Key Spouse Leadership Forum promotes networking, resiliency

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Daryl Knee
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Spouses, commanders and first sergeants from across units at the 23rd Wing attended a Key Spouse Leadership Forum at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Oct. 18, 2023.

The Key Spouse program allows for leaders to identify spouses within their units to act as a liaison between the military and families to enhance readiness and establish a sense of community. This forum is an annual event designed to bridge any communication gaps between the leadership and those spouses, while allowing attendees to network and brainstorm creative ways to engage with their assigned families.

“The key spouses are here to help our families feel connected and belong to a community,” said Kristi Donewar, 23rd Force Support Squadron personal and work-life coordinator. “When military members and their families move around, they tend to lose that sense of community. The key spouses can then reach out to those families to ensure the family unit is strong.”

Donewar said when an Airman’s spouse is taken care of, the military member can better focus on the mission. Stability at home is a vital indicator of a that Airman’s lethality and readiness.

The wing currently has around 30 active key spouses. Military leadership works with them to translate military jargon about unit happenings and relay accurate information to civilian spouses.  Without the support from these key spouses, some families may stay unfamiliar with how the military operates and feel isolated in a new location without their support network.

“The most fulfilling part is being able to help people at their most vulnerable time,” said Rachel Conner, a 71st Rescue Squadron spouse who has been married to a military member since 2009 and a key spouse for almost five years. “We’ve all been there when you don’t really know what’s going on, either through a deployment, a hard time post-partum or death of someone in the unit. That’s why trust is so important between a key spouse and a family member – they have to have trust and confidence so they feel they can reach out when they need help.”

The organizers of the forum addressed the need for confidence and trust in the system and then posed three open-ended questions at the end to promote a discussion on better ways to provide information, maintain an updated spouse contact list and create opportunities for spouse engagement events.

“Not everyone wants to accept help,” said Maj. John McCormick, 23rd FSS commander, about how some civilian spouses want a clear separation from work and life. “But what (the key spouses) do matters. Our mission is to take care of Airmen and their families, and key spouses are that critical conduit of information. We appreciate what you do every day - we recruit Airmen but retain families.”

The 23rd FSS Military and Family Readiness Center conducts quarterly training for key spouses and works directly with first sergeants and commanders on how to appoint a key spouse member for their respective unit. Anyone desiring to become a key spouse can contact the unit’s first sergeant to begin the process.