Robins Proud: Helping military spouses make move toward employment, entrepreneurship

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • Public Affairs

Finding employment is a challenge many military spouses face.

The latest Robins Proud Forum held Nov. 17 at the base chapel at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, focused on helping husbands and wives who want to work inside or outside of the home.

These men and women serve as the backbone of families while their loved ones in uniform are deployed. They act as the glue that holds it all together, by keeping a sense of normalcy through the disruption of constant moving.

“A lot of military spouses think they are out there on their own, and we want to make sure they know they are not,” said Lorna Fermanis, director, 78th Force Support Squadron. “The Department of Defense realized that spouses move every two or three years and they barely have enough time to establish a reputation and rapport in a job before moving to the next place.”

Fermanis said it is not unusual for a spouse to sideline their personal goals to help advance the military career of their other half.

Crystal Ruppenkamp can check that box along with many others. 

She is a military wife, a veteran, a mother of two and is hoping to find a job that is a good fit for her family.

“I came here today looking for an opportunity to enhance my education and, of course, look for a job to provide a better life for my family now that we are approaching retirement”, said Ruppenkamp. “I found it very helpful. I am currently using some of the resources from the Airman and Family Readiness Center, but it was also nice to see someone from the Veterans Education Career Transition Center reaching out to help veterans get contacts for employment.”

Dell Steplight, the Relocation Program manager with the A&FRC, suggested spouses look for volunteering opportunities until they land an ideal position.

“The benefits of volunteering is you’re networking for a paying job, and it can also introduce you to new careers and opportunities for sharpening skills you already have. It also fills the gaps on a resume,” said Steplight.

If volunteering is not ideal, perhaps being your own boss is in your future.

Patricia Ross, chief operating officer, Georgia VECTR center, believes entrepreneurship should not be viewed as a far-fetched idea.

She said the responsibilities of being a military spouse are great qualities for starting a business.

”Think of the skills you have following your spouse around with the military,” said Ross. “You are used to making high stress decisions in the nick of time. You can curve, swerve, and pivot. You can think outside the box in intense situations, be resilient and resourceful. You would make a good entrepreneur.”

Ross said the reason some people brush off the idea of becoming an entrepreneur is that they lack funding, but that should not be a deal breaker.

“The Veterans Business Outreach Center is located within VECTR. We help military spouses start or grow small businesses,” said Ross. “We do a lot of things in partnership with the Small Business Administration to help veterans and spouses come up with a business plan.”

However, if traditional work outside the home is desired, Rhonda Bridges, the Civilian Personnel Human Resource specialist with the 78th FSS, suggests applying for federal jobs via

This avenue provides some employment preference programs for spouses.

“To be eligible you must be the spouse of an active duty member, reside within 50 miles of Robins Air Force Base and must meet pre-employment criteria to be eligible, such as a background checks, submitting college transcripts or other required forms,” said Bridges.

Bridges said the human resources office is also looking to fill positions through Direct Hire Authority.

Though Team Robins members came together to help fellow teammates look toward the future, time was also taken to remember the past.

A solemn staple of the Robins Proud forum is honoring the memory of an Airman killed in action.

Col. Rosalie Duarte, 78th Air Base Wing vice commander, shared the story of Capt. Guy Buchanan Harrell of Yazoo City, Mississippi.

On the evening of Nov. 25, 1951, Harrell and his crew of three were returning from a bombing raid. Air controllers received a message believed to be from Harrell giving orders to bail out. Neither the plane nor the crew were ever found. Harrell was 32 years old.

“We honor Capt. Harrell’s dedication and sacrifice. He served the greater good for and we thank his family for the freedoms we all enjoy today,” said Duarte.