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Randolph seeking ‘key spouses’ to communicate with families of deployed

By Robert Goetz | Wingspread staff writer | Aug. 17, 2007

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Team Randolph is seeking spouses of active-duty and retired servicemembers to serve as volunteers in a program designed to enhance communication with the families of Airmen who are deployed or assigned to remote tours. 

These volunteers, who will be called "key spouses," will serve as conduits of information, giving families a direct line of communication and support to the Airman and Family Readiness Flight and unit leadership. 

The Randolph Key Spouse Program addresses an issue identified in last year's community needs assessment, which included a survey of about 1,000 military members on base and about as many spouses. 

"One of the findings was that spouses reported having a difficult time coping during deployment," said Elizabeth McKinley, A&FRF chief. "That was placed in the community action plan as an issue and out of it we implemented the Key Spouse Program to help with coping skills of spouses." 

Master Sgt. Todd Remington, A&FRF superintendent and Personal/Family Readiness NCO, said the program will reinforce efforts already under way, meaning families will be less likely to "fall through the cracks." 

"We're meeting needs, but this is something we can do to enhance our capability of meeting their needs," he said. "I see this as an opportunity to better support the families, better meet their needs and better identify their needs. Along with organizational leadership and the Airman and Family Readiness Flight, they now have another set of eyes and ears." 

The A&FRF is now accepting applications from spouses who wish to join the program, and applicants are required to attend a Heart Link class Sept. 6 at the Airman and Family Readiness Center. Initial key spouse training begins Sept. 18. 

"We will coordinate training," said Sergeant Remington. "There will be various helping agencies involved - the IDS (Integrated Delivery System) entities." 

Key spouses will require monthly training as well, but those sessions will be conducted on a quarterly basis. 

The program's initial goal is to enlist 20 volunteers. They will support an estimated average of 200 families at any time. 

Sergeant Remington said the program will require volunteers with good listening skills.
"The reason that's so key is that we need people who will get all the facts," he said. "Then we can hook the families up with the appropriate referral agencies." 

Sergeant Remington said volunteers should find "instant credibility" with the spouses of deployed personnel because they can connect as peers. 

"That should give them automatic trust," he said. "Hopefully that will help us facilitate our communication with the families." 

The key spouses will not serve as counselors - or as baby-sitters. 

"But they need to be sensitive to the needs of families and to privacy concerns," Sergeant Remington said. "They'll be keeping families informed about what kind of support is available." 

Volunteers will deal with a variety of issues, among them, day-to-day stress. 

"Spouses take on a huge responsibility by themselves," Sergeant Remington said. 

"They need somebody to talk to and to verbalize what they're dealing with." 

But he said base officials want to make sure that the key spouses do not absorb the stress that the spouses and families of deployed Airmen experience. 

"We will give them the skills to do that," he said. 

Applications for the program are available at the A&FRF. For more information, call 652-5321.