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Air Force dual-military retention improves thanks to Airman’s idea

McConnell Airman

Capt. Millie Hale, 22nd Air Refueling Wing executive officer, and Capt. Ralph Hale, 22nd Operations Group executive officer, pose for a photo on a T-38 Talon Aug. 13, 2017, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. A German pilot instructor, while she was in pilot training, provided the inspiration for Hale’s joint spouse proposal that was recently implemented into the Career Intermission Program. (courtesy photo)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- The day comes when that final project is due for class. The project is ready and prepped for presentation or thrown together within twenty-four hours. Either way it has to be ready without delay. Despite being an academic project, sometimes there are cases where it could be implemented in real life. 

Such is the case for Capt. Millie Hale, 22nd Air Refueling Wing executive officer, when an idea of hers that began as an academic project proved to have a great effect in her own life and for many dual-military spouses serving in the Air Force.

Hale, a student in Squadron Officer School, explained that her final research project involved a change that she would like to make in the Air Force. Her capstone presentation was on dual-military spouse retention and her simple idea made its way to Air Force headquarters.

“They read my proposal and they called me, asking if I could do a teleconference,” said Hale. “I ended up doing two teleconferences on it to explain my idea.”

In the National Defense Authorization Act in 2009, the Career Intermission Program was passed. This program allows the military to grant up to three years to members who desire to take a pause from the military and attend to personal or professional needs outside of the service such as going to school, raising a child, writing a book or whatever that individual’s dreams might be. It also allows the military member to take a leave of absence and return with the same rank as when they left. The Navy implemented the idea in 2009, and the Air Force adopted it in 2015. 

At Squadron Officer School in 2016, Hale explained how the Air Force can allow dual-military spouses to stay together by letting them take on the CIP, which would not force couples to worry about being separated during their time of service.

“One of the biggest challenges we have faced as a dual-military couple is being stationed apart,” said Ralph Hale, 22nd Operations Group executive officer and Millie’s husband. “Knowing that the Air Force Personnel Center is taking steps to help alleviate that challenge, makes it easier for us to focus on our duties at McConnell because we don’t have to worry as much about where we will move next.” 

Millie said it was a culmination of brainstorming over her years in service. She shared a story about Lt. Jens Meinke, a German air force instructor pilot from Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training in 2012, which provided the inspiration to form an idea for her dual-military spouse retention project. The instructor was assigned from the German air force to come to America and teach international and American pilots how to fly. His wife was also in the German air force, so when he moved to America she followed him to the U.S.

Even though she didn’t have a job in the U.S., she was able to receive a full salary from the German air force. 

“The German air force considered it was their fault that she was there without a job,” said Hale. “There was no intent to punish the couple for her not having a job in the United States at the same time he did.”

Millie said she thought it was a very unique approach to see the German air force so dedicated to keeping dual-military spouses together at all costs.

“That really stuck with me,” said Millie. “So when I was offered the opportunity to look into the joint spouse issue, it seemed like an easy solution. Luckily, a lot of people above me thought it was a great idea as well.”

The Air Force has now implemented Hale’s idea into the Career Intermission Program and are currently working on keeping spouses together during their time of service.

“It's incredible to me that she was able to take an Air Force-wide concern and work hard enough on her idea to be able to have an Air Force-wide influence,” said Ralph. “I love that she was able to make a positive difference.”