Military spouses: more than misconceptions

  • Published
  • By By Senior Airman Heather Heiney
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

Military spouses stand at the center of a whirlpool made up of moving, checklists and change. They are always adapting and supporting their Airmen, but many of them are also out making a difference on base and in the local community.

Recently, five Malmstrom Air Force Base military spouses shared their experiences of getting involved, being military spouses and what they think are some of the most common misconceptions about being a military spouse.

George Smith

George Smith is an avionics technician civilian contractor who has been on a temporary duty assignment to Duke Field, Fla., since August working on the new MH-139 Gray Wolf helicopters, which are set to replace Malmstrom’s current fleet of UH-1N “Huey” helicopters. His spouse, Staff Sgt. Randi White, is with the 341st Security Forces Squadron.

“It can be very stressful being away from the family for any period of time,” he said. “But I am fortunate to be able to come home every few months to be with my wife and kids.”

During the conversion of the Gray Wolves from civilian use to military use, Smith is responsible for almost all of the electronics on the aircraft including communication, navigation, radar, system integration, and display systems. He also helps maintain an off-aircraft server used to track and monitor the performance of mission-critical components. 

“The biggest misconception about military spouses is that not all of us are stay at home moms or dads,” Smith said. “I have deployed seven times as a spouse and have been on numerous stateside TDYs. The spouse can serve their country without enlisting in the military themselves, you just have to put yourself out there and search for a way.”

Iris Colon Salcedo 

Iris Colon Salcedo is currently a stay-at-home mom who is completing the process to become a licensed Family Child Care provider on base. Her spouse, Senior Airman Luis Adrian Salcedo is with the 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron. 

As an FCC provider, Salcedo won’t be limited to providing daily care during normal duty hours, but will have the ability to help parents who need care when they deploy out to the missile fields, are moving to or from the base, or who need extended child care outside the hours offered by their full-time provider. She’ll also be able to participate in the give parents a break voucher program and military spouse appointment care. 

Salcedo said that she thinks one of the most common misconception about military spouses is that people assume spouses just depend on their military member. 

“From personal experience, I’ve seen that’s not the case,” Salcedo said. “There are women who have businesses of their own that work from home while taking care of their children. Some spouses are going to school full time or working full time.”

Ally Watkinson

Ally Watkinson is a dance instructor at Sole Dance Academy in Great Falls and her spouse is Airman 1st Class Christian Watkinson with the 341st SFS. 

She has been dancing for 15 years and now teaches ballet to girls and boys ages 5-12. She teaches them ballet techniques. 

“Teaching these kids impacts the community because they are coming into the studio looking to dance and learn new things,” she said. “The smiles that they have after I tell them ‘Yes! Good job! You got it!’” she said. “They are proud of themselves and that makes me proud to be their teacher.”

As far as being a military spouse, Watkinson said the best parts are being able to see her husband pursue a career he loves, traveling and meeting new people while the most difficult part are things changing or happening when you least expect them. 

Michelle Atton

Michelle Atton is a therapist at Emily Wish LLC and also a social worker at a dialysis clinic in Great Falls. Her spouse is Staff Sgt. Matthew Atton with the 341st Civil Engineer Squadron. Atton provides individual therapy for a variety of mental health concerns, but her specialty is helping people struggling with eating disorders. In addition to one-on-one therapy sessions, she also helps manage an outpatient program and support group.

“We’ve had an influx of new patients ever since the pandemic started,” she said. “I think it’s important to talk about not being ok and how hard it is to have to adjust in such a big way.” 

Malmstrom is Atton’s first duty station as a military spouse and Great Falls is also her first home as a therapist. She said her boss is also a military spouse and has been very helpful in helping her adjust to her new life.

“I really like how willing people in the community are to help each other and how even if they don’t know each other, they’re willing to go out of their way to help them and how involved the active duty members are in making sure they are taking care of one another.”

Kelsey Cramer

Kelsey Cramer is an adult foster care specialist at the Center for Mental Health in Great Falls. Her spouse is Senior Airman Troy Cramer with the 341st Missile Security Operations Squadron.

In the community, Cramer is an advocate for clients with mental illnesses. She helps assist them with a variety of tasks including making appointments, working with insurance companies and social security, arranging transportation, and completing education.

“The goal of my program is for clients to one day be able to manage their mental health and care on their own,” she said. “I really enjoy being able to help my clients find solutions with tasks that seem very difficult for them and my favorite quote is ‘everything is figureoutable.’”

Cramer also said that she thinks the most common misconception about military spouses is that they don’t have educations or don’t lead successful careers due to their spouses careers.

“I have known many spouses who have found successful careers at every duty location,” she said. “It is a bit harder at times having to move frequently, but it is doable.”