Strength for Spouses - A red carpet night for 42nd ABW

by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs

10/5/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- To help spouses develop resiliency, key spouse mentors designed a new program and presented it to the community Sept. 28 during a red-carpet event at the Maxwell Club.

Leaders and families learned about the Strength for Spouses program, which features a video, resiliency quiz and resources to help families adapt during deployments.

The event included a red carpet, popcorn and drinks to raise excitement about this new initiative.

"We can share the information with them about the most important facts and tools that will help them with this experience," said Verenice Castillo, wife of 42nd Security Forces Squadron Commander Maj. Tony Castillo.

She and Kim Milner, wife of 42nd Mission Support Group Commander Col. Joseph Milner, wrote the script to highlight issues spouses face during deployments.

In the video, Andrew Tveit from the Maxwell Airman and Family Readiness Center is the narrator, and Michelle Cool, wife of Col. David Cool from the Air War College, her daughters Courtney and Kamryn, and Tony Castillo Jr. act out the scenarios.

This program was developed by spouses for spouses to be presented with assistance from the Airman and Family Readiness Center and military family life consultants.

The goal is for the program to be presented Air Force wide. Part one is part of the predeployment checklist.

Part two prepares the spouses for reintegration and includes tips on making marriages work, helping children welcome home a deployed parent and noticing signs of combat-related stress in their spouses and themselves.

"It's all about bringing the family back together," Mrs. Castillo said.

Mrs. Milner and Mrs. Castillo noticed that spouses were missing from the predeployment and reintegration processes. Even if they are invited to briefings, many do not attend, and often the deployer will not bring home the information, leaving the spouse uninformed.

"We are not providing the fuel to keep the home fires burning," Mrs. Milner said.

Designing Strength for Spouses was prompted by a recent security forces deployment, but the two spouses wanted to develop a program that could reach all spouses.

"The program was developed to be utilized in any unit, with one spouse or 300," Mrs. Castillo said.

Security forces spouses heard the program last month, and it far exceeded expectations, Maj. Castillo said. They learned about resources they were unaware of, and single Airmen passed information onto their extended families.

The Strength for Spouses program is more than just a briefing. It aims to connect commanders and first sergeants with the families they will assist during the deployment, bringing everyone together.

"It enables the leadership team to talk to the spouses themselves," he said. "It establishes rapport, it builds trust and it opens lines of communication," Maj. Castillo said.

After seeing the video and learning about the Strength for Spouses program, 42nd Air Base Wing Commander Col. Trent Edwards and his wife, Vanessa Edwards, thanked those who organized the program and red carpet event.

"I am so proud of how much you care and what your caring has done for the 42nd Air Base Wing spouses and families," Mrs. Edwards said.

The success of the program hinges on the support of commanders reaching out to spouses.

"This is important and can make a difference," Col. Edwards said. "Commanders, I'm going to challenge you since this is only as good as you make it."