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12th FTW spouse attends Caring for People Forum

By 2nd Lt. Keenan Kunst | 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 2, 2012

NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, Fla. — A 12th Flying Training Wing spouse recently attended the Caring for People Forum in Washington D.C., where she had the opportunity to help shape support programs and services available to Airmen and their families.

Mary Anderson, wife of Lt. Col. Mark Anderson, 455th Flying Training Squadron, and the 455th FTS Key Spouse, participated in the event as the Air Education and Training Command Key Spouse of the Year. Anderson was announced as the AETC Key Spouse of the Year earlier this year for her contributions to the 479th Flying Training Group and the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., community.

The annual forum provides a venue for top brass, Airmen, and key spouses to address the concerns of the Air Force family and propose and discuss initiatives. At this year's forum, held from Sept. 26 to 27, Anderson received recognition for her service and had the opportunity to make her voice heard on behalf of Air Force families all over the globe.

Though, the recognition is secondary for Anderson, she sees her service as a responsibility and is happy to provide support to the families of service members.

"I have seen my share of good and bad support systems," she said. "As a commander's spouse in a joint environment; I feel it is my responsibility to support military members and their families to the max extent possible."

Since 2010, Anderson has served the NAS-Pensacola community and 479th FTG family whenever possible, whether that be through cooking holiday meals for service members who couldn't make it home for the holidays or creating a guide welcoming new families to Pensacola and helping them acclimate.

According to Anderson, a highlight of this year's forum was the chance to participate in discussions on Air Force initiatives designed to improve Airmen support networks.

"The Air Force is admitting that it has problems, especially in regards to suicides. Both the {Chief of Staff of the Air Force} and the {Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force} addressed these areas specifically," she said.

"Airmen and their families can expect a renewed resiliency initiative called Comprehensive Airmen Fitness. It will address suicides and resiliency using a holistic approach focusing on four pillars - mental, physical, social, and spiritual."

Additionally, Anderson said the Air Force is preparing improvements for existing initiatives such as the Exceptional Family Member Program, a support program for special needs families and children.

This year, "initiatives were introduced to remove the stigma associated with the {Exceptional Family Member Program}, as well as to increase understanding of Individual Education Plans for special needs children," she said.

"For those who have never dealt with either the EFMP or IEPs, and even some that have in the past, they can be both daunting and confusing. I'm excited about the initiatives put forward as they are aimed at educating and empowering Airmen and their families so that these programs really work for them."

The proposed initiatives may be large programs, but AETC's Key Spouse emphasizes that even the smallest personal gestures can make a huge impression.

"Be kind to everyone you come across. You never know if they are having a rough time and how the smallest kind gesture can make a positive impact on their day."