Partnerships develop Air Force youth

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency
Gail Donley, Betty Welsh and Paula Roy, respective spouses of the Air Force secretary, Air Force chief of staff and chief master sergeant of the Air Force, attended the 2nd Annual Air Force Family Forum here Sept. 17, hosted by the Air Force Association.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley spoke briefly to forum attendees before delivering his "State of the Air Force" address, showcasing the service's accomplishments and the Airmen responsible for them.

"We have a lot of uncertainty in the force right now," Donley said. "It's more and more important we get focused and grounded on what holds our Air Force together: our Airmen."

Donley explained the imperative to support Airmen as well as possible.

"If we support our Airmen and their families and we stand by them, they'll get us through whatever challenges that come our way," he said.

This year, the forum examined "partnerships and how ... we work with people outside, because we can't do everything ourselves," said Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services.

According to David Brittain, youth development specialist and Air Force Partnership Project coordinator, the Air Force partners with the 4-H Club as well as the Boys and Girls Club to provide expanded services to Air Force youth. Both programs focus on teaching about 110,000 youth the core areas of character and leadership, education and career, health and life skills, arts and sports, and fitness and recreation while having fun.

"One of the (main) indicators of success in a child's life is having a long-term, caring relationship with an adult other than a parent," said Brittain, who has worked with the military since 2000.

Brittain maintains that youth programs and the Air Force don't work in a vacuum.

"We need to share our knowledge and share our resources, especially in this time of constrained budgets," Brittain said. "We need to work with our partners and create more avenues and opportunities for our youth and families."

The forum also featured the 2012 Air Force and Military Spouse of the Year, Jeremy Hilton, as a guest speaker. He spoke on advocating exceptional family needs to senior leaders.

As the forum closed, Welsh and Roy thanked the audience for attending while talking about the significance of spouses.

"This is team sport, but there's another important team ... our officer and enlisted team," Welsh said. "There are 330,000 active duty Airmen and 262,000 of them are enlisted. We have a talented and capable officer corps, and we rely on them. But, our enlisted force is the heartbeat of our Air Force."

Roy noted the military spouse's vital role.

"Anytime you can partner with agencies at your installation or in your community, this is a family multiplier for you," Roy said.