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Planting the Key Spouse program: Lawson family leaves their mark

Family members of Team Little Rock gather at the 327th Airlift Squadron to greet returning Reserve Citizen Airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, May 19, 2019

Family members of Team Little Rock gather at the 327th Airlift Squadron to greet returning Reserve Citizen Airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, May 19, 2019. The deployed group consisted of the 327th Airlift Squadron, 913th Maintenance Squadron, and is augmented by members of the 403rd Wing and active-duty personnel from the 19th Airlift Wing. (Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marcus Taylor)

Family members of 913th Airlift Group gather at back of the 327th Airlift Squadron to greet returning Reserve Citizen Airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, May 19, 2019. The Key Spouse program provided care packages to the military members during the deployment and continue to provide resources to family members.  (U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Maj. Ashley Walker)

Family members of 913th Airlift Group gather at back of the 327th Airlift Squadron to greet returning Reserve Citizen Airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, May 19, 2019. The Key Spouse program provided care packages to the military members during the deployment and continue to provide resources to family members. (U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Maj. Ashley Walker)

Airmen and their family members line up along the food buffet at the family day event held on Nov. 2, 2019, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The 913th Airlift Group hosted the event, celebrating and showing appreciation for family members' support of their Airmen. Nearly 80 percent of the unit are traditional reservists who live across the state and train one weekend a month, two-weeks a year. The Key Spouse program helps provide resources and activities for the event. (U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Senior Airman Nathan Byrnes)

Airmen and their family members line up along the food buffet at the family day event held on Nov. 2, 2019, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The 913th Airlift Group hosted the event, celebrating and showing appreciation for family members' support of their Airmen. Nearly 80 percent of the unit are traditional reservists who live across the state and train one weekend a month, two-weeks a year. The Key Spouse program helps provide resources and activities for the event. (U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Senior Airman Nathan Byrnes)

Lt. Col. Scott Lawson, 913th Airlift Group chief of safety, places his luggage on top of a cargo pallet to be loaded onto a C-130J at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., on Jan. 28, 2019.  The 913th Airlift Group airlift and maintenance personnel deployed together to provide combat airlift to support Operations Inherent Resolve, New Dawn, and Freedom’s Sentinel.  Nearly 80 percent of the unit are traditional reservists who live across the state and train one weekend a month, two-weeks a year.  (U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Maj. Ashley Walker)

Lt. Col. Scott Lawson, 913th Airlift Group chief of safety, places his luggage on top of a cargo pallet to be loaded onto a C-130J at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., on Jan. 28, 2019. The 913th Airlift Group airlift and maintenance personnel deployed together to provide combat airlift to support Operations Inherent Resolve, New Dawn, and Freedom’s Sentinel. Nearly 80 percent of the unit are traditional reservists who live across the state and train one weekend a month, two-weeks a year. (U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Maj. Ashley Walker)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark --

Helping set the foundation for the Key Spouse program here at the 913th Airlift Group, the Lawson family reflects on nearly 20 years of involvement with the program across assignments.

Sharon Lawson believes “When it comes to helping, it is not about knowing all the answers, it is about knowing where to find the answers and ensuring the right resources are made available to our families and Airmen when they need them most.”

She was a part of the Key Spouse program at other bases when her spouse was active duty Air Force. Leaning on previous experience, she joined other spouses from the group to help build the program from the ground up.

The organization was in its early stages as it was reactivated in 2011 with an initial focus on training. By 2015, the group became classically associated with Air Mobility Command’s 19th Airlift Wing as a result of the Air Force Total Force Integration initiative.                       

“Once we learned of the switch to an operational combat mission, we knew there was a special need for the Key Spouse program,” said Sharon. “In 2016, I became the key spouse for the 327th Airlift Squadron and 913th Operational Support Squadron.”

Despite previous experience, she was cognizant of the unique challenges Reserve members face. Nearly 80 percent of the group are part-time, traditional reservists who do not live locally.  This geographical distance from the base could create a sense of isolation from the support and resources available to military members and their families. This barrier to support services and networks emphasizes the need and role of the Key Spouse program.

“It takes deliberate effort to reach out to the Reserve member’s spouse,” said Sharon. “Being a part of the Air Force family is a special bond and can create a social connection across distances. This connection may fill a need that may not exist in their local town.”

The network of Reserve spouses is a wealth of information, stemming from experience and shared challenges. The role of the Key Spouse is to help the newer spouses and their families navigate the resources available, connecting them with experienced spouses in the unit.

“The seasoned veterans know what to expect during deployments. We can help those families who’ve never deployed by lending a helping hand or sympathetic ear to their concerns,” Sharon stated. “I partnered up with the maintenance squadron’s key spouse during the deployment last year. We regularly contacted, not only the spouses, but family members of single members as well. We collected and created personalized care packages for all the missed holidays. Those gestures brought a sense of family.”

As the Lawsons prepare for their next duty assignment, they advocate for all families to find ways to assist and grow the Key Spouse program. If you have an idea or would like to join the program, you can email Shanna Holmes at 913thkeyspouses@gmail.com.

“The Key Spouse program does not happen with just one person, it is the network of people who work across the six different squadrons that make up the program. Anyone is welcome to participate and attend training to become a Key Spouse,” said Lt. Col. Scott Lawson, 913th Airlift Group chief of safety. “The more involvement, the tighter the Air Force family. Support from our families and the program is vital to the success of the 913th Airlift Group mission.”

Visit the site to learn more about the program:  https://www.913ag.afrc.af.mil/Home/Key-Spouse-Program/