Duty Station: Fort Campbell
Number of Deployments: 13
Number of PCS's: 7
Share your military spouse story:
I married my best friend’s older brother in 2012 after dating for 3 years, and consequently I married the Army too! When my husband and I first started dating, I was still in college thus wasn’t fully engrossed in Army life until we tied the knot. As milspouses, we’re often told, “You knew what you signed up for!” but boy, unless you’ve lived through being in the military in another life stage, you have no clue! Army life hit me like a freight train. It derailed my career, altered life goals, and changed my future vision as a wife and mom. But like all milspouses, you simply have to pivot, figure out the next solution, and keep going. I never (in a million years, and perhaps begrudgingly) would have guessed it 15 years ago when I flew to Korea between internships to visit my future husband, but the military lifestyle put me on the course I was certainly meant to be on. Once married and becoming a young mom who also had big professional goals, I was staring loneliness and jobless-ness in the face after a[nother] PCS and the birth of our first child. With only a year at our next duty station, I opted not to attempt a 9-to-5 job. Instead, I channeled my love for exercise and experience as D1 athlete with a pre-med degree to create a legitimate, professionally-led bootcamp-style fitness class called iStroll where busy Moms and Dads could get in their workout with their children in strollers, rather than in costly, perhaps untrusting childcare. It was a win-win for me – exercise, community, and Mom-friends, exactly when I needed it the most! iStroll turned out to be a win for other military families too, as the DOD turned off on-post, in-gym childcare the year before, leaving military families with children having to pay for hourly care if they wanted to stay fit! (For someone like me, with 3 kids, if I wanted to work out for just 3 hrs/wk (only 3 hours!!!), it would have cost me over $200/month to leave my kids at the on-post CDC while I hit the gym.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
As a spouse, mom, advocate, and loyal friend in the military community who has held Battalion SFRG leadership roles 4 years in a row, I believe building spaces where all feel welcomed & supported is essential to Army health and readiness. It’s truly important to create this environment at work, at spouse & family events, and at iStroll! While running iStroll at Fort Carson, on-post COVID constraints threatened to bring an end to the community we had built. I worked through numerous challenges to sustain what I learned many milspouses considered their daily life-line - an outlet that had helped pull them out of PPD, brought a much needed brightness to hard days, fought loneliness, improved physical & mental health, and offered a network to those in need. Whether it be iStroll, a friendly neighbor, or a well-organized SFRG, all milspouses need a community where they feel welcomed and encouraged. I’m especially proud of the community we built at Ft Carson- at iStroll and in the BN.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Especially in the military, spouses with young children need a simpler way to exercise! It’s a no brainer these days, that exercise and socialness are good for one’s all-around longevity. In the military, with soldiers coming and going for days to months while milfamilies are being thrust into new communities every couple of years with each PCS, exercise and social opportunities, are even more vital! iStroll offers military spouses the opportunity to work out affordably in an all-inclusive environment while building community and making friends, especially needed as we rarely live near family or close networks— All the while while showing the next generation, our children, what health and fitness embodies! In the last seven years iStroll has coached over 3000 military spouses along their fitness journeys and shown over 6000 military children what a ‘burpee’ is, that fitness can be fun, and that healthy friendships are entirely feasible!
Describe how you support your community:
Military spouses who have heard of iStroll, love exercise, love leading and love helping other military families have successfully opened their own iStrolls with our team’s guidance and helpful onboarding process. Empowering fellow military spouses to walk the entrepreneurship path, do something good for themselves, good for their family, and good for their military community is truly a great feeling! I've guided over 30 military spouses to start their own iStroll business. Consequently, iStroll has helped 100+ additional military spouses, both Moms and Dads, become certified coaches who instruct under their local iStroll leader/owner. Being able to inspire, lead and teach fellow military spouses to empower themselves, give back to their community and generate a modest income is a wonderful feeling I hope to embrace for years to come.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for creating an environment, whether it be at iStroll or an SFRG event, where everyone feels included and encouraged despite ethnicity, race, background, sex, religion, fitness level or rank; challenging, but immensely rewarding when achieved! At iStroll, we combine that environment, with affordable fitness and social time, for military families and for their children! Offering military spouses a consistent, dependable, and safe place where they feel welcomed and inspired to workout without the need for childcare is something I hope to do for spouses in every military community in the years to come. In doing so I truly believe we’re giving Milspouses a more seamless opportunity to maintain a healthy mind, body and soul.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
While leading an FRG or business, outreach is an important selfless service that has and should always be offered (for free) to the local community. From playdates in the park, school supply drives, crafts for kids, organized walk/runs with free coffee, kid’s fun runs– These are events I’ve hosted for the local area, and events that I coach other iStroll owners to host too! In 2019 I was gifted the opportunity to meet with the First Lady and share with her the story of iStroll and need for easier access to fitness and wellness opportunities for milspouses. In 2022 I was also afforded the opportunity to meet with a lobbyist who was configuring legislation to represent milspouse entrepreneurs who move from installation to installation with their business. From this meeting, a Bill is being presenting to Congress that proposes giving milspouse entrepreneurs financial retribution for proven investments lost due to PCS along with easier installation compliancy for on-post businesses.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
Whether chosen as AFI Military Spouse of the year or not, I plan on approaching endeavors from a few different angles to hopefully achieve them; If selected, I truly believe the title would bring attention to my goals and create opportunities to accomplish the changes I wish to see! I’ll continue to support the SFRG and foster a welcoming and supportive community. One can only hope this has a trickle affect and makes its way through the network of milspouses within this command and the next we take. I’ll to continue to offer fitness and community to milspouses with kids on some of the largest military installations in the US while coaching other military spouse Moms to create inclusive spaces for a broad scope of people. Lastly, I’ll continue being a military spouse-entrepreneur-representative for all milspouse entrepreneurs. The population is a fast budding one that faces many challenges, as we grow businesses in one location only to have to pack up, move, and regrow it again!
Tess is an incredible human being. She is driven to help moms (and dads!) have a place to find fellowship, camaraderie, and fitness. She pours her heart and soul into helping others. She is the Owner of iStroll, a stroller workout group. But her vision is so much more. Her and I met through iStroll while our husbands were stationed at Macdill AFB in Tampa, FL. Through that group, she became one of my best friends. She empowered me to be a better version of myself, not just physically but also being able to push through the hard that everyday military life throws at you. She is engaged with community every where she goes, and has founded iStroll groups at every duty station she's been to, she doesn't just show up, she builds a community around her, and that community continues long after she leaves. She inspires everyone around her to be better than the day before. She's the biggest cheerleader and kindest person you'll meet.
- by Kristen Nolan
Tess Partridge is a dedicated military spouse and mother who has inspired military families all over the world through her stroller fitness organization, iStroll. She has helped military spouses and mothers lead healthy, active lifestyles and has empowered them to make positive changes in their own lives. Tess's passion for fitness and wellness is contagious, and she has inspired countless others to adopt healthier habits. She is also a devoted advocate for military families and works tirelessly to support and empower them. Tess is a true role model and an inspiration to all who have the pleasure of knowing her. For these reasons, Tess Partridge deserves to be nominated for Military Spouse of the Year.
- by Sara Copp