GREAT FALLS- When Jennifer Brown’s family was based at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, she found a program that helps spouses connect to the base.
"The commander at Minot Air Force Base took me under her wing, brought me to the meeting, and showed me what the program was all about," Brown said.
Brown has helped support military spouses at Minot and Malmstrom Air Force Base through the Key Spouse Program for the past four years. Brown is a Key Spouse for the 741st Security Force Squadron and she understands the demand that comes with being a military spouse.
"I knew what it was like to be at home with little kids, alone in an isolated place, and feel like I didn’t have a support system. It is perfect here to be that support system for these spouses,” Brown said.
Airman Family Readiness Center Community Readiness Consultant Dawn Beal said the Key Spouses are the conduit between commanders and the spouses. Beal helps train the key spouses before they step into the role for their squadron.
"They have to be interviewed and then they are appointed by leadership," Beal said. "I get that appointment letter and they come to me. I offer a key spouse orientation once a month."
Some of the things the key spouses will learn are crisis intervention, using social media, and preparedness. But the learning does not stop there as they can receive continuing education.
It is important to have a program like this at northern tier bases due to isolation.
“A lot of people are 2,000 plus miles from home. They do not know anyone here, they are young spouses, and they just don’t know how to reach out and get information," Beal said.
"The Key Spouses play a huge role in helping acclimate to this area, to the military life, to the squadron, so they can have a great experience here," Beal added. "Each squadron on base has key spouses that help welcome new spouses, organize events, and spread information to families across the base."
Brittany Vallejo is a Key Spouse for the 341st Missile Maintenance Group after deciding to become one two years ago.
“We have been the most engaged out of any program here at Malmstrom that I have had the opportunity and pleasure to be a part of,” Vallejo said.
Vallejo said her most memorable part of being a Key Spouse is not only helping the new spouses to the base but helping spouses with their new bundle of joys.
"Your spouse, your husband, or significant other they may not be able to be there, but we are here to support you through it in their absence,” Vallejo said.
Contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at Malmstrom for more information about the Key Spouse Program.