Maxwell kicks off Spouse Appreciation Week
Suzie Schwartz, wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, discusses her experiences as a military spouse May 7, 2012 at the Maxwell Event Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Schwartz was the guest speaker during the Spouse Appreciation Week kick-off event, which also included an information fair featuring base agencies. (Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)
by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs
5/8/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Spouse Appreciation Week kicked off here May 7 with an information fair and visit from Suzie Schwartz, wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.
Helping spouses is essential to the Air Force mission, she said during remarks to Maxwell spouses.
"People don't stay in [the Air Force] unless they are happy," Schwartz said, acknowledging that spouses are an important part of the team. "People do care about you. You have no idea how much people care about you."
When she first became a military spouse, many resources spouses have today were not available, she said. But times have changed, and Schwartz said she has done her best to help spouses get the assistance they need.
When she married then-Captain Schwartz, she was a schoolteacher in Little Rock, Ark. Having grown up a military brat, she said she thought she knew what she was getting into marrying an Airman and moving to Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Schwartz said she was hesitant to go to the officers' wives club there, thinking the club did not have anything to offer. She now admits she was wrong and is thankful for the life-long friends she met at her first meeting.
Schwartz said she balanced her career and role as an Air Force spouse by attending evening and weekend events, along with as many promotions and other ceremonies as she could.
"I even watched them golf for goodness sake," she said. "I went everywhere."
Similarly, Schwartz encouraged the Maxwell spouses to find the balance between their obligations as an Air Force spouse, and their personal and professional goals.
"You can do both," she said "We're just asking you to give a little of yourself back and stay connected."
THE AIR FORCE CARES
Organizations such as the spouses' clubs, Airman and Family Readiness Centers, and chapels offer spouses a chance to network and meet others, Schwartz said.
"Go and find out where it is you will make that connection," she said. "We have all of these organizations for a reason."
The Key Spouse Program is another way spouses can be involved in the Air Force community, allowing them to support one other, Schwartz said.
Over the years, the Air Force has also examined the programs and services it provides to families, and has eliminated those which are under-utilized, Schwartz said.
"We can't keep doing stuff the same old way if it costs money and people aren't using it," she said, emphasizing that the Air Force's commitment to families will never be reduced.
AMERICA CARES, TOO
Just as the Air Force will continue to support military spouses, Schwartz said they also have the support the American people as well.
For example, she said she went to the kick-off of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership in Washington, D.C., and learned about the American Chambers of Commerce's dedication to spouses.
"They actually care," she said. "This is the kind of stuff that is happening out there for you."
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have joined together in support of military children's education and spouse employment--two issues which are particularly important to military husbands and wives, she said.
"Those two people care about you," Schwartz said.
Col. Brian Killough, 42nd Air Base Wing commander and event host, thanked Schwartz for her speech and dedication to spouses.
"She has been an unfailing advocate for military families and spouses," he said.
Killough also thanked the spouses themselves for their dedication to their Airmen and the Maxwell community, and credited them with helping to make Maxwell the "best hometown in the Air Force."
"I appreciate everything you do," he said. "You are a part of the team, whether you wear the uniform or not."