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Taking care of Airmen's families, takes care of the mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- When hearing similar comments and anecdotes about difficult transitions to the unit and living overseas from spouses, it sparked the interest of 721st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron leaders took a good look at the programs they had to help spouses.


“When I took command, an important focus area was taking care of the Airmen and their families,” said Maj. Scott Gilliland, 721st AMXS commander. “That meant creating programs that were crucial to the well being of our AMXS family.”


With the help and support of the unit’s leadership, the 721st AMXS Key Spouses implemented two programs - the Spouse Sponsorship Program and monthly Newcomer’s Orientation and dinner. The sponsorship program, incoming spouses receive emails three to six months prior to their expected arrival and until they arrive here, with the intention being to help answer any questions they may have. Once at Ramstein, both the military member and spouse receive a squadron orientation and invitation to a free meal to meet with leadership and key spouses.


“The first impression is a lasting impression,” said Gilliland. “This is a way for new Airmen and spouses to get to know their leadership team in a relaxed setting and a perfect way for us to properly welcome them to the AMXS family.”


On top of the Spouse Sponsorship Program and the monthly Newcomer’s orientation and dinner, the 721st AMXS leadership team also supported the establishment of other programs such as quarterly Airmen appreciation dinners for the Mission Movers, live social media broadcasts and a monthly newsletter to help keep everyone informed, a spouse group to allow spouses the opportunity to interact and get involved with each other and the unit.


While the programs are backed by unit leadership, they are ran by “the best Key Spouses and Spouse Group a commander could hope to have, said Gilliland. Many of the programs were formed by asking key spouses and others what they would have liked to see transitioning to the unit.


“For me, the experience coming over here was very hard,” said Kendra Anthony, 721st AMXS Key Spouse. “I did not adjust well. It was a really tough year, and then Maj. Gilliland came here and interviewed me for key spouse. One of the things he asked me was what would I have done differently. I said, ‘I would have loved if someone had reached out to me.’”


Through the programs, the 721st AMXS leaders and Key Spouses hope to make family members feel closer to the 721st AMXS family. Allowing them to build closer relationships and support groups, not only giving them someone who can reach out to them but also giving them, someone to whom they can reach out to during difficult times.


When hard times do come around, the key spouses gather with other spouses through the Meals on Wheels and New Parent Support Group programs.


If an Airman or family member is hospitalized for an extended period of time, the 721st AMXS Spouse Group comes together and supplies meals to help lessen the strain a long hospital stay can cause.


The New Parent Support Group is able to provide new moms and dads the opportunity to gather together once a month to get to know each other and gain useful information from each other about raising kids overseas.


“We had our first child out here,” said Senior Airman Steven Stanfa, 721st AMXS hydraulic technician. “It was a bit of a struggle for us being our first child. It wasn’t planned to be out here, but thanks to all of the key spouses, who already had kids, because they were a super big help to my wife.”


Because of the help Stanfa and his wife, Jazmin, received with their child through the New Parent Support Group program, she became more involved with other spouse programs.


With the new (programs), (the key spouses) actually reached out and (my wife) has a connection with all of them now. Seeing her involved really affects me positively because I know she’s not alone. I know she’s got everyone else here with her.”


Thus, Stanfa gets to focus more on keeping the mission moving, and there is less chance spouses will have bad experiences when transitioning to a unit with not only a high work tempo but also high morale.


“What makes a unit great is the ability to take care of the Airmen and their families,” Gilliland said. “At the end of the day, leadership can come up with amazing programs, but it takes dedicated individuals to make these programs flourish. At the 721st AMXS, we have some of the best spouses who have a heart to serve. Without the combined effort of each and every one of our spouses, none of this would be possible.”