Getting to know the Key Spouse Program

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The Key Spouse program is a squadron/unit commander program and as such, can be tailored to meet the needs of their individual squadrons. In general, Key Spouses are a focal point for information and support to families in their squadrons.

Key Spouses provide someone to listen when people need to talk, and can also point families in the right direction for existing formalized support services. They are also directly linked to the Airman and Family Readiness Center, which provides an excellent source for information and support. Key Spouses are important resources for military families because they are peers, they "have been there, done that!"

Interested unit spouses or retiree volunteer(s) that would like to be a Key Spouse should contact their spouse's unit commander or first sergeant.

Columbus Air Force Base squadrons are always looking for energetic spouses who would like to volunteer and be a part of the Key Spouse Team. No experience is required, just a positive attitude and a compassion and commitment to help others.

The related commentaries offer some firsthand experiences of what a Key Spouse does and also some tips and advice a military spouse might be able to use to help them in their profession. To learn more about your unit's Key Spouse Program, please contact the AFRC for details.

Chorissa Deline
14th Civil Engineer Squadron Key Spouse

Being a Key Spouse means being somebody's friend when they didn’t realize they needed one. A Key Spouse is appointed by a commander as a part of a program that is designed to train spouses to be able to assist a spouse or family in the military lifestyle.

The number one goal for us is to ensure the safety and well-being of their squadron as well as to enhance mission readiness and resiliency and establish a sense of community. From happy life events, to the unavoidable deployments, to something as simple as squadron events. It’s easy to forget that life in the military isn’t going to be like civilian life.

A Key Spouse is meant to be be there whenever they are needed. Deployments are the ones that are emphasized the most. We are there for the family unit’s before, during, and after a deployment. Once we are certain that the entire family is aware of the deployment we will reach out to them. I will inform them of the different issues that may arise and how to prepare for those before they happen. During a deployment we will periodically check in on the spouses. Ensure there is nothing that they need or if there is something that they don’t know how to navigate we will assist to help them through it. Almost as if we are a “stand in spouse.” We are there when they need an ear to bend. A hand to guide them. And when we don’t know the answer to something, we are able to access our own chain of command.

Typically we go to our first sergeant when something occurs that we don’t know how to navigate. If it is required we can go all the way up to our commander and get his/her involvement. After the loved one has returned we will check in to make sure that the reintegration of the family is going smoothly and there isn’t anything that we can assist with.

We are also there for the families during everyday life. There are so many events and programs out there for almost everything that goes on in a typical military family life. We help to get information out for what is going on in each family's life. We also get information from our commanders or the other base commanders out to the spouses to try and help everyone remain on the same page. All while we maintain privacy. Before we can talk to anybody about an issue at hand, we will request the permission from the spouse that has reached out to us. If the key spouse isn’t trusted the program would ultimately fail.

Christmas Blair Kitko
41st Flying Training Squadron Key Spouse

One of the biggest things we, as Air Force spouses, face is regular moving. These moves can be anywhere from just down the road to half-way around the world.

For spouses with careers, this comes with the added challenge of trying to find a new job and possibly moving a certification from one state to another. In the 15 years I have been privileged to be an Air Force spouse, I have moved from Oklahoma to Nebraska to Florida and Mississippi. We just received orders to go back to Nebraska, so I am on the journey to get my teaching license moved from Mississippi to Nebraska.

When we moved here, the state of Mississippi just asked for a copy of my Florida teaching certification and that was enough, but after calling the Department of Education in Nebraska, it looks like this transfer will take a little more elbow grease to accomplish.

Every state is different and they all require different things in order to legally teach, practice nursing, etc. This is the key to being successful: Know what the state you are moving to requires, walking through each step of the process, and be patient but persistent. Sometimes we will hit the jackpot and sometimes the end result will mean a little bit more because we had to work just a little bit harder for it.

This is all fine and well, but where do you start?

Let me give you three places to start that I believe will go a long way to easing your next career journey. The AFRC at your gaining base would be a wonderful place to contact right before the movers show up.

Once I got here and was job hunting, the School Liaison Office, proved to be a great help in steering me in the right direction. Military OneSource is also a fantastic place to go for help in this area. They helped me create a resume that any employer would notice. Finally, simply call your governing body, such as the state Department of Education, and ask the questions you have. They are the subject matter experts after all and have often handled these issues before. Start with these steps and I am certain any spouse could be well on their way to finding that a permanent change of station can be simpler and easier than they originally thought.

With each other’s help, we can accomplish anything, even getting our dream job, only to move three years later ... again.