Nicole Waltman

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Buckley Air Force Base

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 2

Share your military spouse story:
I grew up in the Coast Guard community, thanks to my dad, watching others who put their lives on the line for others. That firsthand example instilled service to others in me like no amount of reading or teaching ever could. After graduating college, I decided to enlist in the Coast Guard as a way to make a difference. I enjoyed four years before deciding as a family that I would not be re-enlisting and my husband would enlist in the Navy. The transition from active duty to spouse was a surprisingly difficult one for me. That first year my husband was gone most of the time at various trainings, we moved to a new state and I had my second child without my husband present. Fast forward a few years and another state, when my third child was three months old, my husband went on a deployment leaving me in an unfamiliar state with a 3-year-old, 2-year-old and 3-month-old. The first half of the deployment was very isolating and difficult, struggling to juggle life with three small children. We could go an entire week without talking to anyone or leaving the house. At some point I decided this wasn’t benefiting myself or my children. I reached out and found a local mom’s group to join, quickly became the membership chairperson and threw myself into planning activities and recruiting others. It wasn’t military affiliated but there were other military spouses in the group. When we moved to Buckley, I sought out similar support finding the Buckley Spouses Group and an amazing group of women.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Within the Buckley Spouses Group I worked to get the mini clubs up and running again, recognizing that a social setting where spouses already knew they had a common interest such a reading or crafts, would be a great opportunity for friendships and support to bloom. There’s always a mild sense of dread after a PCS filing out the local emergency contact information on your millionth form, especially for your kids, and you have no idea whose information you should be writing down. When the social support is there for families, then the active duty person can focus on work and overall resiliency increases. As the ombudsman at a different branch base, I’ve been able to direct incoming spouses to resources such as the school liaison or family childcare providers. I’ve even tracked down contacts within the Air Force when someone accidentally calls me.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I'm the Second Vice President of the Buckley Spouses Group. Previously I was the Fundraising Chair, which put me on the board of BSG and allowed me to get very involved seeing the difference in someone’s life having the connection to other spouses. Having the mini clubs, that are open to all spouses regardless of branch affiliation, gives a great starting point. I may not know you, but I do know we are both spouses and enjoy reading. I’m the ombudsman for my husband’s unit at the NIOC, the Navy unit at Buckley, with my main duties being resource referrals to Navy families and providing a presentation to incoming sailors monthly regarding the ombudsman program. As a homeschooling family, I try to keep an eye on the spouse’s pages for others who have school questions, especially home-schooling families. Each state varies with the requirements for home schooling, how supportive the base may be and what resources are involved.

Describe how you support your community:
My roles with the spouse’s group, as ombudsman and previously working at the chapel on base allowed me to advocate for spouses and families at Buckley and to provide different ways in which they could connect with support or social resources. I’ve worked alongside other spouses at Buckley to create a safe supportive network of spouses ready and willing to assist with questions or just sit and listen to the frustrations that military life bring.

What do you advocate for? Why?
It takes a village and in the military spouse world, you need to continually rebuild your village. Not only when you PCS but when your friends and support groups PCS’s away from you. My passion is helping spouses find their village, so that they take care of themselves, their families, their marriages. It can be an amazing life but it can be incredibly stressful, overwhelming and isolating. What I love about being a military spouse is the amazing places I’ve gotten to see, adventure’s taken, and most of all, the wonderful people. There’s just something incredible about hearing someone worried about an upcoming PCS and you get to say, oh I have a friend there, let me get you their number…

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Through Facebook and other social media platforms, welcoming new families to Buckley, making contacts throughout the base to reach out to if I don’t know the answers to questions, outreach events at the base such as FunFest and the BSG Ice Cream Social.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I'd hope to just raise awareness that it's ok to take care of yourself and if you need help please reach out and find it. There is always someone willing to help, you just have to ask.