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Key spouses’ mission integral
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Key Spouse Heather Julseth (center), talks to Capt. Alex Keller, Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate, and his wife Erin at a Hearts Apart event at the Hanscom Lanes Bowling Center May 22. Julseth and 10 other volunteers make sure they establish and maintain contact with families of deployed members, provide information and referral to base and community resources and promote individual, family and unit readiness (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Wyatt)
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Key spouses' mission integral

Posted 5/23/2013   Updated 5/23/2013 Email story   Print story


by Mark Wyatt
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

5/23/2013 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass.  -- If you're married to a military member, the chances are good you have experienced a long separation during a spouses' deployment or an extended departure.

For many, the key to get through these often challenging periods is with assistance from family, friends, and key spouses.

"The Key Spouse program has helped me when my husband has been on extended TDY's [temporary duty]," said Monica Hyatt, Key Spouse. "I had someone check in on me multiple times during Hurricane Sandy and during the snowstorms we had this winter. Even though my husband was gone, I felt I was watched over by my caring Key Spouse mentor."

At Hanscom, 11 volunteers serve as Key Spouses and Key Spouse Mentors for the program. These volunteers make sure they establish and maintain contact with families of deployed members, provide information and referral to base and community resources and promote individual, family and unit readiness.

"When my husband deployed in 2005, I had two small children and the added responsibility of selling our house and preparing for an overseas move," said Charlotte Weilacher, Key Spouse mentor. "To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement."

Originally developed as part of a quality of life initiative in the mid-90s, the Key Spouse Program was standardized in 2009 to build stronger Air Force communities.

A Key Spouse volunteer is usually the spouse of a military member who is willing to share a few hours a month to connect with families of a deployed member. Before being officially appointed, Key Spouse volunteers must attend initial training conducted on base and attend monthly training as their schedules permit.

"I love being a Key Spouse because I love being a part of so many people's lives through the program," said Hyatt. "It brings so much satisfaction to know I can make a difference by just making a phone call, participating in the Heart's Apart activities and being a listening ear."

Unfortunately, nearly half of the current team of Key Spouse volunteers are scheduled to leave soon.

"Key Spouses not only give support, but get support as well," said Dawn Andreucci, Airman and Family Readiness community readiness consultant team leader and Key Spouse Program training coordinator. "Key Spouses have a support team consisting of mentors, first sergeants, the 66th Air Base Group commander and Airman and Family Readiness Center. We're all in this together."

According to program officials, key spouses increase the sense of community and enhance family resiliency.

"There have been many times when I have been brought to silent - and not so silent - tears as I listen to what strong and courageous family members go through when the member gets deployed and it makes me want to be a better and stronger person just as they are," Hyatt said.

Ensuring families are taken care of while servicemembers are deployed allows the member to focus on the mission more effectively. The Air Force recognizes the many sacrifices families make and wants to make sure they know there is someone to turn to for help.

"We all want to feel we are special and appreciated and through this program we always have someone there to listen to us and have the opportunity to share our experiences and learn from others that have gone through or are currently going through a similar situation," Hyatt said. "I feel comforted knowing there is someone just a phone call away."

Motivated by past experiences, Weilacher knew she needed to be involved in the Key Spouse program.

"My own firsthand experience of loneliness and being out of touch is what motivated me to join the Key Spouse team," said Weilacher. "The experience has been incredibly rewarding."

For more information or to get involved in the Key Spouse Program, contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 781-225-2765.

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