Military Spouse of the Year, committed to National Guard families Published Aug. 7, 2013 By Master Sgt. Marvin Preston Air National Guard Readiness Center Public Affairs JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. (AFNS) -- The schedule of a military spouse is an arduous one. Appointments, dinners, and family time are vital to maintaining normalcy despite the strain of military life. Alicia Hinds Ward, the 2013 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, is another in the long line of military mothers and spouses who work a multitude of tasks, seemingly at the same time, while staying involved and focused. "I have to be regimented, it takes planning," said Ward, a mother of three children, ages 6 to 21. "I've had to learn what my priorities are." During the run-up to the 2013 MSOY award announcement, Ward was busy doing what she does best: getting involved. She drafted the U.S. Air Force's Exceptional Family Member Program content for the American Military Autism Families Support website, was recognized with Volunteer Excellence Awards for 2011 and 2012, worked with the Wounded Warrior Project, and presented National Guard issues before Congress. As a disability advocate by vocation, Ward created the EFMP outreach program at Joint Base Andrews here, to help members obtain Social Security benefits for disabled family members and participated on a Department of Defense Community & Family Policy panel. The panel was tasked with enacting program reforms across all branches of the military. Ward is married to Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Edwinston J. Ward, but is a voice for spouses and families regardless of military component. A key element of her agenda is helping spouses understand that clear communication and a tight-knit community builds resiliency and strength, which help deal with the unique challenges and changes of military life. "It is through this community support system that information regarding benefits and other military services is shared and our spouses are able to make better choices for their families," Ward said. "Education about services and knowing where to go for help keeps our spouses grounded, secure and able to adapt to change." Adapting to continuous change is the norm for Ward. With a day planner full of meetings, panel discussions and events, it's hard to image how it all gets done. "It all comes down to time management," Ward said. The path to the pinnacle of her work in advocacy and support began more than four years ago. During her husband's reenlistment, Ward keyed into issues leaders discussed regarding support for families in the Air National Guard. Listening closely, she sensed a need for a stronger support system within the unit and volunteered immediately as a key spouse. With her involvement and the passage time, she grew more knowledgeable in the issues facing Guard families. "I want to identify and create a database of where to go to find information military spouses need to support themselves and their families," she said. "I want to show that through learning about available support resources and understanding each other, spouses can feel less alone and stronger within themselves and their communities." In the near future, Ward said she will support more outreach opportunities, panels and events, all geared toward supporting and uplifting the military family. The state runners-up to the 2013 MSOY are advancing a "Team National Guard" platform. Their efforts include establishing food pantries at all wings and armories and providing more robust support service for children facing the challenges caused by family separation. Specific to the National Guard, Ward wants to identify additional spouse and civilian employment resources, create a means of identifying and supporting special-needs family members, and identify and create a hub of additional resources for special-needs family members. Ward hopes her work will honor the work of past MSOY honorees who have all labored on behalf of military families. "I'm grateful and privileged to represent the 1.1 million military spouses supporting our military members," Ward said.