HILL AIR FORCE BASE, UTAH -- Life as an Air Force Reservist comes with many challenges for Airmen as well as their families. Those challenges are all too familiar for spouses of the Airmen in the 419th Fighter Wing's Civil Engineer Squadron. While trying to figure out how to balance family, work and military responsibilities, facing a deployment is one of the most stressful events for a reservist's family. The Key Spouse program helps take some of the strain off families of deployed Airmen.
On July 31, about 30 Airmen from the 419th CES deployed for a six-month tour to Afghanistan. Mrs. Katherine Brewer, wife of Master Sgt. Tom Brewer, has been through deployments before and understands the needs and concerns of spouses left behind.
"When Tom first deployed, the Key Spouse program was a huge support system for me because it kept me busy," Mrs. Brewer said. "Usually when he's not home, I'm just mad crazy because I don't want to think about him being gone."
During the first deployment, she organized the 419th CES Key Spouse program. As coordinator, she helps spouses cope with deployment by planning activities for members, maintaining emergency contact lists, and simply providing a shoulder to lean on.
"I know it's always nice to have a support system with church and family, but no one really understands like another spouse," Mrs. Brewer said.
Her husband isn't currently deployed, but as a stay-at-home mom of two young children, she knows the stress of keeping a family running while a spouse is away. During those times, she looks for the emotional support of other spouses.
Others feel the same about the program. Loretta Hales, wife of Maj. Michael Hales, said, "The program makes sure the families are watched over when the husband is on deployment."
"At first it's kind of scary to get involved, but they provide a lot of support when you need it," Mrs. Hales said. "I really like the Key Spouse program because there is no rank involved. It's a wife helping a wife and families taking care of each other."
"You make a lot of friends and really bond with people," Mrs. Brewer added. "When the deployments come, you always have that bond when you get together."
Having the support of other spouses is how the program stays running. "One person can't do it alone; it's definitely a team effort." Mrs. Brewer said. "Most people think the Key Spouse program is just for wives, but there are a lot more men involved now."
"I definitely like to keep people busy during the deployments because, after being through one, I understand how just being around people can be uplifting," Mrs. Brewer said.
With the holidays just around the corner, Mrs. Brewer has planned several events to help families stay busy and become involved. Scheduled activities include Halloween and Christmas parties. She encourages those interested in the activities or the Key Spouse program to contact her for more information at (801) 540-9941.