The Military Spouse Advocacy Network, a 501c(3) nonprofit, is a growing organization of military spouses and community supporters who have dedicated their time and talents to supporting military spouses through education, empowerment and support.
One of the pillar programs of MSAN is the New Military Spouse Support Program (NMSSP), which is a program designed to provide peer-to-peer mentorship to new military spouses from the first day they join their military member on his/her journey.
“MSAN found a gap of support that new military spouses face from day one and decided to do something about it. We created a program that fills that gap by providing peer-to-peer mentorship and a positive and successful transition from civilian to military life,” explained President and Founder Verenice Castillo.
The challenges rooted in developing strong military spouses lies largely in the ability to link them to the information and support they need. Even as benefits and resources exist to accomplish spouse support, an apparent and realistic lack of experience sometimes stifles spouses trying to learn and begs the need for a system of mentors to be the bridge between the person and the information. The program was designed to mentor and provide support to new military spouses as well as improving the morale and welfare of our military community.
Castillo pointed out, “Military spouses need and deserve to have a solid foundation of information and know that they have a mentor by their side from the time they become new military spouses through the time they PCS for the first time.”
Mentors link the new spouses to information, resources and supportive agencies at their gaining installation. Beyond the role of providing guidance and mentorship to new spouses, MSAN hopes to inspire them to become leaders in their individual communities and get involved with their passions.
The role of a military spouse can be challenging when it comes to personal identity. Spouses must move every few years which forces some creative reinvention every single time. MSAN provides a constant community of support and encouragement from military spouses who have faced similar challenges.
Spouses who feel knowledgeable about the resources available to them and confident in their community of support are more likely to get involved in aspects of this lifestyle that make them happy. The stronger our family units become, the stronger our military becomes. The DOD recruits the troop but must retain the family.
NMSSP mentors are trained volunteers and fellow military spouses with at least five years of experience. These men and women are leaders in the military spouse community and possess significant knowledge on the resources available. Mentors must also complete an application process and upon selection, complete a series of trainings, attend virtual meetings and submit a monthly hourly volunteer requirement. The NMSSP currently has over 60 diverse military spouse mentors from every branch of the military and are located all over the world.
Kaycee Greninger, NMSSP coordinator, said, “Since finding Military Spouse Advocacy Network, I have found my family. I have found a judgmental-free group of men and women who work endlessly to support and encourage each other. The programs aim to do things no one has attempted to do before, and I believe the success is evident to anyone.”
In order to be paired with a mentor, new military spouses are asked to take a short survey so that MSAN can identify some of their specific needs, as well as branch and location. The NMSSP team reviews the results and personally pairs the new spouse with a trained volunteer mentor. At that time, new spouses may interact with their mentor through various mediums including a page where the new spouses have access to all mentors across all branches.
Spouses enrolled in the program also receive free, exclusive access to various toolkits and workbooks on behalf of MSAN’s many sponsors. MSAN additionally provides educational webinars, informal chats, blogs, live videos, monthly newsletters and much more.
“I joined MSAN because I wanted to give back to my military community,” NMSSP Manager Natalie Ealy said. “When I heard about the program and how they offer peer-to-peer mentoring for new milspouses, I knew I wanted to volunteer because it is a program that I wish I had when I was a new milspouse starting this amazing journey. … I have been blessed beyond words by amazing people here at MSAN along with making lifelong friendships.”
NMSSP’s dedicated volunteers have assisted hundreds of new military spouses and plan to help thousands more. For the first time ever, MSAN can be found as a resource inside Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, providing information about the nonprofit and the mentorship program to new spouses, girlfriends, fiancés and parents.
MSAN is thankful that Lackland Air Force Base saw the need for this kind of program, and MSAN is looking forward to expanding in official capacities to other training installations soon.
New military spouses are also grateful for the support they receive. Bobbie, a new military spouse enrolled in the program, spoke about her experience with a mentor.
“She was wonderful — full of experience and knowledge and so easy to talk to. … She helped me to realize that as lonely as I’d been feeling, I was far from alone,” she said. “Not only did she connect me with some wonderful base resources, she also was just a listening ear — and someone who understood, personally. My mentor has been a blessing!”
If you’re interested in supporting the mission and learning more about MSAN and NMSSP, visit www.militaryspouseadvocacynetwork.org.
Guest post by Whitney Armstrong, Vice President of Programs and Operations with Military Spouse Advocacy Network.Read comments