Air Force Spouse Relationships are Key to Mission Success Published May 2, 2016 By Mrs. Carolyn M. Ritschard 90 MDG Key Spouse Mentor F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- When our fifth child was born, my husband sent a birth announcement to the “Jet 48,” a weekly magazine published at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. It had a regular column featuring the parents of the children born in the base community. As a joke, he added a title to my name: “Mundford Off-Base Installation Commander.” What a surprise we had when the announcement was printed with that title! Though it all started with lighthearted humor, we have grown to understand through the years how important strong families are to the strength of the United States Air Force. Just as Airmen need designated Wingmen, spouses need “wingmen,” too. Strong, resilient Air Force spouses result when all of us clearly focus on developing relationships within the Air Force community. To ease the transition to the Air Force culture, all spouses new to the Air Force should attend the Heartlink program soon after arriving at their duty station. The Heartlink program not only provides basic information about the Air Force and its functions, it also gives practical, specific information about the local installation. It also provides a structured way to meet other spouses and learn about resources in the local community. Even after 20 years in the Air Force, I learn valuable information every time I attend Heartlink. The F.E. Warren Airman & Family Readiness Center offers the Military Spouses Orientation Tour and Heartlink quarterly. The next tour is June 30, 2016 from 8:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Call (307)-773-5946 or (307)-773-2241 to sign-up for the tour, free luncheon and child care vouchers for the event. All spouses new to the base are also encouraged to attend “Right Start,” which is offered the second Wednesday of every month. This program, hosted by the Airman and Family Readiness Center, is a great way to understand the mission of a new duty station, as well as learn about community and base opportunities. Getting involved in flight and squadron activities builds lasting friendships and helps ease some of the stresses and strains associated with the Air Force lifestyle. Military spouses learn from each other’s experiences—from permanent-change-of-station tips to recommendations for a local dentist or hair dresser, to advice on surviving a long-term deployment or frequent “in-place,” separations to the missile fields. Monthly unit spouse coffees are great opportunities to meet others with whom you can discuss experiences unique to the military spouse. In addition to fun and fellowship, flight and squadron involvement gives spouses an opportunity to serve. I recommend spouses contact their unit’s key spouse. The Key Spouse Program is designed to enhance readiness and establish a sense of Air Force community. It is a commander’s program that promotes partnerships with unit leadership, the unit first sergeant, volunteer key spouses, families and the Airman & Family Readiness Center. The program was standardized across the Air Force to address the needs of military families—with special emphasis on support to families across the deployment cycle. Key spouses are often looking for other spouses who are willing to assist in meeting the needs within their units. Support for spouses is vital when our Airmen are away for duty. In general, spouses feel more comfortable accepting acts of kindness and service from those they have already met; so again, it’s important for spouses to get plugged in early to a new assignment. As a key spouse, I have learned existing programs extending help to families are more readily accepted by spouses, than are vague questions such as, “Is there anything I can help you with?” As an example, key spouses can connect you with valuable resources to help in stressful times, so that when help is needed, the key spouse or first sergeant can call and say, “Our base offers babysitting through a Parents Night Out, or deployed family support through Waiting Warriors. How can we help get you connected?” Concrete offers to help in specific ways are a key element in keeping our families strong and resilient. Base-wide spouse social events and groups are another opportunity for fun fellowship. The Warren Spouses Club, which regularly meets the third Tuesday of the month, is open to all spouses (regardless of the sponsor's rank) of active duty, guard, reserve and retirees of all branches of service. For more information checkout "Warren Spouses Club," on Facebook or their website at www.warrenspousesclub.org. Some of the other great activities for spouse support and friendship unique to F.E. Warren are “Waiting Warriors,” which meets every first and third Friday evening at the Chapel Annex from 6-7:30 p.m. (children welcome); Jump & Java at Fall Hall Community Center every Tuesday, 9:30-11:30 a.m.; and “Scandalous Sisters at F.E. Warren” (check out their Facebook page for events). When my husband deployed to Afghanistan, I was thankful that I had developed relationships within our base community at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. I experienced new pressures created by his absence. I was encouraged by the support of members of his squadron, by his supervisor and by fellow Air Force spouses. Many people from our base community supported our family in practical ways—including teaching my oldest son how to drive! I drew on the strength of my Air Force spouse wingmen. Strong relationships between military spouses are vital to mission success.