Heart Link is a helpful tool for spouses

  • Published
  • By Linda Markel
  • Air Combat Command
Did you know the Air Force spouse's orientation program "Heart Link" is one of the most successful forums for spouses to learn how they fit into the Air Force way of life? 

The program was initially designed with the new Air Force spouses in mind, but as time passes and with the many changes in our military today, Heart Link is recommended for all spouses regardless of length of their affiliation with the military lifestyle. 

The goals of the program are to strengthen Air Force families through knowledge about military programs, agencies and the mission; therefore, enhancing overall mission readiness. During the course of one day, spouses are given information by the many helping agencies at their installation, including finance, the military personnel flight, TRICARE, family advocacy, the chapel, protocol and many more. Spouses also learn traditions such as the Air Force Song and the role unit coins play in the military tradition. They have the opportunity to meet others who may share the same interests and have fun with the many innovative learning tools introduced in the program.

Heart Link was introduced by ACC Family Matters program in January 2002 and shortly afterwards it was introduced Air Force-wide. Over the years it has proven to be a valuable life enriching program for Air Force spouses. There is no cost to attendees associated with Heart Link. Lunch meal, snacks and child care are provided free of charge to participants.

Invariably spouses who attend Heart Link leave grateful for having taken the time to go through it. They leave with a better understanding of the Air Force mission and the importance of their military spouse's responsibilities to the mission; they gain a good understanding of all the services and helping agencies available to them and how to access these services; and, just as importantly, they learn about the Air Force customs and traditions and leave feeling they are part of the team. .

Check out the comments from previous attendees: "You feel part of the Big Picture;" "All units should tell their new spouses--Just do it! Information is powerful"; "Awesome! A lot of fun! A very handy wealth of information critical for our young spouses"; 'It felt good to be welcomed in a way that made me feel important"; "Enjoyed mostly the different speakers you provided in order to answer questions; also, the way you presented them through the games was a great idea"; "We have been here for a year and I finally feel in the loop"; It's a great place to meet other new spouses and get information about the base." 

For more information on Heart Link spouses should contact their local base Airman and Family Readiness Center.

Another program that spouses can make a difference in is the ACC Key Spouse Program which provides an opportunity for its spouses to play a "key" role in accomplishing the mission.

This valuable program, which links family members and unit commanders, helps spouses play a key role in the mission by assisting family members when service members deploy or are assigned to a remote tour.

Appointed by the unit commander, key spouses volunteer their time to offer support, information and a personal connection to available resources. Modeled after the Navy's Family Ombudsman Program, the Key Spouse Program was first adopted by several high-deployment Air Force bases in 1997. Since then, the program has been used throughout the Air Force and has been modified to meet the needs of today's expeditionary Air Force.

Key spouses are available to listen and share experiences to help meet the challenges of deployment. In addition to helping new Air Force spouses cope with separation, key spouses are trained to answer any questions family members may have, ranging from finances to family matters.

These volunteers are now better prepared to provide assistance since ACC incorporated a number of updates to the program last year at the Key Spouse Working Group.

Newly selected key spouses receive more than four hours of training through the Airman and Family Readiness Center. That training includes role-playing scenarios and briefings from a number of agencies including finance, legal, services and the chaplain.

In addition to formal training, there are several qualities these spouses must possess in order to be successful, such as high energy, a sympathetic ear, knowledge of base and community resources, and a willingness to want to help others.

By educating family members and helping them cope with separation, key spouses make a positive contribution to mission accomplishment which ultimately serves as a force multiplier.