Key Spouse dinner reiterates importance of program

Melody O'Sullivan and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William O'Sullivan, 82nd Training Wing chaplain, plate their food, provided by Mike Winslow, Air Force Association Gen. Charles L. Donnelly Chapter 284 president, at the Key Spouse Dinner at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, May 24, 2016. The O'Sullivan enjoy their first Key Spouse Dinner after recently arriving at Sheppard. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Brittany Curry)

Melody O'Sullivan and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William O'Sullivan, 82nd Training Wing chaplain, plate their food, provided by Mike Winslow, Air Force Association Gen. Charles L. Donnelly Chapter 284 president, at the Key Spouse Dinner at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, May 24, 2016. The O'Sullivan enjoy their first Key Spouse Dinner after recently arriving at Sheppard. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Brittany Curry)

Brook DeWolf, wife of Col. Greg DeWolf, 82nd Medical Group commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Pritchard, 82nd Training Wing command chief, converse at the Key Spouse Dinner at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, May 24, 2016. Wing leadership focused on bringing the Key Spouses together to fellowship, highlight the Key Spouses' success and to open up to leadership about challenges they face as a part of the program. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Brittany Curry)

Brook DeWolf, wife of Col. Greg DeWolf, 82nd Medical Group commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Pritchard, 82nd Training Wing command chief, converse at the Key Spouse Dinner at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, May 24, 2016. Wing leadership focused on bringing the Key Spouses together to fellowship, highlight the Key Spouses' success and to open up to leadership about challenges they face as a part of the program. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Brittany Curry)

Bernadette Henderson, wife of Col. Paul Henderson, 782nd Training Group commander, speaks to the spouses about the importance of their role at the Key Spouse Dinner at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, May 24, 2016. Mrs. Henderson offered advice and words of encouragement to Key Spouses by stating, "You are very special. You are chosen. For that, you need to lead by example and strive to reach out to every spouse." (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Brittany Curry)

Bernadette Henderson, wife of Col. Paul Henderson, 782nd Training Group commander, speaks to the spouses about the importance of their role at the Key Spouse Dinner at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, May 24, 2016. Mrs. Henderson offered advice and words of encouragement to Key Spouses by stating, "You are very special. You are chosen. For that, you need to lead by example and strive to reach out to every spouse." (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Brittany Curry)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Commanders, spouses and community members reiterated the importance of the Key Spouse Program at the Key Spouse Dinner here May 24.

Brig. Gen. Patrick Doherty, 82nd Training Wing commander, along with wing leadership, focused on bringing the Key Spouses together in fellowship to not only let them know how important they are to the commanders, but also to highlight the Key Spouses’ successes and present leadership with any challenges they face.

Commanders’ perspective

Maj. Kyle Moe, 82nd Force Support Squadron commander, testified to the importance of the Key Spouse program within his own squadron.

“When I first took command I was skeptical of the abilities of the Key Spouse program,” Moe said. “It wasn’t until I realized that without them I would struggle to stay in touch with my people. There are over 900 people within the FSS command and the Key Spouses help provide me with knowledge and information about them. My Key Spouses strengthen my connection to the FSS family and assist me in making sure they are taken care of.”

Lt. Col. Andrew Hosler, 364 Training Squadron commander, stated that the Key Spouses are how he gages his decision-making process because they provide him with the feedback on the impact to home life. Additionally, they are how he measures the morale of his squadron, Hosler said.

Lt. Col. Arnold Bowen, 365 Training Squadron commander, gave admiration to the Key Spouses’ abilities to make themselves available to the families.

Outside looking in

Mike Winslow, Air Force Association Gen. Charles L. Donnelly Chapter 284 president, who also donated the food for the Key Spouse Dinner, gave a testament unlike the commanders’, providing the group with an outside perspective on the program.

Winslow, an Air Force family man himself, and his children have spent most of their lives with the Air Force. Through the example of his daughter and son-in-law, Winslow told the group why he believes the Key Spouse program is so important.

“My son-in-law, who is currently deployed, has only been able to witness the birth of one of his children,” Winslow said. “Without the Key Spouse program, my daughter, now pregnant with their fourth, would have no one to help support her during those moments when my son-in-law was called away for duty—they were for her when her husband couldn’t be."

Words of wisdom

For Brooke DeWolf, wife of Col. Greg DeWolf, 82nd Medical Group commander, who is preparing to leave Sheppard after Col. DeWolf’s change of command, being a Key Spouse mentor has been an honor and privilege. As part of the program, spouses of commanders fulfill the role of Key Spouse Mentor, which gave her the opportunity to share knowledge, experience and guide the nearly non-existent 82nd MDG program from two years ago to where it is today, Mrs. DeWolf said.

As the DeWolf’s prepare to depart Sheppard, Mrs. DeWolf leaves the current and future Key Spouses with parting thoughts and advice.

“Looking at the big picture and creating a strong Key Spouse program is truly a team effort,” Mrs. DeWolf said. “It is critical that the team includes the support and guidance of the commanders and the First Sergeant. Additionally, since the program’s needs are different for every squadron and group, you have to figure out what will work best for your particular unit. It’s okay to try different things because whether you have one hundred people or one person participating, you have touched someone’s life. Never underestimate how powerful that can be.”

Key Spouses need to be the go-to person to garner support for families, specifically the deployed families, to provide information, assistance and to be there when it matters, Mrs. DeWolf said.

Bernadette Henderson, wife of Col. Paul Henderson, 782nd Training Group commander, also provided words of encouragement for those at the dinner.

“You are very special,” Mrs. Henderson said. “You are chosen. For that, you need to lead by example and strive to reach out to every spouse.”

To get more involved in the Key Spouse program and the activities they coordinate, contact the appropriate unit’s Key Spouse to discover ways to participate and get connected.