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Key Spouses create network of support

Tech. Sgt. Ralph Vandecruze, 944th Fighter Wing Airman and Family Readiness Center NCO-in-charge, conducts initial key spouse training July 9 at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Initial training provides key spouses with the tools, information and resources needed to effectively serve as a unit representative. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nestor Cruz)

Tech. Sgt. Ralph Vandecruze, 944th Fighter Wing Airman and Family Readiness Center NCO-in-charge, conducts initial key spouse training July 9 at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Initial training provides key spouses with the tools, information and resources needed to effectively serve as a unit representative. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nestor Cruz)

Key spouses from the 944th Security Forces Squadron pose for a photo with Col. Robert Tofil, 944th Fighter Wing vice commander, and Airman and Family Readiness Center staff members July 9 at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Key spouses work closely with unit leaders to bring important information to the families and voice their concerns to the unit leaders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nestor Cruz)

Key spouses from the 944th Security Forces Squadron pose for a photo with Col. Robert Tofil, 944th Fighter Wing vice commander, and Airman and Family Readiness Center staff members July 9 at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Key spouses work closely with unit leaders to bring important information to the families and voice their concerns to the unit leaders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nestor Cruz)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- For many Airmen, having a good wingman, or being one, is an essential part of Air Force culture.

Several Luke spouses have taken the wingman concept to heart and recently completed initial training for the Key Spouse Program, enabling them to serve as wingman to their fellow spouses.

“The Key Spouse Program empowers spouses and creates resilient families through effective communication between squadron leaders and unit families,” said Jessica Maldonado, 944th Fighter Wing Airman and Family Readiness Center director. “Key spouses play an important role in establishing and maintaining contact with unit families with special emphasis on newly arrived spouses or spouses of deployed Airmen.”

The journey to becoming a key spouse starts with the unit commander, who interviews potential candidates, before they can start training at the A&FRC.

“We provide initial training and continuing education for key spouses and key spouse mentors on a quarterly basis,” Maldonado said. “The initial training provides the tools, information and resources needed to effectively serve as a unit representative.”

The training proved to be invaluable to Luke’s newest key spouses.

“It was great to come together as a team and learn about all the opportunities we have for support and assistance to help care for our families,” said Chris Kelly, 944th FW key spouse and spouse of Master Sgt. Matthew Kelly, 944th Security Forces Squadron first sergeant.

Key spouses provide support to unit families by creating a link between them and unit leaders.
“Our key spouses work closely with unit leaders to bring important information to the families and voice their concerns to the unit leaders,” said Kelly.

Some of the helpful information provided to families are the names of helping agencies and how to contact them.

“We provide information to our key spouses on resources available to them both on and off base,” said Maldonado. “Since the goal of the Key Spouse Program is to increase the flow of information between unit leaders and unit families, knowing our resources is vital to the success of the program.”

Those helping agencies include the A&FRC, Chaplain Services, Family Advocacy, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and Military One Source.

Since the Key Spouse Program is a commander’s program, a senior non-commissioned officer such as a first sergeant or a superintendent may serve as a point-of-contact for key spouses and create a link to the commander.

In addition to the unit-appointed senior NCO, key spouses can turn to key spouse mentors for additional support.

“Key Spouse Mentors serve as experienced role models providing leadership, encouragement and a voice of reason to our key spouses,” said Maldonado. “To be a key spouse mentor, volunteers should be knowledgeable about the military lifestyle and a reliable member of our team.”

While key spouse mentors support key spouses, they do not supervise them, she added.

Family members interested in becoming a key spouse can call their unit commander or the A&FRC at 623-856-8324.