April Golden

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base

Number of Deployments: 12

Number of PCS's: 8

Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse journey began in my early twenties adapting to married life. Coming to terms with the realities of the life as a military spouse with was a challenge at first. Understanding Air Force lingo, various nuances of rank, exercises and deployments took some getting used to. It was a memorable day for me when a few caring squadron spouses took me under their wing to help me navigate this new adventure. These wonderful spouses introduced me to the Family Support Center (now known as the Airman & Family Readiness Center- A&FRC), and answered all my questions and then proceeded to answer questions I didn’t even know to ask. They encouraged me to get involved, enjoy the camaraderie and embrace the identity that comes from being a military spouse. Back then, we didn’t have many of the programs offered to military families today. Our squadrons had informal spouse bonding time attending play groups for our young children, rolling the dice at Bunco, knocking down pins on base bowling leagues, and enjoying hail and farewell lunches and dinners. I became involved with military chapel groups, including Catholic & Protestant Women of the Chapel, as well as choir and religious education for children and adults. Through personal experience and observations, I came to recognize how much the military relies on spouses to enhance and support military service, and how much the spouse network enhanced my life in both everyday struggles and life-changing events. I have had many deep lifelong spouse friendships that have lasted through thick and thin. After 20 years I've witnessed the loss of warriors, spouses and children, and the aftermath of divorces and suicides and the impact of such events. It’s important to recognize how building skills/relationships is key to promoting cohesion within units, the installation and local communities. Every spouse should understand and utilize resources, adopt & practice resilience coping skills, and be involved in their community.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I've been actively involved in base spouse clubs for 20 years, where I have served in executive board positions, including 5 terms as President at 3 different installations. I have extensive Key Spouse and Mentor Spouse experience and education. I planned, coordinated, and executed regional and worldwide military religious conferences. I have run a “Angel Giving Tree” program for the children of service members in need, and a “Camo Kids” deployment camp to help children understand a small portion the deployment experience. I am passionate about supporting education and served as both elementary and middle school PTA president. I currently serve on my school district Foundation Board as Communications Director, as well as the Catalina Foothills district liaison to the High School Family Faculty Organization (FFO). I strive to focus on the confronting the challenges faced by military children and transfer students.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
There are four main areas that I focus my military community involvement. Base Chapel, Officer Spouses Club (OSC), Heartlink, and Resilience Training. I serve as the President of the Catholic Women of the Chapel, help with special events and sit on the Catholic Parish Council. I was elected 2019-20 OSC President. OSC provided $18,000 in monetary grants to charitable orgs and $32,000 in scholarships to local military dependents. A&FRC Heartlink is designed to cover essential items spouses need to know to adjust to Air Force life with ease. I helped revamp the program to increase interaction and provide spouses a glimpse of diverse base missions. Attendance has increased 137%! With the A&FRC, I volunteered to become a Certified Resilience Trainer, facilitating programs for Active Duty. Later, I helped to create a Spouses Resilience program. The program caught the attention of the Air Force Chief of Staff and has been shared at multiple installations, and featured in AF media.

Describe how you support your community:
I participated in the evolution of the Officers Wives Clubs as they were remade into Officers Spouses Clubs and eventually combined Officer/Enlisted Military Spouses Clubs in several locations. I was privileged to witness and provide inputs to help develop the Air Force Key Spouse program as well. I believe that military and civilian leaders genuinely want to retain and develop hardworking and talented members who are well-prepared to deal with the triumphs and adversity that occur in military service. I know that equipping and supporting members and their spouses with knowledge of universal resilience concepts will tremendously support the mission of readiness and cohesion. Resilience translates well across the Department of Defense to all branches, members, and their families.

What do you advocate for? Why?
Having 20 years of military spouse experience, I have witnessed several life altering events and the impacts they have had on military families. The military lifestyle can be highly challenging to members and correspondingly stressful to their families. I believe that resilience training has brought a proven tools set to help service members and spouses recognize and cope with the everyday and the extraordinary. After becoming an Air Force Master Resilience Trainer, I worked with another spouse to bring the universal lessons of resilience to spouses. We specifically tailored the lessons to appeal to and impact spouses. It is my goal to provide the knowledge and tools of resilience to fellow spouses in order to allow them not only survive military life, but to thrive under the pressures and challenges. It is my dream to enable other spouses to master resilience techniques and ease the difficulty of military families.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I worked with base leadership and the A&FRC to present a well-received first-ever Spouse Resilience Program at my base. We produced posters and advertised the event on base media. Later, I traveled to Eielson AFB in Alaska to present the program, where it was featured on local community media and military news outlets. Eventually the program was briefed to the highest echelons of Air Force Leadership, and has been presented at several installations. At the squadron and base level, I have facilitated an abbreviated resilience programs at base activities promoting and incorporating base resources into spouse deployment readiness events.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
With the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, the opportunity to place resilience tools and knowledge of base resources into the hands and hearts of military spouses will be increased dramatically. Military families and spouses depend on themselves and on one another. Resilience training teaches the tools of self-reliance and coping mechanisms. Service members and their families deserve to have the proper tools and knowledge to manage the chaos and uncertainty that are unique to the military experience. Promoting base resources that connect spouses to activities such as Heartlink, provide assistance and advice via Key Spouses, spiritual nourishment via base chapels, and education and training via Resilience Training will enhance and ease the burden of spouses as they navigate the military lifestyle.