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Key Spouse Program smooths transitions

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The life of a military spouse can bring some particular challenges. For a military member, their unit and mission provides an instant support system after a move; for a spouse finding a support system can be more difficult.

In recognition of the unique challenges spouses face, the Air Force developed the Key Spouse Program.

"Key spouses make life transitions smoother," said Nona Daugherty, 21st Force Support Squadron family and support readiness volunteer program manager. "When a military member deploys, a new baby is on the way, or family moves to a new duty location, a key spouse can help find the resources to help a family feel comfortable with their new situation."

The program was developed as a quality of life initiative modeled on a Navy Family Ombudsman Program. The Air Force program promises to offer similar support structures for spouses to support each other during life transitions. It was tested at five bases before becoming an Air Force-wide program in 2009.

Becoming a key spouse requires commitment and a sincere desire to help other people, said Daugherty.

Key spouses are volunteers who complete 12 hours of training on topics such as suicide awareness and communicating within the Air Force. They also receive update training at the base-level to be aware of specific resources available in their current location.

Jordan Hoefing, 76th Space Control Squadron key spouse, became a program volunteer shortly after arriving here. Within five days of her family's arrival on base, her husband, Capt. Jonathan Hoefing, was deployed, leaving Jordan at a new base with no support group. Wanting to make a difference to enhance unit support for other families with deployed spouses, she immediately called the commander and jumped at the chance to help.

"I truly want to help other spouses because we all have a common bond," said Hoefing. "A military spouse automatically understands your struggles and life challenges. As a key spouse, I can help them find the resources they need to smooth transitions."

The program is also designed to encourage spouses to become more involved with their sponsor's unit. A key spouse will often meet with the leadership team to formulate an action plan for unit needs around deployments or extended exercises.

"Airmen readiness is improved when other spouses are actively involved and taking care of each other," said Daugherty.

"The Key Spouse Program offers a direct link back between unit leadership and the spouses," she added. "The intent is to provide a connection between leadership and families."

There are times when leadership may not be aware of potential hardships that families face. A key spouse can be the person who keeps a pulse on families.

Part of the training a key spouse receives covers confidentiality. Discussing very personal matters, such as family finances, requires a promise that information will remain confidential.

"When several families begin to struggle with finances or other domestic issues, leadership can help," said Daugherty. "The commander can work to make struggles easier for families, but they first need to be aware of the problem. This is where the key spouse comes into play."

Enlisted or officer, all spouses are invited to be a part of the program to help their fellow members.

For more information on the Key Spouse Program, contact your unit leadership or the Peterson Airman and Family Readiness Center at 556-6141.

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