Key spouse program connects Guard families
By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin, 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 07, 2015
PHOENIX -- Spouses of Phoenix Air National Guard members rallied together as part of the 161st Air Refueling Wing's key spouse program to discuss issues facing military families, June 6.
The key spouse program is an official family program designed to enhance readiness, establish a sense of unity within the Air Force community and to address the needs of military families. The program's structure is designed so the commander, first sergeant and key volunteers work as a team to ensure unit connection with families of service members. The program places a special emphasis on support to families throughout the member's deployment.
"As much as we like to think of ourselves as a family in the Guard, once we deploy, we sometimes lose that connection to the [service] member's families," said Col. Gary Brewer, 161st Air Refueling Wing commander. "Military spouses are crucial to maintaining stability because nothing kills our ability to accomplish the mission more than a worried warfighter wondering what's going on back home; they are unable to stay focused on the deployed mission."
A key spouse volunteer may be the spouse of an officer, enlisted Airman, Department of Defense civilian or other qualified person connected to the unit. Staff members from the Airmen and Family Readiness Center provide initial and update training and serve as a referral resource for key spouses. In addition to ongoing contact with separated families, key spouse activities may include involvement in official and unofficial meetings or squadron events, and distribution of deployment information.
"I really think being involved in the key spouse program is important because, as spouses, we need to connect," said Danielle Brewer, wife of Colonel Brewer. "We need to take the Guard family to the next level. We need to let the spouses know we are all here for them and we can meet needs when they arise; this is particularly important for new members' spouses so they know there is a support network."
She also said Guard spouses need to recognize they have something unique to offer other Guard spouses; they can support each other in a way people outside of the Guard may not.
"We know exactly what other spouses are feeling, in regards to being a military spouse, that can't be found outside a military group," said Mrs. Brewer.
Colonel Brewer said communication from the spouses to wing leadership is just as important as spouse-to-spouse communication.
"Don't be afraid to tell me how we are failing as a wing because if I don't have honest input I can't make changes," said Brewer. "I want to make the wing better - I want to make as many positive changes as I can."
For more information or to volunteer for the Key Spouse program, please contact the Airman and Family Readiness program manager, Brian Benbow, at (602)302-9394 or (602)582-3695.