TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – More than 150 key spouses and their mentors were formally recognized and praised for their support of military families and their spouses’ Air Force squadron, during the first Key Spouse Annual Recognition ceremony, March 8, 2019, at Travis Air Force Base.
Kelly Barrett, the spouse of Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, 18th Air Force commander, Courtney Nelson, the wife of Col. Jeffrey Nelson, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander, squadron commanders, first sergeants, friends and family all were in attendance at the event honoring these volunteers.
Key spouse volunteers are unit-appointed spouses of military members who act as a liaison between unit leadership, the member and their families. They provide support in a myriad of forms, with a special emphasis on caring for families throughout all phases of the deployment cycle and in times of transition.
Performing this service on the homefront allows the warfighter to focus on his or her mission. The commander and first sergeant rely on the key spouse’s judgment, reliability and positive attitude to accomplish program goals.
Najette Pinero, Airman and Family Readiness Center Community Readiness consultant, holds the position of key spouse program manager and mentor at Travis. Pinero is responsible for providing potential key spouses around eight hours of specialized initial training, which includes instruction on subjects such as communication, generational diversity, social media and disaster preparedness. Additional continuing training workshops are held bi-monthly for active key spouses. This training helps a spouse become more confident when interacting with commanders and first sergeants.
“At Travis Air Force Base we have 157 key spouses spread between the 60th AMW, 349th AMW and the 621st Contingency Response Wing,” said Pinero. “We like to say that we train our key spouses to be mini-Airman and Family Readiness Centers. This provides them the resources they need to resolve family issues at the lowest level.
“In this position, they reach out to the spouses and families of the assigned members and establish peer support networks. They promote individual, family and unit readiness and resiliency through their role.”
Col. David Hammerschmidt, 60th Maintenance Group commander, officiated at the event and expressed his appreciation for the key spouses.
“Our Annual Key Spouse Appreciation event honors and celebrates our key spouses who have invested countless hours in support of our entire Travis Team, Airmen, civilian, families and, of course each other,” said Hammerschmidt. “Your willingness to dedicate your time and energy in support of our service members and their families has supported our mission and benefited our community in depth and breadth that is impossible to describe. You give so much of yourselves and ask so little in return.
“We often hear a lot of the random acts of kindness that our key spouses deliver,” he continued. “I would submit that these acts of kindness are far from being random; these acts are sincere, they’re heartfelt and largely because many of you have walked in the shoes of our young Airmen and our young families. And you know how hard it is to be a military spouse.”
Jessica Moser, has been the key spouse for the 660th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, for over two years. Moser was named as the 60th AMW Key Spouse of the Year for 2018.
“Being selected as the 60 AMW Key Spouse of the Year is a huge honor,” said Moser. “I see this as a team award for the 660th AMXS. I am only one person and none of my accomplishments were made possible by working alone.”
“The Key Spouse Recognition Luncheon was a remarkable event,” she said. “The AFRC team brought leadership and key spouses together and took care of every detail making the event so special for all of us. To hear from active-duty members what the key spouse program means to them was uplifting and reassuring that our work doesn’t go unnoticed and that we are making a difference in our community.”
Moser reflected on becoming a key spouse volunteer.
“I became a key spouse because at one point, all I knew about the military is that it took my husband away on frequent and lengthy temporary duty assignments,” said Moser. “I was clueless. Our first permanent change of station was challenging. No one should feel alone and isolated when we are all on this journey together. After 10 years of marriage, I have come to understand the importance of feeling connected with the squadron because, at the end of the day, we are one big family and families take care of each other.
Moser shared one of the many experiences that left a lasting impact.
“Last year, I was informed by the 660 AMXS mobility office that an Airman’s mother flew from the east coast to welcome her son as he was returning from a deployment,” she said. “I reached out to her and helped make sure she was present to welcome her son home from his first deployment. She later sent me a heartfelt message stating how important it was for her that the squadron has key spouses that ease the stress of military families and she was going to do her part and volunteer for a military organization in her home state. The key spouse program affected someone on such an emotional level and, in turn, she is now paying it forward.”
Senior Master Sgt. Juan Toro, 660th AMXS first sergeant, explained the relationship between key spouse volunteers and first sergeants.
“The areas the program has helped me as a first sergeant is communication with our spouses,” said Toro. “While we do a great job of keeping our Airmen in the loop on things, there are many times when those messages don’t make it home. I reach out to our key spouses to get the word out.”
“We work together with our key spouses to plan and execute various morale events throughout the year,” Toro continued. “The one area they are invaluable is when they mentor our new spouses. We have sponsor programs in place but they are geared towards the military member. Our spouses mentoring is geared directly to our spouses. It helps reassure a new spouse that everything will be okay and that they also have a support network to lean on. Lastly, our current key spouse program plays a significant role in our deployment process. We ensure that each spouse with a deployed loved one is teamed up with a key spouse to ensure they have another option to reach out to in case of a situation.”
Toro expanded on a recent encounter.
“I have a member who was deployed and was about one month away from returning.
“His wife was here in the local area, but was a little over eight months pregnant. She started to have some complications and was taken to the hospital. Myself and the commander were engaged during this situation, but could tell she did not feel comfortable sharing her status with us. I reached out to our key spouse and she immediately went to the hospital and hung out with her for a while and the spouse felt comfortable with her and shared more details with her.”
Toro had some advice for individuals interested in taking on the role of a key spouse volunteer.
“Be ready for anything,” said Toro. “It can be a little demanding at first, but the positive impact you have on the unit families is invaluable.”
Moser had a final thought on her service as a key spouse volunteer.
“Change is constant, especially in the military; yet if we become resourceful and resilient, we can conquer change and adapt,” said Moser. “We can learn from the negative, hold on to the positive and succeed. Get to know the dynamics of your squadron and see what works for that particular squadron. We must take care of each other.”
“I am very lucky to be part of such a special group of dedicated and resilient key spouses,” she said. “I am blessed to be a witness of what tangible support and resources to our military families look like. We can accomplish great things if we work together.”
If a spouse is interested in becoming a key spouse, they can talk to their spouse's supervisor or first sergeant or contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at (707) 424-2486.