JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Key spouse mentors work to ensure military families exist in harmony during each assignment experience and are taken care of during times of hardship.
The Key Spouse Program’s mission is to provide information and resources to military spouses as well as supporting families in successfully navigating through the military cycle.
Air Force leadership encourages involvement on all levels to strengthen resilience and build a sense of community, particularly during deployments and permanent change of station.
Mentors play a pivotal role in the success of the program, which is a squadron commander led program. Key spouses are entrenched with assisting with day-to-day issues, while key spouse mentor play more of an advisory role for the key spouses.
“Key spouse mentors work alongside commanders and first sergeants to figure out how to best take care of the families in the squadron,” said Leslie Janaros, 37th Training Wing key spouse mentor and wife of Col. Jason Janaros, 37th TRW commander.
Key spouses participate in quarterly training with the Military and Family Readiness Center on a wide variety of topics to ensure they are equipped to assist families when necessary. The training includes topics like suicide awareness and sexual assault prevention response.
The training paired with the mentors’ years of personal first-hand experience of the military lifestyle, specialized skills of advocacy, influence and community awareness help make them ideal for the position.
“They’re seasoned spouses,” said Hazel Wong, 802nd Force Support Squadron, work-life consultant for the key spouse program. “When a spouse comes to them and reports a problem that they’re struggling with, a mentor can help the key spouses make the proper referral.”
The key spouses refer families to relative resources that is able to assist or resolve the problem or difficulty they may be facing. The referrals vary because each need and situation is different and may require different solutions. Some of the challenges unit families face include deployment, moving to a new base and acclimating to a different cultures.
“Basic things sometimes can be challenging,” said Lidia Davidson, Inter-American Air Force Academy key spouse mentor. “When you connect with [new spouses] and friendship builds, they will feel more comfortable to come and can say, ‘Hey Lidia, I’m having this situation.’”
In her role as a key spouse mentor, Davidson has helped visiting IAAFA instructors’ families connect with each other as well as familiarizing them with JBSA and where to go for certain needs. She also helps visiting spouses enroll in free English classes, which makes it easier for them to communicate during their stay.
Key spouse mentors for the 59th Medical Specialty Squadron are focused on making sure family’s medical needs are met. Mentors assist families looking for healthcare options and with special needs.
“It’s a team effort to get the job done,” said Shaun Beal, 59th MDSP key spouse mentor.
To keep the program successful, mentors are ready to lend a hand wherever needed.
“The key spouse mentor is the one that facilitates communication,” Janaros said, adding mentors must keep everyone from the commander to key spouses informed about key spouse issues.
Whatever method of communication a key spouse mentor chooses to engage with families, their role is to make sure it’s strong.
“By just knowing where to go for resources, I think you can have the most impact as a key spouse mentor,” Janaros said.
For more information, call 210-671-3722.