FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
Moving to a new area presents unique challenges to military families. Spouses often need to look for new jobs, children move to new schools and the support networks families have relied on change with new scenery.
Key Spouses are one resource the Air Force calls on to offer support to families throughout arrival, transition and establishment at their new assignments.
Kelly Barrett, the 18th Air Force commander’s spouse, and Trish Simpson, wife of the 18th Air Force Command Chief, visited Fairchild to gain insight about Team Fairchild Key Spouse efforts aiding Airmen and families. They also saw and discussed efforts to improve children’s education and license reciprocity for spouses.
“Our family has been tested by multiple moves and changing schools throughout our years, especially when Chris and I were both on active duty,” said Simpson. “The Key Spouses here have done an amazing job with the [Fairchild Educational Excellence Team] to work with the school systems in the surrounding area to pave the way toward easing the stressors of changing schools, transferring credits and maintaining a high grade point average.”
FEET was established by the Team Fairchild Airman and Family Readiness Center school liaison officer and spouse leadership to build relationships with off-base school districts to ease the pressure off the PCS process.
“FEET has proven to be influential in school districts throughout Spokane County,” said Steve McMullen, 92nd Force Support Squadron A&FRC school-liaison officer. “To date, it has engaged with Cheney and Medical Lake School Districts, Spokane Public Schools, briefed more than 180 people and has been instrumental in policy changes that have, and will continue, to have lasting effects on military families.”
Another hurdle for military families during a PCS is lack of license reciprocity, a state-to-state agreement for professional certifications in one state to be honored by another. Many spouses have careers that require a state-specific license, and if they are tasked to move to a new state, it can take months and cost hundreds of dollars to become re-certified.
“License reciprocity is being addressed Department of Defense-wide with the National Governor’s Association in efforts to make the process more streamlined for spouses moving state-to-state,” Barrett said.
The Air Force recently launched new spouse re-licensure reimbursement program, which provides financial relief up to $500 to spouses who must obtain state occupational re-licensures or re-certifications during a permanent change of station or assignment across state lines.
“This is a great opportunity,” Barrett said. “Our senior leadership’s efforts will impact dual-income families going forward to mitigate wasting time, productivity and income in the process of gaining license approval.”
Balance in this lifestyle isn’t easy. It is so important for each level, from leadership to spouses, to continue to support each other in day-to-day life as we do on squadron deployments, Barrett added.
While the Air Force recruits Airmen, it retains families. A main goal is to provide them with an effective support structure such as the A&FRC, quality family housing, child care and youth centers, and access to first-rate health care.
Airmen and spouses can find more information about employment programs at www.afpc.af.mil/Benefits-and-Entitlements/Employment-Resources/.
General information about career and education programs for spouses is available from an installation’s A&FRC and the Department of Labor website at https://www.veterans.gov/milspouses, and the Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program at https://myseco.militaryonesource.mil.