Spouse's program takes off Published Aug. 20, 2002 By Airman John Tuttle 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFPN) -- McConnell graduated its first spouses recently from a new program designed to increase spouses' and caregivers' awareness of the Air Force mission, customs, traditions, protocol, support resources and other services available to them."I thought (Heartlink) was very informative, especially for a person who has not been married to an active-duty person for very long," said Kelly Ashton, a member of the first graduating class from the Heartlink program and wife of Capt. Matt Ashton from the 344th Air Refueling Squadron.The program is two days long. During those two days the spouses and caregivers receive briefings from various representatives of base agencies and squadrons. They learn what the different base agencies can offer them, such as the family support center which provides child-care, stress management and programs for new parents.The Heartlink Program also gives the spouses and caregivers a better understanding of what it is the men and women of McConnell do. For instance, there is an unclassified briefing dealing with some of the deployed locations where McConnell troops are serving.Other topics introduce spouses and caregivers to some of the customs and traditions of the Air Force, ranks and rules of protocol. And, there are sessions to explain military pay and allowances, retreat, paying respect to the flag, identification cards and legal services.The spouses and caregivers play games, such as "Spouse Jeopardy," to reinforce what they learn during the briefings. The games are meant to be a fun way to help the spouses and caregivers have a more active role in the program.Each person who completes the course receives a special coin commemorating the event and a certificate stating his or her completion of the course."The program is a superb vehicle to strengthen military families and enhance mission readiness, while reinforcing to our 'stay home patriots' that they are an absolutely critical part of the Air Force team," said Lt. Col. John Michel, 350th Air Refueling Squadron.