The commander of Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike Hostage, recently announced that Holly Cope, the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit key spouse, earned the 2011 ACC Key Spouse of the Year Award.
In February, Cope was first selected as the 388th Fighter Wing's Key Spouse of the Year before competing at the major command (MAJCOM) level.
As Cope heard Col. Scott Long, 388th Fighter Wing commander, describing the winner of the award she found herself trembling.
"I can't really wrap my brain around it yet," she said, later. "As Colonel Long was speaking, I realized he was talking about me because of the things he mentioned. When he announced the award, I was overwhelmed -- with excitement because this was so huge and too, with fear because I had to go on stage.
She said she was honored to bring recognition to the program, but admitted to a bit of reluctance at being put in the spotlight.
Col. Long announced her win to the wing in a congratulatory email: "One of the great success stories of our wing is the Key Spouse Program. One of our own, Mrs. Holly Cope, won the Air Combat Command Key Spouse of the Year Award for 2011. Holly epitomizes service before self. Congratulations."
Cope will be invited and recognized as a MAJCOM winner at the Caring for People Forum to be held August/September 2012 in Arlington, Va.
Cope loves her job, even if it is an unpaid position.
"The families inspire me," she said. "I have been a military spouse for 20 plus years and have learned a great deal, mostly the hard way. I feel obligated to help inform and educate our families of the tremendous resources available to them, in hopes they will not have to overcome obstacles blindly. I want our spouses to know the Air Force is not just a job for their loved one, but a way of life for all of us, and it takes unique people to answer this call.
"Our military members know the rules and regulations of the Air Force but our spouses learn by way of facing roadblocks," Cope explained.
"I want to help them maneuver their way through this adventure to become confident that they are strong and can handle whatever the Air Force sends their way, so when their loved one returns they can proudly say, 'All is good here," she said.
Cope said she did not do this alone.
"We have exceptional Key Spouse mentors in the 388th Fighter Wing that have supported every event we have held. We have phenomenal key spouses in the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit who have worked with me daily to take care of our families. We have incredible spouses who answered the call when support was needed for families in crisis," she said.
The Key Spouse Program is an official unit/family program designed to enhance readiness and establish a sense of Air Force community. It is a commander's program that promotes partnerships with unit leadership; volunteer key spouses appointed by the commander; families; the Airman and Family Readiness Center and other community and helping agencies. The program has been standardized across the Air Force to address the needs of all military families with special emphasis on support to families across the deployment cycle.