Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: RAF Mildenhall
Number of Deployments: 8
Number of PCS's: 5
Share your military spouse story:
My story began in college, where I met my spouse in the AFROTC program. We fell in love and married. Our first PCS was Offutt AFB. I was a new spouse, looking to find support and friendships from my fellow spouses, instead I found unhealthy cliques and gossip. Those first few years were very hard for me and tainted my view on the lack of support and understanding from our military spouse community. Deployments and rotations began and for several years I felt alone and confused as I navigated new spouse life alone. Our first OCONUS move came when my youngest was just under 1. Those next 3 years were the hardest of my life. Although our new squadron had a Key Spouse program, they never reached out during deployments and with my past experiences I didn’t try to make contact. My oldest became severely ill and my days were overwhelmed. Our marriage was not a priority and we struggled as a family. Our PCS to Nellis AFB came just in time. We all began to heal and with extra support in school needed for our oldest and not being met, I began to research and discovered our base Education Liaison and found a welcome support. Our PCS back to Offutt was a welcome hug of memories and the familiar community made life easier for us, despite continued deployments. In early 2020, I discovered and fell in love with Military Spouse Advocacy Network and their mission to help build strong military families through education, support and empowering military spouses. I began as a Mentor and found the military spouse community I had so desperately needed. Being surrounded by like-minded military spouses brought out such a passion in me that I quickly moved from Mentor to Branch Mentor and began guiding and mentoring our full team of Air Force Mentors. MSAN and the mentoring role has helped me through the pandemic with 3 school aged children and gave me confidence to become a Key Spouse as well. My military spouse community may be all around the world, but I can count on them 100%.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I started volunteering with the Military Spouse Advocacy Network in 2020. I began as an Air Force Mentor. In that role I mentored numerous Air Force spouses. A year later, I was asked to take over the Air Force Branch Mentor position. Mentoring military spouses is one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, and something that I feel should be given from day one. I started to settle into my new role with MSAN. I helped guide our team of over 20 Air Force mentors and assisted them in their own mentoring. I help assign new Air Force mentees both new and seasoned spouses, be it by location, life experiences or job and educational support. I make sure that our team keeps to their volunteer requirements, be it resource posting in the MSAN Hub, keeping their mentee logs up to date and I also share in their ups and downs of our own military life roller coasters. This leadership role has taught me confidence in myself and what I’m capable of giving to our military spouse community.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
My involvement in our military community came late to me, not until our 14th year of service. I started volunteering with MSAN (Military Spouse Advocacy Network) in January of 2020. Here I’ve held an Air Force Mentor role for a little over a year and then took over the role of Air Force Branch Mentor. I’ve been with MSAN for three years now and love it. I have also been a Key Spouse since the summer of 2021 to the present, a more hands on experience but still rewarding. I am also a facilitator and teacher of the USO’s Brittany Boccher ``Continuing Your Journey” workshop. We meet monthly at our local RAF Lakenheath USO location to work through each month’s military spouse self-care topic. This role has brought me even closer to my military spouse community and I’ve made some amazing friendships. I have a passion for mentoring military spouses and connecting them with education, resources, support, and connection to help navigate the military life.
Describe how you support your community:
Since 2020 I’ve been mentoring my fellow military spouse community stationed all around the world through MSAN. Not only do I share essential resources for our thriving military families, but I also help guide and support our military spouses. Creating a network of support through awareness, education, support and friendship will only help build a stronger military family. Facilitating and teaching key self-care topics to help build resiliency and confidence through Brittany Boccher's "Continuing Your Journey" at our local USO has been an incredible experience. As a Key Spouse, I now have a better understanding of the "real life" situations, concerns and connections that need continuous support from mentoring. Each of the above experiences have shown me that our military spouses need mentoring now more than ever. We need to be educated, supported and empowered in this incredible lifestyle to help us build resiliency and thrive as military spouses.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Every military spouse has needed someone to lean on, someone to ask their military life specific questions to and someone to talk to about the military lifestyle they are leading. This is why peer to peer; military spouse mentorship is so vital and what I advocate for. We’ve all been there, trying to explain our upcoming PCS with a civilian friend, trying to convey the frustration of being on the phone with Tricare for hours, trying to find new friends in a new place, trying to locate resources and crying when your spouse deploys again. They may be supportive, but they don’t truly understand. Military spouse mentors can relate to those situations, can ease those worries and can listen with an experienced ear. Supporting our military spouses with free peer to peer mentorship programs should be available from day one. A supported, educated and empowered military spouse will only strengthen their families and military life experiences.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Social Media can be a wonderful vessel for sharing and educating people. With this, I have taken to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to spread the importance of Military Spouse Mentoring for the past 3 years. Along with these, I have also taken advantage of my many other volunteering opportunities, being a Military Spouse Advocacy Network Branch Mentor (including our Mentorship-HUB and social media pages), a Key Spouse (including our squadron spouses page) and facilitating the USO Continuing Your Journey workshops (which is a form of mentoring in itself), to help spread the importance of mentoring our fellow Military Spouses. Wherever and whenever I get the chance to spread the word about Military Spouse Mentoring, I take full advantage.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
If presented with the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Award I hope to bring to light the lack of military spouse mentoring in our communities. Mentorship is not just for our new military spouses but can be utilized in every season of military life. Having a peer mentor to help navigate the unknown ins and outs of military life, being educated in the many resources available to our military spouses and being encouraged every step of the way will only empower our community and build stronger military families. To me, mentorship is more than helping a peer find the right link to a needed resource, it’s a trusting friendship being built to withstand the military lifestyle. Mentorship is a vital part of our military lifestyle and will only enhance and support our military spouses and their families.
Christie is dedicated to mentoring spouses within her military community. She works tirelessly to engage with spouses and share resources and support them. She helps them learn to navigate the military life. She works with new and seasoned military spouses. She is always working find better ways to connect with spouses and families of service members. She has been a Key Spouse with the Air Force for quite some time mentoring spouses and leading teams of mentors. She has been an Air Force mentor and now a Branch Mentor with Military Spouse Advocacy Network and is mentoring and leading mentors. Christie has a passion for mentoring spouses. She will do everything she can to help a fellow military spouse and connect them with resources and services and support and connect with them to help make this life easier. Christie and I have worked as a team leading other Mentors with MSAN for a year or so and she is definitely someone I'd call a mentor and friend.
- by Traci Ostrander