When an Air Force service member’s spouse needs anything from answers to questions, directions to base services or help in a crisis, their organization’s Key Spouse is in place for support and guidance.
A one-day Key Spouse orientation training was held April 16 at Eglin’s Airman and Family Readiness Center for six new appointees.
A Key Spouse serves as a link between unit leadership and families, according to the Airman & Family Readiness Center’s Key Spouse Program Commander and First Sergeant Reference Guide.
Key Spouses are appointed by a group or squadron commander, work closely with the unit’s first sergeant and are directly linked to their base’s A&FRC, said Jacqui Thomas, Eglin’s A&FRC community readiness consultant and personal and work life program manager.
“Key Spouses bring an educated and experienced point of view regarding the needs of military family members, can reduce rumors, and clarify the needs of the military to family members,” Thomas said.
Among the topics covered at the orientation were base and local resources; and proper handling of phone calls, including commander-directed calls, support calls, distress calls and suicide ideation calls.
Erin Keller, wife of Capt. Alex Keller, a member of the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, transferred to Eglin from Hanscomb AFB, Mass. in March. During the training, she shared a personal situation where a Key Spouse at Hanscomb was helpful during a potentially life-changing event.
“While my husband was away at training prior a deployment, we found out my two-month-old son had a tumor, which turned out to be benign,” she said. “His command’s Key Spouse pointed me in the right direction to get the word to the right people in his organization, and gave me points of contact for other base organizations I could call for help. From that point on, I knew the Key Spouse was the person I could trust whenever I needed help with anything.”
Other topics included mandated reporting of abuse; operation security violations; and intent to commit a crime, homicide or suicide. In addition, they learned about their privileged access to recall rosters and their responsibility to protect privacy act information.
For Kris Purpura, married for 29 years to Chief Master Sgt. Michael Purpura, a member of the 96th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, it’s her second time serving as a Key Spouse.
“I love being an Air Force wife,” said Kris, whose family has been stationed at 14 bases. “I identify with new wives who are away from their homes and families for the first time, and undergo through their first permanent change of station, temporary duty assignment or deployment,” she said. “The separation from their husbands can make them feel lost and unhappy. I want to help them understand and love what their husbands do in service to our country, and to be proud of them.”
Brig. Gen. David Harris, the 96th Test Wing commander, praised the new Key Spouses for their service to Eglin’s military families.
“Thank you for your volunteer spirit,” said Harris. “Thank you for volunteering to serve our spouses, in the hard times and the good times as well. Once our spouses understand that you are someone who they can trust and can help them, you will become a ‘key’ in their lives.”
Article by Kevin Gaddie
Team Eglin Public Affairs