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Key spouse program has base talking

Col. Stephen N. Whiting, 21st Space Wing commander, talks with the Key Spouse Networking Group June 16, 2011, at the Peterson Airman and Family Readiness Center. Communication among the spouses, and with squadron and unit leadership, is the key to lowering stress and connecting families with programs and services. The Key Spouse Networking Group meets once a month to discuss the issues that families face during deployments, relocations, finding schools, accessing medical appointments, and more. (U.S. Air Force photo/Monica Mendoza)

Col. Stephen N. Whiting, 21st Space Wing commander, talks with the Key Spouse Networking Group June 16, 2011, at the Peterson Airman and Family Readiness Center. Communication among the spouses, and with squadron and unit leadership, is the key to lowering stress and connecting families with programs and services. The Key Spouse Networking Group meets once a month to discuss the issues that families face during deployments, relocations, finding schools, accessing medical appointments, and more. (U.S. Air Force photo/Monica Mendoza)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- There is a lot of talk going around Peterson Air Force Base.

And wing leaders don't want it to stop.

Peterson spouses have united into one of the largest and most vibrant key spouse programs in the Air Force. Through a commitment to share information about today's Air Force family they help keep squadron commanders informed on all the issues they face.

Currently there are 75 men and women in the Key Spouse Networking Group, which is charged with a mission to connect wives and husbands of Airmen to social networks or support programs.

"A lot of times, the spouses and unit members will talk to a spouse quicker than they would through official channels," said Mel Castile, Airman and Family Readiness Center personal and work life program leader.

This month, the spouses met with Col. Stephen N. Whiting, 21st Space Wing commander, for a chance to talk with him about such topics as deployed spouses, available counseling for youth, access to medical appointments, and marriage counseling and programs.

Sharing information is the key to the program, Colonel Whiting said. Sharing details and information can ease the stresses that families might be feeling regarding deployments, relocation or force shaping.

"These are tough times in the Air Force," Colonel Whiting said. "We have more personnel than we are allowed by Congress."

That means there will be reduction in officers and there is a cap on hiring for government employees, which will add stress to many families, he said.

"All across the Air Force - military, civilians and contractors - we are stressed and some of that may manifest with someone in your house," he said.

That's where sharing information and talking to one another comes in. There are dozens of programs available to help military families, including the School Liaison Officer and the Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator. Key spouses can help folks find the right programs for their needs.

The key spouse program started years ago as an informal way for spouses to share information. It became formalized in the late 1990s but fizzled over time. Last year, the program saw a revitalization as Air Force communities celebrated The Year of the Air Force Family. The Air Force standardized the key spouse program by giving spouses, commanders and first sergeants training on military programs and services available to Airmen and their families.

"One of the reasons we have been successful is because of strong leadership support," Mr. Castile said.

Key spouses have an official job description, are appointed by commanders and work directly with their first sergeants.

"If they are in a unit and they are a spouse, one of the most important tools they have is the key spouse," Mr. Castile said. "If they have a question or concern they can go to the key spouse. If the key spouse does not have the answers, the key spouse has the resources to get an answer immediately."

And that is something to talk about.
  • For more information about the Key Spouse Networking Group, call the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 556-6141.

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