We leave no family behind." Key spouses are always there to lend a helping hand.
"We have awesome volunteers, and they do take that motto seriously," said Shanna King, a manager with the Airman and Family Readiness Center at Westover who helps oversee the Key Spouse Program there. "Whenever a family member needs anything, our key spouses are ready to step in and get that person the help he or she needs."
King said key spouses pay special attention to the family members of deployed Reservists, but they are available to help whenever the need may arise.
"You never know when the dog is going to run away on the same day the washing machine overflows and you just need somebody who understands you," she said. "That's what the Key Spouse Program is all about."
DeAnne Biscoe has been a key spouse at Westover since 2006. She has helped countless people over the years and is always eager to pitch in and lend a hand. Her husband, Master Sgt. Andrew Biscoe, works in the base public affairs office, and Deanne sprang into action when someone in her husband's office had a heart attack during lunch a couple of years ago.
"Somebody had to take care of getting in touch with the family, getting them here and getting them to the hospital so they could be with their service member," she said. "There were a lot of people taking care of the service member, the paperwork and so forth, but my thoughts were focused on the family members and the help they would need. We made sure there was a room in lodging for them when they got here, and we had some food there for them and toothbrushes, toothpaste, those kinds of things. We just wanted to make sure there was less for them to think about when they got here so they could focus all of their attention on their service member.
"Key spouses have connections. They know people on base and can help get things done. We never know what kind of call we are going to get, but we usually know where to go to get people the help they need."
Therese Sarnelli, wife of Master Sgt. Ronald Sarnelli assigned to the 337th Airlift Squadron, has also been a key spouse at Westover since 2006, when the program was known as the Key Family Member program. Like Biscoe, Sarnelli knows how to get things done on base. ... and off it. She recently drove a spouse to the airport in Hartford, Connecticut, to meet her husband who was returning home from a deployment.
"If you hold a military ID or are the children of someone in the military, you can get a gate pass at most airports," she said. "You have to go through security, but you can meet your military person at the gate. When they get off the plane, their family can be waiting there for them. This spouse didn't know that, so it was kind of cool to surprise her husband that way. It is little things like that that we try to do for our family members."
Karen Breazeale is the key spouse mentor for the 301st Fighter Wing at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, and she is working hard to promote the program there. Her husband, Col. John Breazeale, is the wing commander.
"When I got here about a year ago, they had a good Key Spouse Program in place, but it was mainly focused on deployments," she said. "We want to make sure all 301st Fighter Wing family members know someone has their back--not only during deployments, but all the time." At Fort Worth, key spouses are known as STARS (an acronym for Spouses reaching out To Welcome and inform All Reserve/lntegrated Active Spouses).
"Key spouse STARS are a lot like customer service reps for squadron spouses," Breazeale said. "They might not know the answers to all of the questions, but they do have the training and resources to connect you with the people who do have those answers."
She said about five new people per month are signing up to be key spouses at the 301st. Ultimately, Breazeale said she would like to have about one key spouse for every 25 wing members. That way, the key spouses wouldn't be stretched too thin and could always be there for the people within their extended family.
Breazeale is excited about how the program has grown at Fort Worth and is hoping a new web page will help push the program to the next level.
"The Reserve is a little different from the active duty in that our families are located all over the place, not all right here close to the base," Breazeale said. "The idea is to let the spouse in Waco who never makes it to the base know that there are people in her area that can be there if she needs help."
"We have a lady who lives in New York who got her own little program started to help people in her area," Sarnelli said. "She decided on her own to get the spouses who live close to her together, and now they are having coffee dates and get-togethers with the kids. We have spouses who can't always make it here to the base, but they still want to help out."
Westover and Fort Worth both have exemplary Key Spouse Programs, and one thing they have in common is that spouses of military members of all ranks are involved.
"We have spouses of senior airmen all the way up to colonels and everything in between," King said of the program at Westover. "And we are lucky that we have some male key spouses as well. Sometimes it's better to have a guy help another guy who has a question or a problem."
"Military rank has absolutely nothing to do with the key spouse STARS," Breazeale said. "We are just a group of spouses connecting spouses. I think people sometimes confuse key spouses with an officers' wives club, and it's nothing like that at all. We just have a strong belief that no member of the 301st Fighter Wing family should ever feel alone."
Another thing that successful Key Spouse Programs have in common is support from senior leaders.
"Our program is a wing program," said Col. Frank Amodeo, commander of the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. "We began with a wing vision for a successful program to take care of Airmen and families. Our first sergeants and commanders have buy-in. As the wing commander, I personally participated in the required key spouse training and explained my expectations. I attend every key spouse meeting.
"We have only one mentor so that we are centrally managed with execution at the squadron level. Our team of key spouses includes enlisted Airmen, spouses of officers and enlisted Airmen, and spouses of civilian employees. One of our Airmen, who was a key spouse, now works in our Airman and Family Readiness Center. This provides great understanding in AFRO of our key spouse challenges and needs."
The Key Spouse Program is an official unit/family program overseen by commanders designed to enhance readiness and establish a sense of unity within the Air Force community. The program was standardized across the Air Force in March 2006 to address the needs of all military families with special emphasis on support to families across the deployment cycle.
"I remember Mark's first deployment. It was scary, and we didn't know what to expect," said Betty Welsh, the wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, in a recent Air Force news article. "It was then that the spouses of the deployed got together and grew our own spouses group."
"The Key Spouse Program gives our entire Air Force family another way to get help when it's really needed," the chief of staff said. "Commanders and first sergeants enable and sup port our unbelievable key spouses in providing peer-to-peer guidance and wingman support to the families who are so vital to the success of our Air Force."
The Key Spouse Program is designed to:
* Promote individual, family and unit readiness;
* Establish continuous contact with spouses and families;
* Encourage peer-to-peer wingman support;
* Provide links to leadership;
* Provide an informal sounding board; and
* Strengthen leadership's support team.
"The Key Spouse Program encourages peer-to-peer wingman support and provides an opportunity for spouses and families to build relationships with each other throughout the year," said Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, AFRC commander.
To find out more about the Key Spouse Program at your location, contact your Airman and Family Readiness Center.
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|Article Type:||Cover story|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2014|
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