Key spouse program key to family readiness Published June 6, 2014 By By Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie Air Force Public Affairs Agency WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force spouses are key to maintaining stability on the home front as Airmen maintain focus on the war front, according to the wife of the Air Force’s top officer. The key spouse program is an official unit/family program overseen by commanders designed to enhance readiness and establish a sense of unity within the Air Force community. The program was standardized across the Air Force in March 2006 to address the needs of all military families with special emphasis on support to families across the deployment cycle. "I remember Mark's first deployment ... it was scary and we didn't know what to expect," said Betty Welsh, the wife of Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. "It was then that the spouses of the deployed got together and grew our own spouses group." Senior leadership knows the importance of the program and the tools it provides to the Air Force family. “The key spouse program gives our entire Air Force family another way to get help when it's really needed" the chief of staff said. "Commanders and first sergeants enable and support our unbelievable key spouses in providing peer-to-peer guidance and wingman support to the families who are so vital to the success of our Air Force." The program recognizes everyone on the unit’s team -- commander, key spouse mentor, first sergeant, key spouse and the Airmen and family readiness center -- impacts the unit’s culture and contributes to its ability to accomplish the mission at home or abroad. “The key spouses program is one that is near and dear to my heart," Betty said. "It's all about getting to know each other so we’re better able to help one another; that's how the program strengthens our Air Force." The program helps to provide guidance and support in these areas, which key spouses are trained on: - Increase awareness of installation/community resources - Identify and help resolve issues at lowest levels (providing info on programs, benefits and more) - Prepare and support families during separations - Improve quality of life among unit families - Enhance family resilience - Strengthens leadership’s support team According to Verenice Castillo, the 2013 Air Force Spouse of the Year, all spouses have experienced challenges and even difficult times, but what they learned from that experience has made them stronger, and this program enables them to share with others. “We have seen that many times, families need more help after the spouse comes back from deployment then during the deployment, families are struggling with the reintegration face,” Castillo said. “We build relationships with all of our families so that when a deployment arrives, the relationship in the unit is already there." Key spouses undergo regular training to stay well-informed of program and service changes, she said. “I am paying it forward and making sure all Air Force spouses feel the same,” Castillo said. “This is why key spouses receive training constantly to keep them informed and prepared to help those in need.” For more information on the Air Force key spouse program view the Key Spouse Reference Guide.