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DAF Spouse Leaders discuss the New Ops Normal for Families

The Air Force Association 2020 Air, Space and Cyber Conference graphic. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Rosario "Charo" Gutierrez)

The Air Force Association 2020 Virtual Air, Space and Cyber Conference is an annual meeting of aerospace professionals, Defense Department, industry, academia and international partners. The 72nd conference and professional development event is being held remotely for the first time from Arlington, Va., Sept. 14-16, 2020. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Rosario "Charo" Gutierrez)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new type of stress for families, whether it be permanent changes of station or schooling for children–the new “normal” comes with its own set of challenges, and Department of the Air Force leadership is striving to help families through them.

During the Air Force Association’s 2020 Virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force senior leadership spouses came together via video conference to provide advice on resources available to assist families during the pandemic and information on how to gain the most out of the Key Spouse Program.

“COVID-19 is challenging all of us,” said Sharene Brown, spouse of Chief of Staff of the Air Force Charles Q. Brown, Jr. “Many of us are taking on new stressors to include teleworking, new approaches to schooling for our children and how to find child care.”

Although the country is going through a pandemic, military families are still moving to their new duty stations. The Key Spouse program is available to help guide families through these times, and offer resources to help, such as increased awareness of what’s available and unit support.

“We are all in this together,” said Rahn Bass, spouse of Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass. “Everyone has experiences and something to share.”

Brown encouraged spouses to get involved and build a network.

“If you have been in the area for a little while and know families are moving in, reach out to them,” Brown said. “Try to say hello in whatever way you can.”

Another topic of discussion addressed the changes in schooling since the pandemic. Many schools are now solely online, adding to an already stressful situation.

“Take it one day at a time,” said Mollie Raymond, spouse of Space Force Chief of Operations Gen. John Raymond. “Also, be willing to ask if you have any issues with technical support or (if you are) struggling with an assignment.”

She discussed other resources such as the military and family life counselors at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Military OneSource, school liaisons and Exceptional Family Member Program coordinators. She also explained that since some schools may not be hosting extracurricular activities, the Air Force has partnered with the Boy & Girls Clubs of America and 4-H at Home, which could provide an alternative and help “connect kids with kids.”

In moving forward, Rachel Rush, spouse of the Senior Enlisted Advisor of the Space Force, Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, said she strives to create an atmosphere for more spouses to interact.

“I want spouses to know we empathize,” she said. “We all deal with that struggle, but being able to meet anybody you can that has wisdom to offer you can help you know that you are not alone in this.”

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