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Key spouses act as Wingman

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Military life can be hard on a spouse. It's not always easy on them to get information about what's going on with the base or with the military in general, and a whole host of other problems can come along when their loved one has to deploy.

Fortunately, the Air Force has provided spouses with a place to turn to so they can talk to someone who is or has been in the same situation as they are -- the key spouse program.

"The idea of the key spouse is to be the right hand of the unit's first sergeant," said Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Lyon, Airman and Family Readiness Center readiness NCO. "Key Spouses are the point of contact for the spouses of a unit to be informed of unit and base activities as well as to be a kindred spirit and an understanding ear.

The idea for the program originally came from the Navy's Ombudsman program. The Air Force began testing the program in 1997 at five bases. Sergeant Lyon said it was such a success that the program moved to the rest of the Air Force fairly quickly.

"The Key Spouse Program is a vital program and is commensurate with the Wingman concept," said Vivian Cumins, 75th Mission Support Squadron and Ogden Air Logistics Center staff office's key spouse. "As Wingmen, it is our responsibility to ensure our military families are taken care of while our troops continuously support the mission both here and abroad.

"The Key Spouse also acts as a role model to demonstrate good coping and stress management skills. All of this positively contributes to the quality of life for the military spouse and their family."

The goal of the key spouse program is that every unit on a base has its own program that the spouse selected by unit's commander is responsible for running.

"After a commander appoints a volunteer, they come to the Airmen and Family Readiness Center for training," Sergeant Lyon said. "We go through an hour of training and discuss topics like confidentiality and the responsibilities of a key spouse. They then go back to the commander to with this information and a unit's Key Spouse Program develops from there."

No two squadrons have the same program, Sergeant Lyon said. Some squadrons have created Web sites, others mail out news letters, while others host monthly picnics. The key spouses themselves come over to the A&FRC on a monthly basis for a working lunch to discuss best practices and any issues they may be having.

"Providing such support at the home front provides a peace of mind to the deployed member and allows him/her to concentrate on their mission. In addition, the Key Spouse Program is a wonderful opportunity for Air Force families to unite, provide support to one another, and establish lasting friendships.

For more information about the Key Spouse Program, please contact Sergeant Lyon at 777-4681 or by e-mail at Jennifer.lyon@hill.af.mil.