Heart Link equips spouses for Air Force life

Emily Reagan
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Military lingo, customs and benefits can be confusing to almost every civilian spouse so the Ramstein Family Support Center offers a spouse orientation program that can help them understand the Air Force and all its puzzling acronyms.

Heart Link is an interactive program that gives spouses the opportunity to meet other spouses through activities and games that increase their knowledge about the Air Force.

“Our goal is to strengthen military families and enhance family readiness,” said Stacey Crosson, FSC community readiness technician. “Heart Link gives spouses the tools, resources and relationships they need to carry on life while the servicemember is doing their job, whether here or downrange.”

During the program, representatives from base agencies discuss military customs and traditions, Air Force rank structure, etiquette, entitlements and available services. At the end, the wing commander presents a coin to each spouse.

“The information was very useful,” said Marisa Kaneshiro, who is new to the Air Force and has been married four months, “Basically it explained everything that my husband couldn’t explain.”

The most important thing Kim Hellyer learned during January’s Heart Link was how to read a Leave and Earnings Statement when a finance member broke it down, explaining everything from leave balances to allotments.

“I had no idea how to read an LES before this,” said Ms. Hellyer, who’s been married for three years.

Along with prizes and freebies, spouses receive a “tool box” of information to use as references during their Air Force careers, including a protocol handbook and cheat sheet of acronyms.

During the lunch hour, spouses have the opportunity to network and receive information about activities that interest them, such as education, employment, volunteer opportunities and spouse organizations.

Although Heart Link is targeted toward spouses who have been married five years or less, all spouses are invited to attend and childcare reimbursement is offered. Heart Link is also offered Friday evenings as a condensed version of the daytime program, giving working spouses the chance to attend.

Thirty-four spouses attended the evening Heart Link in January and Ms. Crosson credits key spouses for bringing in new faces and playing a critical role in Heart Link’s success.

“I’d never heard of Heart Link before,” said Becky Candy, a key spouse for the 24th Intelligence Squadron who brought about 10 other spouses with her and has 16 years experience as a spouse in the military.

“I wanted to make sure that there’s a support network here and no one falls through the crack,” she said. “I want the spouses to learn this stuff while they’re young so they don’t find out the hard way … Most were shocked at how much information they didn’t know.”

The next Heart Link is 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday and the next evening Heart Link is 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. May 13 at the Ramstein Officers’ Club in the Rhineland Pfalz Room. Call the Ramstein Family Support Center at 480-5100 to sign up.