by Senior Airman Erica Stewart
39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
12/30/2010 - INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (AFNS) -- The words "Heart Link" may evoke a mental image of animated cartoon hearts holding hands or perhaps the infamous paper heart chain that has become a staple around school rooms during Valentine's Day.
Sometimes spouses may feel like that flimsy chain of paper hearts, vulnerable and alone.
Heart Link is a program meant to help new military spouses develop a support network and become more comfortable in a new and often strange setting of the military environment.
"Going from the civilian sector to the military can be an intimidating transition," said LeAnn Throlson, an Incirlik community readiness consultant. "Heart Link helps the spouse become more familiar with military customs, courtesies, rank, traditions, benefits and entitlements, as well as what resources are available to them on base."
In addition to learning what the military has to offer them, the crash course in "military" is designed to improve spousal relationships.
"It improves communication between the member and spouse, since the spouse will be informed about acronyms and Air Force culture," Ms. Throlson said.
This dynamic program also explains to spouses their critical role in the Air Force family.
"Most new Air Force spouses come into Heart Link not knowing where they fit into the Air Force mission," she said. "They just think that they're on the outside looking in. It's our job to show them that they're much more than that."
Spouses learn their intricate role in the mission through knowledge and networking.
"Heart Link explains to spouses the helping resources available to them as well as bringing them together with other spouses, expanding camaraderie while enhancing communication and knowledge," Ms. Throlson said.
According to feedback from attendees of a recent Heart Link class here, every military spouse should attend, because everyone learns something new, no matter how many years the member has been associated with the military.
1/3/2011 2:48:21 PM ET I can't agree more. AFAS has been most generous with its donations to HL from day one. Thank you to AFAS
Jena Bienia, JBER
1/3/2011 10:54:12 AM ET As the Program Coordinator for the Heart Link Program at HQ Air Force Aid Society I was concerned when I didn't see a mention in the article that AFAS provides monetary support to every installation which offers the Program. In fact in 2010 AFAS funded over 70,000 to 70 bases who offered Heart Link. AFAS realizes that the Heart Link Program is vital to keeping Air Force spouses informed and plan to continue supporting this program in 2011