NEWS | June 15, 2016

Spouse programs build strong bonds at Joint Base Charleston

By Airman Megan Munoz Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Spouses are a key ingredient in holding together military families. While military members deploy, spouses continue to hold down the fort at home, care for children, pay bills and maintain the house and car ... all with less manpower.

Many members of Joint Base Charleston understand the mission could not be accomplished without the support of military spouses stationed here. The Air Force Key Spouse program and the Navy Family Ombudsman program are two avenues to support readiness for military members and their families while tying in a sense of unity between families.

These programs bring spouses together to experience military life and to help improve the community of JB Charleston.

"Some of the responsibilities of the program members include providing support when military personnel are deployed, as well as encourage participation by families in various base events," said Master Sgt. Robert Smith, Airman and Family Readiness Center NCO in charge and Key Spouse coordinator.

In addition to being a great way to make connections in the community, members also act as liaisons between new spouses and unit commanders, added Kellie Wells, 628th Security Forces Phoenix Ravens and Combat Arms Training & Maintenance key spouse coordinator.

"The Key Spouse program is the best way to meet spouses in your squadron, through either the Facebook page or through social events," said Kristen Neukom, 14th Airlift Squadron key spouse mentor. "It's also a good way to find out what there is to do around Charleston. We know all of the cool insider secrets, it's not just about base happenings."

Being a joint base, spouses of Airmen and Sailors need support to complete the mission. While the Key Spouse program is Air Force wide, the Navy's link to family members is through the Navy Family Ombudsman program.

"The Navy Family Ombudsman program works to create healthy, self-reliant families," said Beth Darius, Ombudsman coordinator on the JB Charleston-Weapons Station. "Like key spouses, ombudsmen serve as the liaison between leadership and families."
The Navy Family Ombudsman program focuses on relaying information and providing support to spouses when Sailors are deployed.

"We need to be ready to handle the unexpected," said Kuria Spindler, a Nuclear Power Training Unit ombudsman. "Life happens and sometimes our Sailors are unable to be at home with their families. You can be brand new to the Navy or in for 30 years and you never know when you might need an ombudsman."

Since the main duty of ombudsmen is to keep Sailors and their families informed, the Navy offers Family Readiness groups to help military families adjust to JB Charleston and get involved in social and community events.

Regular tours of different units on base by the key spouses provide military spouses with better connections to other wives and husbands on the base; helping increase their knowledge of the mission.

In March, members of the Key Spouse program at JB Charleston participated in an orientation flight aboard a C-17 Globemaster III to get a glimpse of what their spouses do on a daily basis.

"Events like these provide time for attendees to get to know each other. Spouses are able to bond over the different experiences they've had," added Nancy Lyman, 628th Air Base Wing key spouse mentor.

The aerial tour was one of the many ways the spouse programs help military members and their loved ones settle into life both in the service and in the Charleston area.
"The tour demonstrated key spouses supporting each other helping make JB Charleston a better place," said Becky Lamontagne, 437th Airlift Wing key spouse mentor.

Whether it's touring different units or having get-togethers, all spouses can benefit from these programs.

"As a result of the hard work of key spouses and ombudsmen, families are able to have an increased sense of unit support and enhance their resiliency while improving their quality of life at Joint Base Charleston," said Smith.

To find your key spouse mentor contact Master Sgt. Robert Smith, Airman and Family Readiness Center at 843-963-5818, or your first sergeant. To find your ombudsman contact Beth Darius at the Fleet and Family Support Center at 843-794-7464, or go to www.ombudsmanregistry.org.