Ashley Eller

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Robins Air Force Base

Number of Deployments: 4

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
My journey as a military spouse began 7 years ago when I married the man of my dreams, someone who was dedicated to service, who held integrity in high regard, and placed an importance on family, not just your own, but the one you create. My idea of family has evolved over the years to include fellow military spouses and their families, neighbors, and coworkers. Our military family became an invaluable support system, which is why I have become such an advocate for military spouses, community building, and support education. Over the years, I have filled many roles. I strive to better our military community and the lives of fellow military families. As each year passes, I become more passionate about building community among military families and advocating for the military spouse, which leads me to become more and more involved in a variety of programs, each one influential and led me to the next. I first became involved in community building through Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) at Beale AFB. It opened my eyes to the need of a solid support system. I was surrounded by incredibly strong military spouses, who were open to sharing their stories, struggles, and successes. They poured into me through mentorship, support, and friendship. This support system prompted me to pour into the lives of fellow military spouses. When we left Beale to PCS to Robins AFB, I immediately became involved in building community in our new squadron and installation. I wanted to help cultivate support systems for other military spouses, which led me to become a key spouse, spouse club president, and military spouse advocate. In the past year, I have actively been involved with creating the Robins Military Spouse Professional Network (MSPN), a program supported by the US Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes. I want to continue advocating for military spouses by bringing to light the struggles they experience as they PCS while trying to maintain careers.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
During my time as a spouse club president, I learned of the statistics of military spouse unemployment. This along with a need in our local area to help spouses obtain employment, led my vision for what is now the Blue Boutique. With the help of so many, we revamped what once was Cinderella’s Closet to a boutique that offers far more than just pretty dresses. The Blue Boutique has become a place of advocacy and support for military families by offering free business attire. As a spokesperson for the Blue Boutique, I maintain partnerships with community leaders and supporters, who donate business attire for both men and women. I regularly attend classes held by the Airman and Family Readiness Center, such as Interview with Confidence, to share what the boutique offers with the attendees. Additionally, I share the Blue Boutique at each Robins MSPN event. It is my hope that through these partnerships, we all can make a difference in overcoming military spouse unemployment.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
While at Robins AFB, I was a key spouse in the 12th ACCS. We fostered a family dynamic, while supporting spouses and squadron members. It was during my time as a key spouse that I learned the importance of educating spouses on support programs offered on our base. My goal was to help spouses thrive during their military experience. When my husband PCA’d to his current assignment, I strived to build community and empower spouses on a larger scale. In 2018, I became president of the Robins Enlisted Spouses’ Club. During my tenure, we built up the organization and had a large impact on our community. It was an incredible experience, but exclusive. My fellow Robins Spouses’ Club (RSC) co-president and I wanted to continue to grow our spouse community and provide more support. In 2019, we stood up the RSC within 3 months of the dissolution of the ESC and OSC. I am happy to say we have over 100 members and are having a greater impact than before, because we are greater together.

Describe how you support your community:
As spouse club president, I am active in building community among military spouses. We host events to build friendships and give back to the community through philanthropic efforts and service. Monthly, we participate in service projects, such as Habitat for Humanity for Veterans. This year, I led the coordination of volunteers to assemble and ship 190 care packages to deployed members. I also coordinated donations and volunteers for this year’s Airman Cookie Crunch, which provided 5,532 cookies to our 446 Airmen living in the dorms. As part of the Robins MSPN leadership team, I meet with community leaders and local businesses to advocate for spouses and to find solutions to military spouse unemployment. Our MSPN offers free monthly events for military spouses. Recently, we led a LinkedIn workshop and offered free headshots for LinkedIn profiles. Spouses left the event empowered, with a new network, and a better understanding of how LinkedIn can overcome employment obstacles.

What do you advocate for? Why?
The platform I advocate is military spouse unemployment and underemployment. Did you know the military spouse unemployment rate is 16%, which is 4 times the national average? This is unacceptable as many military spouses are actively seeking employment. This stress causes many military families to consider leaving the military so that both spouses are able to maintain a career. Those that are able to find employment, often take positions in which they are overqualified for, but do so to support their families. Military spouses are an untapped talent pool with incredible soft skills, such as adaptability, leadership, and effective communication. I want to bring to light why military spouses should be hired, empower military spouses with professional growth, and help connect the dots between fellow military spouses and local employment.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
A military community is a village. Information and opportunities spread quickly through all mediums from social media to word of mouth. I have advocated for military spouse involvement as well as employment through media outlets, such as LinkedIn and TV interviews. I was also able to showcase the Blue Boutique and highlight employment challenges we face through an article with Military Spouse Magazine. Though I love utilizing social media, word of mouth allows others to hear true sincerity and see your heart. Monthly, I brief attendees of the Robins AFB Professional Organization Summit on the many ways our club supports families and the community. Through meetings with local community leaders, I voice challenges military spouses face and how we can solve them. Our community motto is “Every Day In Middle Georgia Is Armed Forces Appreciation Day.” Each interaction with our community leaders showcases that truth. Together, we can make a true impact.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
If chosen for the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, it would be my dream to champion opportunities to overcome military spouse unemployment and continue advocating for military spouses and families. Our military families are serving right alongside our servicemember, we feel the ups and downs. We weather the storms and celebrate the victories on our journey. Recently, we have seen an amazing surge in resources for military families to capture their soft skills from military life and provide personal and professional growth. I want to continue to find ways to equip our military families with tools and opportunities they need to thrive.