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

Sheila Rupp

Branch: Space Force

Duty Station: Los Angeles Air Force Base

Number of Deployments: 0

Number of PCS's: 6

Share your military spouse story:
I've been a military spouse for 17 years. I married my high school sweetheart after we each graduated college and he commissioned into the Air Force. I love every day of being a military spouse. It is not always easy and is not without its challenges, but the people that this lifestyle has brought into my life are priceless. I am an only child, spending most of my childhood in the same house. That’s vastly different from our military journey! We’ve PCSed 6 times, lived in 6 states and 9 houses. I’ve been blessed with friends from around the world, many of whom I consider family. I’m a mom to an awesome, resilient daughter who embraces the military lifestyle, even as she enters high school. I have a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications. After being a stay-at-home mom for several years, I realized how much I missed working. But as many military spouses do, I found it difficult to make working full time in my career field difficult to navigate with travel schedules and childcare needs. I became an independent contractor and now have the flexibility to set my own hours and still use my degree and expertise, which has made a huge difference in my own morale. I’ve watched as our servicemembers accomplished amazing, groundbreaking things, and I am amazed at the powerful things our military families do. As my husband has now transitioned into the Space Force, I am excited about what lies ahead of us.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I serve as a Key Spouse for the Space Systems Command’s Development Corps. As a Key Spouse, I support Corps families during deployments, in-processing, outgoing moves, and unexpected life events. I have created guides with agency contact information and resources for a variety of situations that families may face, including childcare issues, moving, and divorce. I also established a monthly newsletter to spouses rounding up highlights of base activities, events, and local information. As a Key Spouse, I regularly work with unit leadership on issues facing our military families to help find solutions and offer constructive feedback. I have also given Key Spouse program insight to the Dept. of the Air Force leadership to help shape the program going forward.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I lead an annual base-wide holiday card drive, collecting and sending more than 400 personal greetings in 2021, to veterans in hospice care through a nationwide non-profit. As a coach for the USO-powered Continuing Your Journey, I lead a monthly workshop for a small group of military spouses on a deep dive into personal growth and development. I volunteer with Blue Star Families, and spoke as an ambassador at a national presentation for Blue Star Museums sharing the benefits of the program for both military families and participating museums. I participate and volunteer in base activities, such as Kids Understanding Deployment Operations, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and the Force Support Information Fair. I also moderate an online community for local military spouses, and assemble care packages for families of deployed members.

Describe how you support your community:
I am very passionate about helping people feel connected within the military community. I believe that building connections within the military community helps spouses feel more fulfilled. The military lifestyle can sometimes be isolating, whether that be because families are away from extended family or hometowns and deployments and TDYs. Modern military spouses come from diverse backgrounds, and it should be reflected in defense programming, both by government and civilian sectors. It’s important to me that helping organizations consider all spouses. Spouses should never feel like they are on their own. By being involved in the local and base communities, I’m more aware of organizations and groups that may be of interest to military spouses. I keep contact lists of nearby employers that hire military spouses, educational opportunities, childcare options, and recreation groups. I reach out to incoming spouses and families to help them get adjusted to the new area.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I believe spouses need to be heard. We should have a seat at the table, and have better opportunity to give feedback about our needs. While annual surveys are a good start, spouses need to have communication platforms to give Defense leadership a sense of what families are lacking or areas that they need more support in. While servicemembers receive orders and complete paperwork, spouses are often the ones dealing with logistics such as move dates, school enrollment, medical care, housing and more. We need better access to information, even official policy and procedure. Spouses and children may not sign up to serve, but the military lifestyle is also their lifestyle, and a more inclusive communication system benefits the entire family, from reducing stress to making better family decisions.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have shared feedback about the need for better communication through my local leadership, as well as participating in a branch-wide initiative team. I shared my insights and possible solutions with the spouse of Chief of Space Operations, USSF, Mrs. Mollie Raymond, and my feedback was shared with the Dept. of the Air Force. I’ve also participated in focus groups and worked with a national mental health clinic about what issues military families, particularly in our area, may be facing and how staff could better serve our community. On a call with a national non-profit, I shared how community organizations could better communicate their programming and opportunities with military families.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I’d like to be able to give spouses a chance to have their voice heard, by making it easy for them to share their feelings and needs, as well as receive frequent communication. There are so many good individual tools available to connect families with DoD programs and agencies. However, these vary by installation and service branch. I’d like to work with the DoD to implement a common-access point utilizing the existing tools, to ensure they are readily accessible and easy for creators to maintain and update.

Nominations

Sheila is a selfless and enthusiastic Space Force Spouse who tirelessly supports unit and base-wide Guardians, Airmen, and their families at Los Angeles Air Force Base. She thoroughly enjoys reaching out to the civilian community and getting involved wherever she can, in whatever city they happen to be living in at the time. Sheila makes monumental impacts both locally and often across the nation in the organizations she is involved with. She is a vocal and happy cheerleader for not only the Space Force, but her very active teenage daughter. Sheila absolutely loves helping and caring for her family, her military family, and her community.
- by Debbie Snodgrass