JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – After a loved one joins the military, their spouse and family members may need assistance in learning how to navigate through the unique aspects of a military lifestyle.
Established in May 2001, and funded by the Air Force Aid Society, the Heart Link Spouse Orientation Program helps to empower spouses and family members by providing community services and resources to enhance mission readiness.
According to Robyn Wilson, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Airman and Family Readiness Center community readiness consultant, the program which is referred to as Air Force 101 for spouses, provides attendees with an opportunity to learn, network, become familiar with on and off-base resources and to have fun.
“The 633rd Air Base Wing commander explains the role of the spouse and how significant they are to the success of the mission,” said Wilson. “We depend on spouses to become exceptional wingmen, so in explaining their role, we emphasize that it’s not just the active-duty member who is serving — the spouse is serving too; the entire family is serving.”
During the orientation, participants receive a packet, which includes information about AFRC’s community partner agencies. Attendees also receive Heart Link coins and are encouraged to go home and challenge their spouse with the military knowledge they received at the orientation.
Another discussion topic includes an explanation of the Heart Link logo, which features the U.S. Air Force symbol and an aircraft symbolizing the U.S. Air Force and its operational mission. A heart-shaped contrail, made by the plane, surrounds to signify the link between the spouse and military family.
“We help them to begin a tool-kit which includes a guide that explains the Air Force mission, structure, acronyms and traditions. There is a checklist for new military spouses and a spouse resource list,” said Wilson. “We send them away with loads of information.”
The information packet also contains an Integrated Delivery Service Team agency guide, Where Do I Go for Help, which lists contact information for on and off-base support agencies.
In addition, community agency representatives sit among the attendees while Wilson conducts a role-play scenario of a new spouse who is troubled and needs assistance.
According to Wilson, role play allows the participants to contribute and give advice on what community agencies can help.
As a spouse who is new to the military, Melissa Hoffman has attended a Heart Link orientation program and believes it is a useful tool.
“I got to meet other new spouses and learn what resources were available to me,” said Hoffman. “I now know that there is help for anything my family or I may need.”