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Key Spouse Program strives to 'stay connected'

Lisa Weidmann, second from left, mentor of the Civil Engineer
“Key Spouse Program” said the focus of their group is to “keep
families connected”. Other key members shown include (left to
right) Erika Golart, Lisa Waters and Master Sgt. Krystal Marks,
CE First Sergeant. (Photo by Jennifer Macklin)

Lisa Weidmann, second from left, mentor of the Civil Engineer “Key Spouse Program” said the focus of their group is to “keep families connected”. Other key members shown include (left to right) Erika Golart, Lisa Waters and Master Sgt. Krystal Marks, CE First Sergeant. (Photo by Jennifer Macklin)

Patrick AFB, Fla. -- For Lisa Weidmann, leading the CE Key Spouse Program is anything but a chore. It is, however, an opportunity she meets head on with enthusiasm.

"We have a good share of our Airmen frequently deployed" said Lisa, wife of the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Brian Weidmann.  "And Brian feels as strongly as we do that we want to make sure all families separated by deployments still feel connected to the squadron, and know that they have not been forgotten," she said.

The key to doing this, she said, is to start building bridges, early and often.

"People can tell when it comes from the heart. All of us in the program really care because we know what Air Force spouses go through," she said.

So they use everything from the old-fashioned phone call to the most up-to-date social network sites to stay connected.

"To be honest, it doesn't matter how we reach our folks - phone calls, emails, or through our Patrick AFB CE Families Facebook page, we just want to keep the lines of communication open to all our spouses ... whether they are impacted by a deployment or not."

She said they have tried many ways to bring the squadron's spouses together.

"Since we started about 10 months ago, we have sponsored an ice-cream social, a women's self-defense class, family-friendly events at our squadron picnic, a bring-your-family-to-lunch day within each of our flights and started "Photos from the Homefront" that our families can send to their deployed member," she said.

The squadron's first sergeant is the group's No. 1 fan.

"When deployed and in harm's way, you can focus more on your mission at hand knowing your family is a priority of the squadron back home. It makes a huge difference. This program is fantastic," said Master Sgt. Krystal Marks.

Lisa said she and her fellow key spouses see themselves as "force multipliers," in that they help get the word out about Patrick AFB's helping agencies including the Airman and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC), Military Family Life Consultants (MFLC), Child and Youth Programs, HAWC and Fitness Center, as well as Housing and Hunt Pinnacle.

"Basically, we borrow from the "Wingman" concept. We are there to remind spouses we know they are still here and have not been forgotten. We answer questions, provide information, and make referrals when appropriate."

The Chief of the Airman & Family Readiness Center more than agrees.

"Our Patrick Key Spouse Program has established an exceptional framework for continuous contact with spouses and families," said Lillian Cassidy, Chief A&FRC.

"They inform, support and have been key to helping reduce any perceived sense of isolation. When needed, they have linked family members to the appropriate base support agencies. They are selfless volunteers. And most importantly, our key spouses provide peer to peer support-- increasing a sense of 'unit caring'. They are dedicated to serving families, helping build stronger units and play a huge role in helping build stronger Air Force families.