By: Sunshine Burgess, New Military Spouse Support Program Manager
When I became a military spouse almost 16 years ago (and that probably seems like the dark ages to many), there weren’t really any mentoring programs where I could find help in navigating my new life. If you were lucky, you found a sympathetic older spouse (today we call them seasoned) who would take you under their wing and impart some knowledge on you. My husband was a young airman and he had never had a wife, so when I asked questions, he rarely knew the answer as it was all new to him also. Sometimes he could ask one of the guys at work and if it were a standard, military type question, then they helped, but if I was unsure what I was supposed to wear to something or what the proper protocol for events were, they were often as lost as I was. We were all basically the blind leading the blind.
Times have changed, thank goodness! Every branch has implemented some sort of spouses supporting spouses program. However, they are volunteer led and Commander driven. Do you know what that means? Commander driven? It means that although the programs are supported and encouraged by the branch itself, the implementation of the program and support of the program on any given installation can be completely different due to the views of the commander and willingness of the volunteers. Some locations have such strong programs that your questions are almost answered before you even know you want to ask them! Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, so what do you do? What happens when you don’t know what programs are available? Who do you ask to be pointed in the right direction when the active duty member is as new to this as you are and is just trying to keep their head above water in the active duty world?
Military Spouse Advocacy Network (MSAN) saw that gap. We saw the need to have a starting point and the New Military Spouse Support Program (NMSSP) was born because of that gap. When you don’t know where to start, ask us! When your active duty member has gone to basic training or to a beginning training course and you are left behind with no access to military knowledge other than the local recruiter office, let us be your source of military knowledge. Our mentors are trained using Military OneSource training tools and installation spouse support programs. MSAN can connect you with a branch mentor to answer your questions, connect you with the necessary programs and offices at your gaining installation and help make the transition to military life a little less scary. We know it can be overwhelming because at one time, it was new to us too! Acronyms thrown at you and it is assumed you know what they mean. Tricare and finance and moving every few years and essentially starting over. We have been there. Instead of drowning in the world of Google and hoping that the information you find is correct, wouldn’t it be easier to ask someone who either knows the answer or has access to the offices where they help you get the accurate answers? I know, almost every installation has a Facebook group that you can join and ask questions, but you don’t always know whether the person is answering accurately. MSAN mentors are making it our mission to get you the most accurate information that we can. Personally, I equate this to diagnosing yourself via the internet when consulting an actual doctor would be more dependable. I am not saying that our mentors are like doctors, but I can say that the training they are provided and the access to information makes them more reliable than some random internet search. As for me, after 16 years, I am pretty close to earning my PhD in Air Force Life. If you have a question, I am here for you to ask. If I don’t know the answer, I will work on finding it! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org