Air Force credits Airman resiliency to spouse support

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Air Force leadership continues to encourage Airmen to embrace a total-person concept, which is a deliberate focus on mental, spiritual, physical and social wellbeing.

That wellbeing, or resiliency, grows when an Airman has the full support of the unit, coworkers or family members.

"Military families make a significant commitment to support our service to the nation," said U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III in a recent letter directed to all wing commanders and command chiefs. "They need to know what resources are available when they face life's toughest storms."

As such, the Air Force is reinvigorating their Key Spouse Program, an initiative that equips families with the tools necessary to enhance readiness and establish a sense of Air Force community. The program is volunteer driven and uses standardized training to provide a foundation for spouses to act as leaders in their unit's community. It also connects key spouses with families who may need the help of support agencies across the service.

"Key Spouses can help in a huge way by pointing families to agencies that provide a 'shelter' during those times," Welsh continued. "Your active involvement in this program encourages a stronger sense of community through spouse-to-spouse support networks, increases communication flow and helps us build a more resilient fleet."

The goal is to have these positions available for spouses to educate, advocate for and empower other spouses, said Bernie McFarling, community readiness specialist for the 52nd Force Support Squadron's Airman and Family Readiness Center. The health of an Airman's family is vital to completing the Air Force mission -- each person, regardless if military or civilian, should know their own unique contribution.

Teachers of the six-hour standardized Key Spouse training show the participants the inner workings of the program and discuss common communication problem areas, like deployments.

"The stresses on a military family during a deployment are tremendous," she said, "but having one point of contact or a key spouse really helps out. The key spouses don't necessarily have to know everything, but they will know where to go to get help."

When a military sponsor deploys, especially for an overseas family, the spouse may sometimes feel disconnected from the military community, McFarling said. The key spouses can then share base information, such as upcoming events or gate closures, to maintain essential periodic contact among families affected by a deployment.

"We bring a diverse group of people together and use their strengths," she said about the communication effort. "We try as best we can to help out the new spouses with familiarizing themselves with the military lifestyle, traditions and heritage."

Any Air Force ID cardholder can volunteer to become a key spouse, but applicants must acquire endorsement from their unit commander. Appointment letters are good for one year, and the A&FRC offers optional training throughout the year to keep the key spouses as up to date on Air Force policies as possible: Group sessions are put on by agents such as the school liaison officer, mental health providers and education consultants.

"We recruit Airmen but retain families," Welsh said. "We have a sacred responsibility to care for both."

For more information about becoming a key spouse, call the A&FRC at DSN 452-6422 or 06565-61-6422.