcik, (right) 10th Space Warning Squadron civil engineer officer, plays with his son Sept. 26, 2019 at Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota. The community center is the main building on the installation for parents to come together and play with their kids. (U.S Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Sara Keller)

Capt. Joseph Matejcik, (right) 10th Space Warning Squadron civil engineer officer, plays with his son Sept. 26, 2019 at Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota. The community center is the main building on the installation for parents to come together and play with their kids. (U.S Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Sara Keller)

CAVALIER AIR FORCE STATION, N.D. --

Parenting can be one of the most difficult jobs a person can do. Throw in being a uniformed service member, and it gets even more challenging. Now imagine parenting with no local hospitals, medical specialists, major grocery stores or entertainment for kids within 50 miles.

Welcome to the reality of parenting at Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota: the Air Force’s only remote installation in the continental United States.

Cavalier AFS’s mission is focused around being America’s first line of defense for missile warning and space surveillance. Everyone’s purpose on the installation is to operate and support the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System. This radar just happens to be in the middle of nowhere. This adds layers to the challenges of parenting.

Lt. Col. Ryan Durand, 10th Space Warning Squadron commander, and his spouse Robyn Durand are two of the parents navigating this unique situation.

Robyn, an expecting mother, has frequent checkups that only get more frequent the further along she gets. Every checkup is a three-hour round trip to Grand Forks, North Dakota, unless she needs to see a specialist which is a five hour round trip to Fargo, North Dakota.

“Anything that is more than a common cold doctor’s appointment is at least 1 ½-hour drive,” said Robyn. “It makes it really hard for Ryan, or any military member, to be able to take leave every time a family member has an appointment.” 

Ryan, being the commander, has a busy schedule and can find it hard to balance family and the mission.

“The mission never stops,” said Ryan. “Sometimes it feels like you can’t leave, and that the mission won’t go on without you, but at the same time, you realize your family can’t replace you. They need you too.”

Remote locations can strip parents of many resources, but Ryan says this small installation has something that can be hard to find at bigger base: a close community that relies on one another.

Robyn recollects times where the spouses have helped each other. Whether it was in times of emergency or even just when they need a break, parents were able to drop off their kids or pets at a house next door, so they could think. Another time, there was a mom who came over in pajamas because she was out of coffee.

“Everyone is so close here, and it’s not something you really get at larger bases. The kids really grow up together here,” said Robyn. “The biggest challenge with small children here is that there is nothing for them to go do, so us parents really rely on each other whenever we need help.” 

Ryan added that the people at Cavalier quickly become family.

“And as a family, you aren’t always going to get along, but we know we have each other’s backs,” said Ryan. “I know when I have needed help, someone was always willing to jump through a hoop to cover for me.”

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