KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
As a military member, we have all heard about the Key Spouse Program, but how many actually know what it is and what it is used for?
The Key Spouse Program is a commander’s initiative that promotes partnerships with unit leadership, families, Key Spouses, Key Spouse Mentors, the Airman and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC), and other on and off base helping agencies.
But what does that mean?
The Key Spouse Program is used to keep the spouses of our military members in the loop on information and opportunities that are available to them.
The outcome of the key spouse program according to the Air Force Personnel Center website, https://www.afpc.af.mil/Benefits-and-Entitlements/Key-Spouse-Program/ is to:
- Increase awareness of the installation and community resources
- Identify and resolve issues at the lowest levels possible
- Enhance the up and down information flow
- Prepare and support families during separations and deployments
- Increase the sense of unit support
- Improve the quality of life amongst our unit families
- Increase readiness and retention among our members
- Enhance individual and family resilience
Megan Rubio, the 403rd Wing key spouse, explained that each squadron should have a key spouse program set up by their commander to help the families of unit members.
“While the key spouse program team is made up of the commander, first sergeant, the key spouse, and the A&FRC, I want to dispel one misconception,” said Rubio. “The misconception is that the Key Spouse has to be the commander’s spouse, and that is not true. Any squadron member’s spouse can serve as a Key Spouse as long as they are willing to advocate for families. And they don’t even have to be local to do it.”
The KSP is an official Air Force unit family readiness program designed to enhance mission readiness, resilience and establish a sense of community.
Rubio said it best when she described a key spouse as a communicator and connector, because they help facilitate communication between leadership and families and connect families with resources that are out there.
The AFPC website points out the following reasons why the key spouse program is important:
- Promotes individual, family, and unit readiness and resiliency
- Establishes and maintains continuous contact with spouses and families
- Encourages peer-to-peer Wingman support amongst spouses and families
- Builds family links to leadership
- Provides an informal sounding board to leadership
- Strengthens leadership’s support team
Rubio pointed out that another important factor is that the Airmen need to talk to their spouse about the program and explain that this is not a booster club or a social club. The KSP is used to connect families with resources and provide support during challenging times.
Any spouse that wants to volunteer and is appointed to serve as a Key Spouse will receive training on what information constitutes Personally Identifiable Information, the Privacy Act of 1974 and Operations Security, because they will serve in an official role and must protect personal information.
Along with the commander and first sergeants, the command chief’s role is to assist in bridging that communication gap that exists from the reservists’ military responsibilities to their families.
“We are points of contact that assist with information flow to the Key Spouse and wing’s extended family,” said Chief Master Sgt. Amanda Stift, 403rd Wing Command Chief Master Sergeant. “Our wing’s families are just as important to us as the members who serve; we must not forget about them. With the Key Spouse being the direct link to leadership, this collaboration increases.”
The whole goal is to promote connections that are direct, timely and comfortable for the families. This allows the ability to be heard through a lifeline to the unit leadership.
Rubio pointed out that these connections are empowering to people, especially now with all the changes going on in the world. She said, “To know that, if I have a question, a concern, or if I am not sure how something works, I have someone that I can call relieves anxiety and stress.”
Rubio explained that it is important for the member to make sure that contact information is kept up-to-date and let their spouses know that the Key Spouse may reach out.
“I appreciate how hard the Airmen work on drill weekend, the amount of information thrown at you, the requirements to complete, then you go home Sunday night to turn around and go to work on Monday to your civilian job,” said Rubio. “During all of that, it is easy to forget to pass along information to your spouse. One of the main issues we are trying to avoid is hearing a spouse say, ‘I didn’t know.’”
Rubio encouraged members to talk to their spouses about the Key Spouse Program, not only about volunteering, but to explain that the program is there to help get information and resources if they ever have questions.
“Let the Key Spouse Program get the word out for you,” said Rubio.