Air Force key spouses make a difference



by Kim Milner
Key spouse mentor, 42nd Mission Support Group


4/23/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Key Spouse program, revised in 2009 as part of the "Year of the Air Force Family" initiative, focuses on the whole family. With so many active-duty members deployed and away from home, the Air Force realized its programs needed an upgrade.

Key spouses are spouses from individual units appointed by the unit commander at every base. Many units have more than one. They maintain contact with families of the unit to support and provide resources and guidance.

The program builds a team, made up of the unit commander, key spouse, first sergeant and key spouse mentor. Together they work to ensure 100 percent follow up with unit families.

"We want to be in contact with all of our families so that when a deployment arrives, the relationship in the unit is already there," said Verenice Castillo, key spouse mentor for the 42nd Security Forces Squadron.

Key spouses are trained through airman and family readiness centers at the base level, as those centers are also where Airmen and families can get help. Essentially once a key spouse is trained, they have knowledge of the resources available.

"It's important for families to get to know their unit key spouse for many reasons," Castillo said. "They can tell you about things that are happening on base and in the community, those activities that make memories and life fun."

The key spouses are doing great things at Maxwell. For the first time, key spouses took part in the 42nd Security Forces pre-deployment briefings in February.

"The active duty are required to attend pre-deployment briefings before they deploy, and we've always encouraged spouses to attend those as well because of all the information that is briefed, but it is rare for the spouses to come out. We just don't know if the member is actually getting the information home," said Andrew Tveit, Maxwell's Airman and Family Readiness Center key spouse coordinator. "When spouses come, they can get the information firsthand and we know they've got it."

Security forces key spouses invited spouses to the February pre-deployment briefing and were present to meet with them. "We had four spouses there, and we were so excited. We want to be at all of the pre-deployment briefings, and we want all of the spouses of the deployment at the briefing," Castillo said. "We think every unit's pre-deployment briefings need to be attended by the unit key spouse and the spouses of the members that are deploying. It is so important for families to know what is going on and what is out there to help them get through the deployment."

Security forces key spouses hold bimonthly meetings for the spouses of the unit, as well as monthly get-togethers for spouses and families of their deployed. With the permanent change of station season approaching, they also plan to have a key spouse greet all new families.

It is important for all spouses to meet their unit key spouses. You might even want to become a key spouse yourself. With spouses working together, we can make a difference.