Department of the Air Force leaders and their spouses shared advice and resources with military families during a Families in the Fight panel at the 2022 Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference Sept. 21.
Panelists consisted of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., and his wife Sharene, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, and his wife Mollie, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass, and her husband Rahn, and Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman, and his wife Rachel.
Lt. Gen. Caroline M. Miller, Air Force Manpower, Personnel and Services deputy chief of staff, moderated the discussion and engaged panel members on common challenges military families experience, including childcare, education, healthcare, housing and spouse employment, and resources available to assist them.
“We’ve walked the same path many of you have and our goal is to make it better for those who follow and come behind us,” Brown said. “We want to break down as many barriers as we can to make serving in our Air Force or Space Force enjoyable.”
When asked about efforts to mitigate the impact of inflation and a nationwide housing crisis on Air Force families, Brown highlighted actions underway to increase pay, allowances and entitlements. He also acknowledged the need for a system for determining Basic Allowance for Housing rates that is both responsive to the market and stable enough that military families can plan.
Sharene Brown added that, while policies and programs are being adjusted at the headquarters level, there are also resources at the local level to support military families.
“What we don’t recognize is oftentimes there are programs already in place at the Military Family and Readiness centers that can help us overcome some of these challenges,” she said, encouraging Airmen and spouses to engage their Key Spouses to connect with individuals and resources.
Some of the local resources for military families highlighted during the panel include:
– Kinderspots: a mobile app designed to centralize and streamline the subletting of short-term slots at military child development centers.
– Joint Service School Liaison Program: education specialists that provide assistance with local school navigation, deployment support, scholarship and grant resources and more.
– In-Home Child Care Fee Assistance Pilot Program: A new pilot program that will run for five years and cover full-time care for a minimum of 30 hours to a maximum of 60 hours of childcare weekly.
Rahn Bass also mentioned leveraging their local Military Family and Readiness center while his wife was deployed. The couple were raising two young daughters in Mississippi during this period.
“If you have kids, deployments not only impact your spouse, but your children, too,” Rahn Bass said.
Rahn Bass, who previously served as a first sergeant in the U.S. Army, was actively engaged with school liaison officers and a military life counselor while his daughters were attending school.
“I always used to share with my own service members about resources like this. But to have someone actually present for me and support my family while my wife was deployed was huge for us,” Rahn Bass added.
Mollie Raymond reaffirmed that understanding what resources are available at every location where families are stationed and building a network of support is crucial to resiliency.
“One of the core values for the Space Force is connection,” she said. “It’s so important to connect where you are, with your units, Guardians, and fellow Airmen. We have an opportunity to build and cultivate family culture. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime.”
To help combat the financial strain of the current economic downturn on Space Force families, Gen. Raymond discussed the progress being made to hire military spouses into civilian positions as the service continues to grow.
“As we’re building the service, we’re hiring a lot of civilians,” he said. “So, we’ve been doing a lot of work on trying to connect family members to those jobs so they can stay connected.”
Gen. Raymond also shared that the Space Force is partnering with “Hiring Our Heroes” to provide spouses with training and certificate programs to increase the service talent pool and instill greater confidence in newly hired spouses.
In addition to discussing resources available to assist military families, panelists shared their personal experiences of supporting one another as military members and spouses during periods of change throughout their lives and careers.
Having become the first female to hold the highest senior enlisted rank in any U.S. military branch, Chief Bass recognized the uniqueness of her husband’s role, which has historically been held by females.
“He is helping to redefine and normalize what today’s modern military family looks like, which is very different than it was in the sixties or seventies,” Rahn Bass said. “This is normalizing it, and so for our home, we’re helping to redefine what normal is.”
As the panel concluded, the leaders shared closing remarks and voiced commitment for continued support to military families.
“You’ve heard it from the CSO and from the Chief of Staff of the Air Force,” Towberman said. “We can’t want more for your families than you want. You’ve got to hold us accountable. You’ve got to know that they are important.”