The top couple in the Air Force on Feb. 27 hosted the first-ever Air Force-level Key Spouse conference, bringing together 300 spouses from across the service to discuss issues they all face and to find ways to improve the quality of life in the service.
These key spouses, and the issues they face, are an Air Force imperative, said Dawn Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein’s spouse who hosted the event.
“Our key spouses are probably our most important retention tools,” she said. “If we don’t take care of our families, who’s going to stay?”
Gen. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright spoke with about 300 key spouses at the event, fielding questions on issues such as education, permanent change of station issues, healthcare, and problems with the Exceptional Family Member Program, a Defense Department effort to provide help for special needs family members.
The Key Spouse program, which was standardized across the Air Force in 2009, includes volunteer spouses who work with commanders to support military families at the individual installations. The trained volunteers work with families of deployed service members, and help families find key resources they need.
“Commanders have so much on their plate, with the mission and deployments,” Mrs. Goldfein said. “This is another person in their command unit that can help them take care of families.”
An example of how a Key Spouse helps was in the aftermath of the October 2018 hurricane that destroyed Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Following the storm, a Key Spouse at nearby Eglin Air Force Base posted on social media that if anybody wanted to donate supplies to families at Tyndall, send them her way and she’d get them to those who needed it. Not long after, a mailman showed up to her house. She said she’d open her garage for the delivery of a few boxes, to which the mailman replied, “No ma’am, I’m the first of six trucks.” All told, more than 900 packages were delivered to families in need in the Tyndall community, she said.
“This is within the Key Spouse network,” she said, with volunteers from all over the country who donated.