Lori A. Bultman –
Whether a seasoned Air Force family or one brand new to military life, unit Key Spouses are available for support.
“Key Spouses are an essential part of the leadership team and the connective tissue which ensures our families are represented and cared for,” said Lt. Col. Kyle Bressette, commander, 35th Intelligence Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
“I consider the Key Spouses a strategic capability within the 35th IS. From greeting newcomers to celebrating and supporting squadron events, and representing the concerns and sacrifices of our squadron families; I could not effectively lead without my Key Spouse team,” he said.
The Air Force Key Spouse program is a commander's program created to enhance unit family readiness, and the role of the Key Spouse team is to lead that effort, helping build readiness and resilience, and establish a sense of community within the unit. The program is similar to the Navy’s Ombudsman Program or the Army’s Family Readiness Program.
The Key Spouse program also promotes partnerships between unit leadership, families, volunteer Key Spouses, centers, and other installation and community agencies.
Key Spouses are not just for active duty units.
“In addition to our JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and JBSA-Randolph counterparts, we partner with Key Spouse points of contact at local Air National Guard and Reserve units to provide support and training for their Key Spouses,” said Valerie D. Barber, JBSA-Lackland Military and Family Readiness Center. “We also share information and resources.”
Individual unit commanders are responsible for establishing and maintaining the program, as well as selecting Key Spouse leaders and building the unit’s Key Spouse team.
While the primary key spouse oversees the program, the commander sets the roles and responsibilities of the team based on the unit’s mission, and the Military and Family Readiness Center provides training.
“Our staff members provide initial and refresher training to the Key Spouses, as well as continuing education,” Barber said.
“One of the Key Spouses’ primary responsibilities is to provide timely information and referral services to families, and who better to help spouses navigate the military community than a military spouse,” said Daniel A. Borkowski, JBSA-Lackland Military and Family Readiness Center community readiness specialist.
Aubrea Boyd, a 35th IS Key Spouse, said she decided to become a Key Spouse when she realized she could help other spouses feel connected, supported and informed.
“We work directly with the commander and the first sergeant to ensure we meet their goals for the Key Spouse program, and we try to foster a sense of military family and community in our units,” Boyd said. “I love being a Key Spouse because it gives me the opportunity to help other spouses and families, whether that is through information, encouragement, a hot meal, or a hug."
“I started the Key Spouse program within my husband’s squadron because I never wanted another spouse or family member to feel as isolated as I felt when we moved here,” said Nicole Solis, 502nd Security Forces Squadron and JBSA’s 2019 Key Spouse of the Year. “As a Security Forces family, we face unique challenges which sometimes make it difficult to connect with others. I love being a Key Spouse because I love taking care of others and welcoming families to their new home.”
Brenda Reesman, a spouse at the 833rd Cyber Operations Squadron, also became a key spouse because she loves to help people.
“It's hard being a spouse in the military,” she said. “I know about all of the struggles, and I feel like I can offer people a lot.”
When families do struggle, Key Spouses often know right where to turn for assistance, linking service members and families to the local community and to the multitude of resources available.
The 502nd Security Forces Squadron Key Spouse team often coordinates a Welcome Wagon for newly arrived families, support for new mothers, dormitory dinners, picnics, sporting events and holiday gatherings.
“Ms. Solis organizes meal trains and social outings, she works as a liaison for families of deployed members, and she hosts spouse’s calls with the commander,” said Master Sgt. Thomas M. Rayniak Jr. from the 502nd Security Forces Squadron. “The Key Spouse program allows families to have a voice within the unit, and allows leadership to focus on the primary mission, while still ensuring the needs of the unit’s families are met.”
Rayniak said the SFS’s program has brought about change and opportunities within the unit.
“Having an outsider’s perspective has helped cultivate an atmosphere of positivity and a feeling of inclusion,” he said. “As the members of the unit form tighter bonds due to all of the hard work put in by Ms. Solis and the other Key Spouse team members, it has allowed unit members to be more forthcoming on issues they see are relevant to them being able to better accomplish their tasks.”
The 35th IS commander agrees.
“My wife and I are in awe daily by the amazing thoughtfulness and impact our Key Spouses have on the well-being and success of the 35th IS Bulldog family,” Bressette said. “To any command team: I strongly urge your investment in the Key Spouse program. It's a force multiplier that will make your squadron stronger and, most importantly, it will strengthen the Air Force families which provide the tremendous opportunities we have to serve."
For more information, contact the primary Key Spouse at your spouse’s unit or the program manager on your assigned installation; JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-2705; JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-5321; or JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-3722.
Additional information on the Key Spouse program can be found in Air Force Instruction 36-3009, 3.9.2 at https://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/af_a1/publication/afi36-3009/afi36-3009.pdf.