MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
When a loved one is away on duty, information about that person’s well-being is crucial to those at home.
And for those at home – if their service member can’t reach the internet or phone to swap stories and share emotional moments – it’s tough.
Having a care group and the right information can be reassuring, for example: base key spouse groups.
A key spouse group can sometimes fill in information gaps or provide physical support, said Dawn Beal, a long-time 341st Missile Wing community readiness consultant at the Airman and Family Readiness Center on base.
Beal is also the key spouse group program coordinator at Malmstrom AFB who conducts the initial orientation for those selected as key spouse group leaders.
Beal said, “These folks can help when there’s a new baby or they can host a get together. Their intent is to always make a positive impact through many different means.”
Key spouse groups at Malmstrom AFB have proved to be a helpful, time-tested resource for many, especially for those who are new to a military family and the military community, Beal said.
“One of their main responsibilities is sharing information. Social media is the big ticket for getting the information out. Most spouse groups have Facebook pages,” she said.
The traditional word “spouse” doesn’t strictly mean “married to.” Key spouse groups embrace diversity in family.
There are times when people cannot physically join key spouse groups, but would like to receive and share information, or contribute, as part of the community, Beal said. The key spouse group is a target resource for these people.
Beal added, “We have 25 mentors and senior spouses, and we have 66 key spouses, for a total of 91 key spouse group leaders. That’s a good number.”
Volunteer to lead a key spouse group
“The key spouse leader or mentor is in a volunteer role,” Beal said.
For people interested in becoming a group leader, and who have base access, there is a process. They must contact the first sergeant of the squadron their family member belongs to. The squadron commander may interview and appoint the volunteer. If approved, that person will receive training with Beal.
“There is an initial orientation of about five to six hours. There are nine different modules and we bring in different speakers to talk about the base general overview,” she said.
Some topics include: deployment, disaster preparedness, social media, and diversity, she said.
“For spouses who were trained at their previous installation, they don’t have to go through it again – the training is just a refresher with information specific to Malmstrom,” Beal said.
If a squadron doesn’t have a key spouse leader, think about volunteering. The 341st MW inspector general office did not have a designated key spouse, which is when Bernadette Crosman stepped up to fill the role, Beal said.
Becoming a key spouse is important because it is part of the overall military family and community, and you can help others, Crosman said, when asked about her experience.
“The volunteers, they’re all in it for the right reasons. Key spouse leaders and groups reach a lot of people and promote unit togetherness and readiness,” Beal said. “And I’m really proud of the groups and what they’re out there doing.”