SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Acclimating to military life can be daunting for Airmen as they get used to military structure, terminology, schedules and even understanding what their job is and how it fits into the big Air Force picture.
Now imagine being a spouse who has never been or only minimally exposed to Air Force life and culture, knowing what it means for their Airman to serve, but not fully understanding the scope of that service. The 362nd Training Squadron has developed an initiative that helps spouses gain broader knowledge of the Air Force and what their Airmen do day-to-day.
Tech. Sgt. Patrick Collins, 362nd TRS heavy aircraft flight chief, said squadron Commander Lt. Col. Anthony Vieira, first sergeants and the squadron’s Key Spouses organization began formulating the initiative in 2016 and created what is now called the Red Carpet Tour, a day for spouses of permanent party and Airmen in Training to get a glimpse of the unit and the Air Force as a whole.
The first tour was in November 2016.
“It’s easy to tell your spouse what you do all day, but for them to have the opportunity to see it firsthand about what’s going on at work and how a typical day-in-the-life of an instructor is” helps them understand even more, he said.
Master Sgt. John Ruiz, 362nd TRS first sergeant, said the Red Carpet Tour gives spouses of Airmen in Training who attend a holistic view of what they are doing, from introducing them to instructors and also showing them what the Airmen are training on.
“Not only does the instructor’s spouse get to see that, but if the AiT-er’s spouse is here, they get to see that as well,” he said. “It kind of bypasses the whole, realistically, years of talking about things and not really being able to see it firsthand.”
Collins said the day for spouses begins at a breakfast with squadron leadership where they hear a little about the squadron and its mission. They then go to selected portions of the 362nd TRS to get a visual perspective of how and where instructors train students.
While spouses might not be turning wrenches or performing some sort of maintenance on aircraft, they are able to see them up close. The flight chief said the most recent group was able to sit inside a fighter jet used for maintenance training, for example.
Other base agencies such as the Airman & Family Readiness Center and Family Outreach have also participated in the first two Red Carpet Tour events, sharing information about what they do and the services they provide to the spouses and their families.
“I think it also helps with the AiT-er’s spouses who really see the Air Force as a family, and if they have questions, they have other spouses senior to them — as far as Air Force experience — and they can kind of open those communication channels as far as, ‘What’s BAH? What is that? How do I get that?’” Ruiz said. “All the questions that are rambling in their heads that they might not feel comfortable asking their spouse, and their spouse may not even know.
“But now they have a little bit of a community to ask those questions.”
Collins said it’s important for spouses to get integrated into the Air Force sooner rather than later because they will likely move several times in their career. While the Airmen will inherently meet new people by going to work in a new squadron, it isn’t quite as easy for spouses.
“At the end of the day, these spouses who are married to AiTs may have never left home in their life,” he said, adding he knows of people in the local area who never left home. “These spouses are going to be relocated two to three times just in their training stage in the military, solely, especially if they’re already following their spouse.
“So, the opportunity for them to have to relocate, it’s important that they’re integrated and know what all is available to them as a military spouse.”
Ruiz said there isn’t a set schedule for the tours because the length of courses in the 362nd TRS varies, but the “permanent change of station season” in the spring and summer will likely be the time for the next event.