NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Preparing for a new assignment or a deployment can be overwhelming for a family. The military member has a checklist and key personnel that prepare them for the move or temporary duty. While the family doesn’t have that checklist, they do have key personnel that can guide them through the move or deployment. These people are the unit’s Key Spouses.
The Key Spouse Program was established by the Air Force in 2009 and centers on military spouses who are selected by unit commanders, and trained to act as a liaison to unit families. They are a link between families, unit commanders and helping resources, and provide a peer-to-peer avenue through which the unit can respond to the families’ concerns.
“Even though it’s a commander’s program, the main role of the key spouse is connecting with the families”, said Stephanie Garnes, Nellis Airman and Family Center’s key spouse program coordinator.
The key spouses become experts at connecting unit spouses with resources and agencies that can help. The Airman and Family Readiness Center provides initial and additional training and serves as a referral resource for Key Spouses.
Key Spouses follow up with the family and can provide information about the unit and the base from their perspective and experience. This increases the sense of support from the unit while encouraging open communication. This open communication helps families with the unknown while showing them that they are not in this event alone.
“Sometimes spouses feel more comfortable contacting a peer for assistance rather than a supervisor,” Garnes said.
From pre-deployment to the reunion, Key Spouses provide support to family members. The Key Spouses, with support of from the unit and other organizations, provide the tools for a family to be resilient. This promotes individual, family and unit readiness while building strong Air Force communities.
Though each unit commander has discretion in managing the unit key spouse program, several Nellis units have great programs that provide the key spouses with support such as business cards, inclusion in commander’s calls, unit gatherings, invitations to unit functions, and partnering with squadron booster activities. Each program is tailored to the needs of the unit.
Nellis currently has 143 Key Spouses that are trained volunteers who are active, available and visible team players that are official representatives of their assigned unit.
Garnes said that the Airman and Family Readiness Center will conduct its next Key Spouses training on Oct. 25, and that spouses interested in participating should contact the unit first sergeant for more information about being appointed. She also said unit first sergeants and A&FRC can assist family members connect with the unit key spouses.
For additional information on the Key Spouses program contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 652-3327.