Key Spouse Program enhances communication, readiness Published Oct. 18, 2011 By Senior Airman Veronica McMahon 36th Wing Public Affairs ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Between deployments, exercises, continuous training and long duty hours, military spouses and families are sometimes left without their active-duty loved ones for either days, weeks, months, or even a year. Yet Team Andersen has embraced a program that assists these families in getting the support and information they need. More than 50 Andersen individuals are base participants in the Key Spouse program, which is designed to establish continuous contact with family, provide social support networks and promote individual, family and unit readiness. "A Key Spouse is a liaison between the squadron and the spouses," said Angela Lemay, 36th Force Support Squadron community readiness specialist and Key Spouse Program coordinator. "Key Spouses, Key Spouse mentors and the Airman and Family Readiness Center all assist each other to make the program happen." A Key Spouse volunteer may be the spouse of a military member, and must be appointed by a unit leader. Senior officer or enlisted spouses are encouraged to become 'Key Spouse mentors.' Aside from getting appointed, a Key Spouse must attend initial training conducted by Airman and Family Readiness staff and attend quarterly training. "Every month the training is different," said Angela Hayes, 36th Operations Support Squadron Key Spouse. "This month is sexual assault, last month was dealing with a death in the family." Along with key topics, events and class schedules are also discussed. The Key Spouses also work together to coordinate seasonal gatherings, events and parties. The Key Spouses make continuous contact with other spouses in the squadron to keep them informed on squadron functions, exercises on base, various training and other important information. "I enjoy being a Key Spouse and socializing with everyone," said Tonia Kitts, 36 OSS Key Spouse. "It makes me feel like I'm part of the group. They are my family away from my family." Ms. Kitts' husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan and she said becoming part of the program has been a great support for her. "Being part of the group has helped me and my family," she said. "It's helped the time go by while my husband's gone." Dealing with deployments is a main thing Key Spouse's encounter. "When spouses are deploying a main thing we would want to do is connect them with Hearts Apart and let them know that if they have any problems to contact us," Ms. Hayes said. Hearts Apart is a monthly event put on by Airman and Family Readiness to gather up dependents and have events and parties. Key Spouses assist in these gatherings. Aside from deployments, the program helps assist in family emergencies and keeps the communication airways open between families during exercises and real world events. "The most important thing to me is the information aspect of it," Ms. Hayes said. "It's important for spouses to know what's going on and be connected with the base. The Air Force offers a lot of programs that help keep spouses involved and it's important for spouses to be involved in the military just as much as their active duty spouse." Mrs. Lemay relates the program to words spoken by Admiral Mike Mullen. "Admiral Mullen said that mission readiness is directly related to family readiness, and that's showed in this program," said Ms. Lemay. "It's a great program and a great way to learn about the Air Force and network with other families." For more information of becoming a Key Spouse, contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 366-8136.