This spring I joined roughly 50 military spouses of new and soon-to-be Air Force commanders for virtual briefings by Air Combat Command about the role of a commander’s spouse. While 20 hours of Zoom is no one’s idea of a good time, there was a tremendous amount of useful information we would never have otherwise known. A door was opened to us with information on more topics than some of us had ever considered, from EFMP to spouse employment to tragedy response.
The key takeaway, though?
We know what an honor it is for our partners to take command of a squadron. They’ve endured long hours and put in hard work — on base and TDY — over many years to achieve the knowledge and trust to be selected for the position. But no two of us are coming to the role of “commander’s spouse” from the same place.
We’ve been along for the ride … or maybe not. Maybe we’ve already been in the commander’s seat. Some of us have been all-in on military life from the get-go and are thrilled, while others are bewildered, wondering how it happened that the person we fell in love with 20 years ago signed up for this thing that has brought us to this point.
Or, we came to military life well into our own careers and are just now learning the ropes. Some of us want to be helpful but are looking at a calendar crammed full of work and kids’ activities and other commitments and — oh yeah! — moving to a new place, and wondering how to balance it all. Some of us have already told our partners they’ll just have to find someone else at the new unit to step into the lead spouse role because nope.
In short: we’re all individuals. We’re human. We’re women and men. Some of us work full-time at successful careers, in the civilian world or military. Some of us are in school, getting our master’s or doctorate degrees. Some of us are parents, of one or two or four or more kids, some still in virtual school, some home-schooled, some with special needs. Some babies are on the way, some babies are already out of the nest. Some of us are going back to our hometown. Some are going farther away from family than ever before.
Some of us would rather stick a fork in our eye than host an event.
There are extroverts and introverts. People-people and book-people. Coffee drinkers and soda drinkers. You see what I’m getting at: no two of us are alike. And thank goodness, right? That’s the magic of this crazy military life. We get to meet so many people from so many places and hear so many stories. Our common thread is the same as yours. Our partners have careers in the Air Force, just like all the spouses in our squadrons.
By the end of the week, I walked away believing this: We want our airmen and their families to feel supported & seen. There is an astounding array of support resources for families, on our bases and in the “big” Air Force. You are not expected to jump into military life completely on your own. And some spouses have time to get involved to help you navigate it.
We don’t want you to be intimidated by us. We hear the med group hold music in our sleep, too. We don’t always remember dollar bills to tip the commissary baggers either. We’re just Air Force spouses who happened to end up in this spot and want to give back. If you see a need for something in the spouse community, bring it to us. And if there’s something you want to start up, an activity or event or idea, don’t hesitate to volunteer. We want you to thrive.
Ultimately, your commander’s spouse wants you to know you matter. We were in your shoes once. We’re here for you, even if we’re figuring out the best way to do that as we go.Read comments