Nominations are closed. Come back February 3 to meet the candidates!

Rachel Penwell

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Barksdale Air Force Base

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 0

Share your military spouse story:
I am Rachel Penwell. I am an Air Force spouse of about 15 years & the proud mother of twins. Growing up in a military town, I never thought I would be a military spouse. Prior to being married I had several close friends who were military spouses and I saw the hardships they faced. There were happy times, but I also saw a lot of sad times. When I got married I knew I wanted this season to be different from what I had seen. I wanted to be involved, have community with other military spouses, and be a support system for my husband. Shortly after we were married he deployed for 6 months and shortly after he returned, I found out that we were expecting twins. During that time, I became a Key Spouse for the 2 MUNS Squadron. At the time Barksdale did not have an enlisted spouse club presence & this was something that I was passionate about. I felt this was such an important part of military life. Spouses need community with others going through the same life stages as each other. I wanted to make that happen. I worked tirelessly for months with an amazing team of ladies to help bring the club back. Still to this day many of these women are an active part of my life and ladies I consider to be some of my best friends. When my children were four, while I stayed involved as a Key Spouse and a few other base organizations, I decided to take some time away from the spouse’s club to be able to fully have this time with my children. During those years I continued to serve as a Key Spouse for the 2 MUNS Squadron and had the opportunity to work alongside some of the very best First Sergeants and Commanders in the Air Force! I am grateful for their leadership and the opportunity to serve alongside them as I get to invest in the wonderful spouses of the 2 MUNS community! Over the last few years I have stepped back into being an active member of the Barksdale Spouses’ Club. My military spouse story is driven by the desire to make things better not only for myself but for others.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
As a military spouse who has been involved almost 15 years, I have filled several leadership roles such as a Lead Key Spouse and Key Spouse Mentor, along with holding numerous board positions in spouses’ groups. I have organized events for our squadron such as deployment send-offs, coffee with the Commander, worked along the 2 MUNS Booster Club, and provided an open line of communication between spouses and squadron leadership. I also helped create and maintain our squadron Facebook page. One of the most rewarding roles was being named the 2010 Barksdale Volunteer of the Year.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am an Air Force spouse of almost 15 years. I believe that it is so important to be an active member of your military community because it provides so much support! I have served as a Key Spouse/Key Spouse Mentor for the 2 MUNS Squadron at Barksdale for 14 years. I have served on spouses’ club boards in the role as President, Vice President, Secretary, and Charitable Treasurer. I have also held countless committee chair positions. I am also an active member of the Military Ministry Committee at Broadmoor Baptist Church. While I tend to be a “fly under the radar” type of person, my motivation for all this is to make things better not only for me but for others. Through the years I have seen the support the Air Force community provides and given in time of need, and it is like none other! It is such privilege to be part of the amazing Air Force community!

Describe how you support your community:
One of my absolute favorite parts of being a military spouse is the opportunity to connect with other spouses. I work part-time at Broadmoor Baptist Church in the MOPS and Preschool Ministries. All the time I come across military spouses who are just trying to get connected. There is an instant connection when you meet someone and they tell you that they are a military spouse and in return you can say “I am too!” I love helping them get plugged in with others in our military community as well as the Shreveport-Bossier community. We all need that support system! I make it a point to help others find the resources they need.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I am an advocate for military spouses and military children. If support or care for either of these is lacking generally the entire family unit suffers. When the family unit suffers it makes the active duty members job suffer. I recognize the important role a spouse and child play in the family unit and when these family members are properly taken care of and supported in turn the active duty member can perform his/her duties in which they are responsible for. I meet many moms when they first arrive to the Shreveport-Bossier area through the MOPS International Ministry at Broadmoor Baptist Church. These moms are seeking out joining their local MOPS group as a way to connect with others quickly. They are stepping out and putting themselves out there immediately in hopes of finding friendships and building a community. I work hard to help them feel encouraged, supported and loved.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
In working part time at Broadmoor Baptist Church with the MOPS and Preschool Ministries I have provided support for many spouses and young children over the years. Where these spouses are looking for a way to connect in the local community I think they also are able to find comfort when they learn that I am also a military spouse.They know I am here for them and trying to help them in any way possible.I want to help them feel loved, encouraged as a spouse and as a mother, and most importantly supported. I want to truly invest in them. I am privileged to have the amazing opportunity to work alongside a church staff that wants to love and support our military community.The staff at Broadmoor Baptist truly invests in these families and goes above and beyond. If I know of a need that can be met through our church I work to get that taken care of to the best of my ability.I will use this platform to show support and love for our military families and bring awareness to needs and challenges.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
One thing that I would love to accomplish with the title of Military Spouse of the Year is to bring more awareness to our military families and the challenges they face. I want them to feel like they are not in this alone. Through this journey, even on my darkest days, I know I am not alone. I have had many wonderful mentors who spent time with me and invested in me over the last 15 years. These mentors have loved me and supported me and helped me when things were hard and when things were good. They encouraged me and never gave up on me. They truly made a huge difference in not only my life but also in my children’s lives. I am truly humbled to be considered for this role and will continue to strongly advocate for military spouses and children.

Nominations

Rachel is the sweetest and most dedicated spouse I know. She has served on our spouse club board for several years and is a valuable source of information on processes and the community. This year she brought so much fun to our local area with her children creating a Christmas decoration "tour". Many military families in our area were encouraged to get out and check out decorations and light displays all over Northwest Louisiana. Our COVID numbers were on the rise and this effort was such a unique way for families to get out of the house and spend quality time celebrating our community together. Rachel is leading the efforts this year to fundraise and collect sponsorships for our Spouse Club Annual Shamrock Shuffle event to raise funds for scholarships and teacher grants. With her dedication, ,we will be able to grant so many students and teachers with much needed funds. It does not get any better than my friend Rachel!
- by julie cooley