By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — A special group of people work hard behind the scenes to help the families of Airmen at Peterson Air Force Base.
The Key Spouse program consists of approximately 40 spouses selected and supervised by unit commanders to be there to support families, especially when a member is deployed.
“It’s an informal but very necessary program to make sure that our spouses, both those deployed and not deployed, have available resources to them,” said Paul Smith, Airman and Family Readiness Center chief.
The Key Spouse program is an Air Force-wide volunteer program standardized in 2009.
“They serve as a liaison for the spouse (at home) and our spouses out in the field,” Smith said.
Once a commander appoints a key spouse for a unit, they undergo Key Spouse training, Heartlink training, and suicide awareness training through the A&FRC.
Mel Castile, Education Center education counselor, oversaw the Key Spouse program during his time as an A&FRC personal and work life program leader.
Castile said the Key Spouse Networking Group meets once a month. During each quarter the spouses meet once with the unit commanders, once with the first sergeants, and once on their own.
Other bases only require the spouses to meet once a quarter, but Castile said the spouses agreed that more frequent meetings strengthen the program.
Beyond the monthly meetings, key spouses volunteer their time reaching out to the families within their unit through phone calls, emails and group dinners, Smith said. Most of the key spouses also attend the monthly deployed family dinners and are active in other organizations around base.
“Their primary function is (to be) someone approachable that (families) can come to about anything and everything. We don’t want our families to feel like they can’t reach out to someone. We want everyone to know, call your key spouse,” Smith said.
As well as being a commander driven program, Kayreen Crawford and Meegan Flewelling serve as senior key spouse mentors. “They are responsible for how this program operates here on Peterson Air Force Base,” Smith said.
As a thank you to the key spouses, Col. Chris Crawford, 21st Space Wing commander, and Col. Jeffrey Flewelling, 21st Space Wing vice commander, hosted a luncheon March 23 at The Club.
“The key spouses don’t brag about themselves,” Castile said. “The wing commander, the wing vice commander, and the senior key spouses mentors want everybody to know how much the key spouses do and how much they appreciate it.”
During the luncheon, two special Key Spouse awards were announced.
The Crawfords presented Miranda Sherman, wife of Lt. Col. Roger Sherman, 16th Space Control Squadron commander, with the 2011 Key Spouse of the Year award.
“I was surprised and honored to receive the award,” she said. “It’s something I do to give back.”
Sherman, as well as being an outstanding key spouse, also served on the Peterson Spouses Club board, organized multiple fundraisers, created an “Adopt a Grandparent” program at a local retirement home, home schools her son, works as a neurofeedback technician in Colorado Springs, and a multitude of other things.
Sherman said when her husband was stationed at a geographically separated unit and deployed in 2008, there was talk of support from the unit, but it never came to fruition.
“When we arrived at Peterson in 2009, and I heard about the program, I thought this is exactly the type of support I would have liked to have received when (my husband) was deployed.”
Sherman says as a key spouse, she is able to help look out for family members of deployed Airmen.
“The deployed Airman and the commander can better focus on the mission because they know the families are being cared for,” Sherman said. “The Key Spouse program is part of what the Air Force is supposed to be — taking care of families.”
The Key Spouse program also recognized Sonia Kuch, wife of Lt. Col. David Kuch, 21st Medical Support Squadron commander, as the 2011 Key Spouse of the Year runner-up, presented by the Flewellings. Kuch is a retired Air Force nurse and lieutenant colonel with more than 20 years of active duty service. In addition to being the mother of two, as a key spouse Kuch mentored and recruited new key spouses, prepared care packages for deployed Airmen, delivered morale baskets to families of deployed Airmen, volunteered at a local elementary school, and delivered Meals on Wheels to the homebound in the community.