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Key Spouses Program takes care of families of deployed

By Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio | Wingspread editor | Sept. 28, 2007

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — With deployments becoming more frequent in today's Air Force, Randolph officials recently adopted a new program to help those family members left behind to fight it out on the home front. 

The first ever group of Randolph Key Spouses met Sept. 18 for training, hosted by the Airman and Family Readiness Center staff. 

The group accomplished a six-hour course geared toward making them better communicators and support systems for spouses of deployed servicemembers.
Col. Jacqueline Van Ovost, 12th Flying Training Wing vice commander, spoke on the importance of the new program and her appreciation for the volunteers. 

"It's very important that our deployed folks have what they need in order to accomplish their mission," she said. "If they are worried about their families back home, they can't effectively do their jobs. We can now ensure that not only are they taken care of downrange, but that their families are cared for here." 

Experience with a deployed spouse varied throughout the group of new key spouses.
Ellen Nolan, wife of Maj. Denis Nolan from the 12th Medical Operations Squadron, said the challenges she faced while her husband was deployed drive her motivation to keep other spouses from having to undergo similar experiences in their spouse's absence. 

"If I can make just one person not feel as alone and isolated as I did, then being a key spouse will have been worth it," she said. "If I help support more, then great, but I just want to make a difference for at least one person." 

Ms. Nolan also said she valued the interaction she received with other women who had experienced deployments without any type of support system. 

"The most interesting part of the program was the sheer number of testimonies from ladies who experienced so many of the similar things I did," she said. "I was so amazed that so many of us decided we wanted to try and keep our experiences from repeating for future deployed spouses." 

Second Lt. Kirstin Gipper, 12th Operations Support Squadron, who also attended the training, said that although she and her husband are new to the Air Force and haven't been separated due to deployment, she believes the training she received is invaluable.
"I know I will be grateful for the knowledge I've gained through this training," she said. "When we have kids, these resources will be absolutely critical." 

The training the group received covered many aspects of the responsibilities they will have as key spouses. The longest portion of the day was dedicated to a class called the "4 Lenses; Personality Recognition." The class was centered around different personalities and ways to effectively communicate with each. 

Jose Martinez, from the Lackland Airman and Family Readiness Flight, taught the 4 Lenses class and explained the significance of the training. 

"Each person is a unique individual and has their own style, mannerisms and way of approaching life's challenges. This class helps one to understand their leadership style and the impact it has on others," he said. "Discussions will focus on how personal communication, selling, buying, leadership, and work styles all relate to personality types, and how to effectively use this information to foster workplace and relationship success. 

Laura Bethel, wife of Col. Scott Bethel from the Air Education and Training Command, said the personality recognition training was unexpected, but very beneficial in her role as a key spouse. 

"It helps me to understand ahead of time where my strengths and weaknesses will tend to be," she said. 

The course also covered such topics as reporting abuse, suicide awareness and privacy concerns. Lieutenant Gipper said although there was a lot of information given to the group during training, there is even more information to process when preparing for a spouse's deployment. 

"There is an overwhleming amount of information out there and it can be difficult to access and understand it without guidance," she said. "I'm really looking forward to being that source of guidance so families don't feel completely alone when their spouse deploys." 

With the new program comes a great responsibility for the group. All of them have their own families and personal responsibilities, but each has volunteered their time and attention to the other families that make up Team Randolph. 

"When you marry an Air Force member you really become 50 percent of a military team. When they deploy, you become half of a deployment team," Ms. Bethel said. "I think the Key Spouse program shows that the Air Force understands that the spouse at home is the other half of the deployment team and also deserves the best resources and support available. That makes me proud to be an Air Force spouse!" 

The Airman and Family Readiness Flight is looking for more Key Spouse volunteers. Interested individuals can call the A&FRF at 652-5321.