Key spouses provide connection between military families, units

  • Published
  • By Angela Woolen
  • Robins Public Affairs
In every unit there should be one person who is the main contact for spouses. The base's Key Spouse Program - managed by the Airmen & Family Readiness Center - offers just that.

Developed as a Quality of Life Initiative in 1996, the program offers special training to key spouses on how to become the military family liaison to unit leadership. This connection includes constant contact through emails, texts, newsletters, social media and telephone.

"Each commander interviews and chooses his or her own key spouse," said Dell Steplight, Robins Key Spouse Program manager.

The key spouse makes welfare checks and has resources to give to the spouses ranging from financial information to issues with relationships.

To be a key spouse, one must possess qualities that will benefit families such as having good communication skills and a positive attitude about the Air Force.

There are currently 135 key spouses on Robins.

Steplight said she can name numerous examples where the program is working from the feedback she receives from newcomers to the base as well as others who attend the many classes the A&FRC holds.

"You need that type of communication so you don't feel left out," she said.

The initial training for a key spouse is six hours. A new training class for key spouses is scheduled for April 12. Topics include resiliency, exceptional family members, communications and social media guidelines. During the training, operations security also speaks to the key spouses about what to say and not to say on social media.

The key spouse is prohibited from sharing personal, private information to other spouses as well as not using the position for personal gain.

While they are there to assist in communicating information to military families, the key spouses are not babysitters, counselors, taxi drivers or fundraisers.

"Be a good listener and know where to send people," Steplight said she recommends to all key spouses.

Key spouses are appointed a mentor who is usually a spouse from senior leadership.

"They can provide encouragement and share experience because they know the military lifestyle," Steplight explained.

Continuing education, known as Key Spouse University, is offered quarterly and covers topics such as military customs, protocol, TRICARE and how to save money.

Required annual training is mandatory for key spouses for suicide awareness and resiliency training.

"I really believe in this program because I know it works," Steplight said.

For more information, contact Steplight at 478-327-7693 or A&FRC at 478-926-1256.