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NEWS | Feb. 28, 2018

437th AW shows key spouse appreciation through incentive flight

By Airman 1st Class Allison Payne Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. – The 437th Airlift Wing hosted an incentive flight to show appreciation for Key Spouses Feb. 24, 2018, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. Key spouses are unit-appointed spouses of active-duty military members who act as liaisons between unit leadership, the member and their families providing support in various ways during deployments and times of transition.

The morning began with a social gathering at the 15th Airlift Squadron for attendees to grab a snack and meet one another before boarding the C-17 Globemaster IIIs. The flight path took the spouses along the coastline to JB Charleston’s North Auxiliary Airfield.

“The purpose of this event was to say thank you to the Key Spouses and those who help support the military families of our units across base,” said Col. Jeff Nelson, 628th Air Base Wing commander. “It was an opportunity to show them the flying mission at the 437th AW as well as the support the 628th ABW provides to them.”

The attendees were split into two teams, blue and gold, and placed on two different flights to demonstrate a joint flying operation. For added fun, there was a ‘cockpit seating lottery’ to give some of the spouses the chance to sit in the cockpit during the flight.

“We put the C-17s through their full spectrum of operations for the event,” said Capt. Alex Hutcheson, 15th Airlift Squadron mission director. “We showed them tactical operations and landing the aircraft in short-field operations, as well as flying in formation to show how we work together as a team. The idea was to show the spouses the operational side of the 628th ABW as well as the 437 AW and hopefully give them a better idea of what their spouses go through.”

Once the C-17s landed at North Auxiliary Airfield, everyone ate lunch outside while watching the aircraft perform a high-velocity airdrop. These types of airdrops involve the use of parachutes to stabilize the fall of the loads being dropped. High-velocity airdrops are typically used for durable items like meals, ready to eat.

“You can’t put a value on our key spouses,” said 2nd Lt. Aaron Stokes, 437th Aerial Port Squadron traffic management flight commander. “Day in and day out we have service members going downrange to fight the war on terrorism. They can’t focus on their mission if things aren’t taken care of back home and because of our spouses, they’re able to.”

More than 30 people participated in the flight, not including the several volunteers who helped make the event possible. Hutcheson said they hope to host another Key Spouse incentive flight next year.

“This was an unforgettable experience and opportunity,” said Vivian Anderson, key spouse member. “We were able to connect with other Key Spouses we may not usually see and we had the chance to hear from leadership in a fun and informative setting. Seeing all the hard work JB Charleston does for the Air Force family and the community was incredible. It was a truly humbling experience seeing what these pilots and crews do every day.”

The Key Spouses are the focal point for the squadron support network, according to Hutcheson.

“As military members,” said Hutcheson, “We raise our hand and swear to defend our country but our spouses are thrown into the situation to support their military members and keep things together during deployments and other stressful times. Overall I think the incentive flight was a huge success, and I think Col. Canlas and Col. Nelson feel like we did justice to our key spouses.”

Those interested in learning about the Key Spouse Program can contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center for more information.