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Key spouses vital to family readiness

Key spouses act as liaisons between squadron leadership and families, as well as a point of contact for other military families.

From left, Senior Master Sergeant Kimberly Perez, 2nd Special Operations Squadron first sergeant, gestures towards Tammy Summers, 2nd SOS key spouse, Jan. 28, 2020, Hurlburt Field, Fla. The Key Spouse program is intended to provide a support system for military spouses and families that creates a feeling of community within the squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dylan Gentile)

Key spouses act as liaisons between squadron leadership and families, as well as a point of contact for other military families.

Tammy Summers, 2nd Special Operations Squadron key spouse, poses in front of the 2nd SOS squadron logo, Jan. 28, 2020, Hurlburt Field, Fla. The Key Spouse program is a program where military spouses can volunteer to act as liasons between the commander and military families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dylan Gentile)

Key spouses act as liaisons between squadron leadership and families, as well as a point of contact for other military families.

Tammy Summers, 2nd Special Operations Squadron key spouse, poses in front of the U.S. flag, Jan. 28, 2020, Hurlburt Field, Fla. Summers won Key Spouse of the Year for 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dylan Gentile)

Key spouses act as liaisons between squadron leadership and families, as well as a point of contact for other military families.

From left, Senior Master Sgt. Kimberly Perez, 2nd Special Operations Squadron first Sergeant, poses with Tammy Summers, 2nd SOS key spouse, Jan. 28, 2020, Hurlburt Field, Fla. First Sergeants help to coordinate and run the key spouse program, so Summers and Perez work together frequently. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dylan Gentile)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- The mission set of the 919th Special Operations wing is dynamic and always moving. When the mission is constantly moving, so are the people. When the Airmen go away, their families are often still here at home.

“We have a lot of spouses and people that move who have to start over again,” said Jackie Gonzales, director for the Airman Family and Readiness Center on Duke Field. “Many spouses will need new jobs. They also have to find a new social circle and they've got to figure out a way to build their families up in a new place. The Key Spouse Program is an important way for us to help support them.”

The Key Spouse Program allows spouses to volunteer to serve as a liaison between families and their squadron's leadership, said Gonzales. They can also serve as a point of contact for other spouses to reach out to for anything from suggestions on local recreational activities to assistance dealing with a family emergency.

“Key spouses are especially effective at creating a culture that connects families and builds a strong sense of cohesion throughout the unit,’” said Amanda Grandy, Key Spouse Mentor for the 919th Special Operations Wing. “Organizations with a strong Key Spouse Program provide an environment where members and families feel like they’re part of something. The model for the program works. We just want to grow it at Duke and Hurlburt Field.”  

A robust Key Spouse Program can help with the inherent challenges of integrating into an organization as well. When military members arrive a new base, they’re connected to other unit members by default but for spouses it’s often a bit more difficult.

Grandy said everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of a “tribe.” Part of the program’s goal is to provide for that tribe. With a small amount of effort, key spouse volunteers can organize events, get together, or and just be there for each other.

“I will say the 919th has an amazing group of spouses and volunteers that do incredible things to help,” said Gonzales. “It's such a great feeling knowing that we have a great group of people ready to offer support if needed.”

The key spouses can contribute to a wide variety of activities that provide for the morale and cohesion of the unit, said Gonzales. Tasks and goals are dependent on the needs of the squadron, and that’s something the commanders can determine in conjunction with the spouses. They also serve to connect members and their families with programs that are available to help fill specific needs. 

Any spouse who is interested can volunteer for the program.

"If the unit doesn't have a key spouse representative already, simply go to the commander or their first sergeant and tell them you would like to help establish a program for the unit," said Grandy. "If there is a key spouse in place, other volunteers can use that person as a resource to get training and to connect them with the squadron's leadership.”

In most cases, all it takes to create an effective Key Spouse Program is to find someone with initiative and a willingness to help.

“People become key spouses because they have a desire to serve in their unit in a volunteer capacity on their own time to create community and communication throughout their unit,” said Grandy. “In doing so, these connections provide the wing the opportunity to have events that are successful and for people to feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves.”

If you are interested in joining the Key Spouse Program, contact Airman Family and Readiness at 850-883-6474.