Tonisha Austin

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 6

Share your military spouse story:
When I met my husband at age 16, I would have never foresaw being a military spouse and mother of four beautiful children, but life doesn’t always turn out like you expect. As he joined the Military, went to boot camp, and was sent to his first duty station I remained by his side supporting him, so shortly after he made it to his first duty station in California we decided to get married. We learned a lot of life lessons in those early years, usually by making more mistakes than we care to admit and remained together every step of the way. Being a military spouse taught me the benefit of having a supportive community full of compassionate individuals always willing to lend a hand. Having just entered our tenth year of marriage I am proud to call myself a Military Spouse, Stay at Home Mom, Youth Sports Coach, L.I.N.K.S trainer, Volunteer, and Family Readiness Advisor. We have four children (age 9, 8, 7, 5), spent more nights wishing deployments or trainings could finish faster then I care to remember (to include the night our third child was born), and have moved twice. We find that the best way to enjoy where the military sends you is to fully emerge yourself in the community, culture, opportunities each location has to offer. Every location presented the opportunity to make new life-long friends, and it is always interesting to see how they are now spread throughout the world. I always loved helping people, and being a military spouse provides me with a multitude of ways to just that. I have found that when I help people through things like volunteering, mentoring new spouses at service training events, or providing resources to families in need, it provides me with an abundance of joy and fulfillment.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have been fortunate enough to be placed in leadership positions within the military community. One such occasion was when I became the President of the Parent Teacher Organization at West Meade Early Education aboard Fort Meade, MD. At the time, the organization struggled with communicating with both the school staff and parents which lead to it having a difficult time benefiting everyone. Upon entering the position, I worked to establish better communication with both parties and utilized that communication to relay goals and efforts that would greatly benefit everyone. I then worked to organize more events to garner more interaction between parents and promote involvement in the school. I increased the amount of fundraising activities and utilized the improved communication methods to ensure events were ones that parents, and teachers would want to participate in. With a well-organized team running the PTO we were able to give the parents a voice and ensure the school flourished.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
No matter where we may be in our military life I always try to remain as active as possible in the military community. I can always be found volunteering with multiple organizations within the community. I have been a Cub Scout Den Leader since 2017 where I ran weekly meetings teaching kids valuable life skills, acted as the fundraising chair to ensure we could have activities and outings throughout the year, and organized larger activities to ensure kids had great experiences. I volunteer at my local church where I would act as teacher for younger children on a regular basis, and as a camp counselor during the yearly campouts. Additionally, I have coached soccer in various youth sports leagues. I also coordinated multiple family events to promote family involvement across the various installations we have been at. I also am the assistant coach in a Spouses Kickball League at MCBH. I have found the best way to meet new people and assist them is being an active member of the community.

Describe how you support your community:
I am always seeking out new ways which I can support my community whether it is teaching classes, acting as a representative to the military commands, . I have been a L.I.N.K.S trainer since 2017 and utilize the position to assist military families have access to useful resources and increase their knowledge of the many opportunities that they have access to within the military community. I also have served as a Command Team Advisor for multiple commands where I am able to advocate for the military families within the community, set up social events to connect families and increase the overall morale within the community. I also volunteer at youth sports leagues to allow families and kids within the community an opportunity to come together and support the kids in a positive environment. I also supervised canned food drives during my time as a Cub Scout Leader so the community could come together in providing food to families who may be struggling within the community.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I love to advocate for ensuring spouses have all the proper resources they need to ensure that they can fully enjoy the opportunities the military lifestyle can provide. Military lifestyle can be very rewarding and can provide a plethora of opportunities that would be very difficult to experience otherwise, however, it does not come without its hardships. Military families inevitably go through a multitude of hardships such as financial struggles, moving every few years (at times on short notice), health complications, extended periods without their spouses, and many others. I dedicate a lot of my time conducting trainings, mentoring spouses, and setting up events all to try and to educate families on the multitude of resources dedicated to ensuring that families have all the tools that they may need to overcome trying times and enjoy military lifestyle. My goal is to ensure families I meet that is being overburdened by difficult times know that there are resources provided to them.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
One of the main ways that I have spread my advocacy is by becoming a L.I.N.K.S trainer and teaching classes which provide spouses with the various resources to overcome common problems associated with the military lifestyle. I also attend many functions aimed at military spouses so that I can interact with spouses at various stages in the military lifestyle, discover what problems they may be dealing with and pointing out the various resources that may be able to alleviate their burden. I also set up events to bring spouses a place to interact, make connections, and bring to light any issues they may be having and what ways they may be able to gain assistance. I also utilize social media platforms to advocate for the use of resources and program that may be helpful for people in trying times.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I hope that by gaining the Military Spouse of the Year I will be able meet more people, discover more ways I can advocate for the military spouses, and gain a greater understanding for other portions of the military community which I have not yet experienced. I love being involved in the military community and love meeting other people who also share this interest and are actively striving to discover new ways to improve the community. I hope that if I am able to achieve the title I will be able to serve as an example for other spouses within the community of some of the great opportunities available to you as a military spouse.


Tonisha is a dedicated military spouse. I was new to the island and she welcomed me with open arms. We ended up working in the same office and she helped me navigate this base like we have been friends for years. She goes above and beyond her duties as a military spouse by being active in all aspects of the community. She volunteers and supports her children and their school. I don’t ever hear a time where she doesn’t try to find a way to show their teachers appreciation. She gives without expecting anything in return, always. She is one of the, if not the highest contributor for volunteer hours with Marine Corps Family Team Building within Marine Corps Community Service. She volunteers her time continuously to our Marines and their families. She is a mentor for L.I.N.K.S. and goes above and beyond her duties. Not only does she facilitate the workshops but she also bakes homemade cupcakes for the closing ceremonies! Tonisha does much more and is very deserving of this award!
- by Bonni Hoang