Family support is Key

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Imagine this. The person sitting one cubical away, yeah, the one who gets along with everyone in the office, isn’t as happy as he seems.

He walks into the office every day with a smile on his face, eager to tackle the daily tasks, but it turns out he’s only smiling because he’s at work; away from his true challenges. See, at home, it’s not as easy for him to hold that fake smile.

His wife has been applying for jobs every day for the past two months while she’s stressed out because she raises their children at home while he works all day. Day after day, they continue to fight about not being able to afford childcare and they’re both embarrassed at the fact they can’t afford any kind of Christmas this year, because, financially, they’re just scraping by.

Although this is only an example, for many, this is reality.

“I have found that many times someone can be performing well at work but struggling in some aspect of their life at home,” said Lt. Col. April Wimmer, 2nd Space Warning Squadron commander. “I think a partnership between the unit and the spouses can help alleviate this stress and allow the unit to better support the member and their family.”

Such partnership exists; The Key Spouse Program is designed to assist families of service members who need support during life challenges.

Each squadron or unit on Buckley Air Force Base appoints an individual, who volunteers, as their Key Spouse. The Key Spouse is an important role within that organization’s leadership chain.

“The Key Spouse Program is instrumental to address the needs of Airmen and their families,” said Keith Baber, 460th Force Support Squadron personnel systems manager. “The resiliency of our Airmen today extends to the home as spouses, children and loved ones strive to maintain normalcy in support of the commitment to serve.”

Although many are familiar with the Key Spouse Program, there seems to be a common misconception that the program is solely for geographically separated or deployed families.

“That’s not true at all,” said Brandi Ruiz, 460th Space Wing Airman & Family Readiness Center community readiness consultant. “We are a mission-ready family support program.”

The U.S. Air Force has adopted the wingman concept and holds it dearly. When an Airman is in need, a wingman will be there to help them. This, needless to say, extends to their family as well.

The key spouse’s role is to keep families connected with their unit’s leadership year-round, in order to take care of their wingmen, regardless of their situation.

“We had an individual whose husband was TDY and during this time, her fence broke,” said Wimmer. “We asked one of our key spouse, who was handy with repairs, to go over and assist with the fence repair. The contractor was going to charge her $75 just to come and look at the fence. We were able to save her money, prevent her from having to take time off work to meet the contractor, and eased her stress.”

For a key spouse to assist in times of need, it is important for service members and their families to stay connected with their leadership and their key spouse; if an issue remains unspoken, it’s impossible to step in for assistance.

“It’s important for the key spouse to take the time to build a relationship with the spouses and the organization,” said Ruiz. “Hopefully, they can then share information both ways.”

The relationship between a key spouse and the spouse of a service member is vital.

Most people today return home from work and jump into family mode; they don’t want to continue thinking about work any longer than they have to. Due to this, they tend to forget to relay possibly helpful information to their family.

There are many resources available for not only service members, but their families as well.

“I cannot say it enough that the key spouse is here to help with anything,” said Ruiz. “I will sit down and help a spouse write a resume if that’s what they need help with. If, for some reason, we can’t assist them directly, we will make sure they’re connected with the people who can.”

Whether or not there are current challenges in life, knowing there are options available for assistance is comforting.

For more information or to connect a Key Spouse, please contact the Airman & Family Readiness Center.