Jen Ferrell

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

Number of Deployments: 2

Number of PCS's: 2

Share your military spouse story:
After doing everything right in college to set myself up for success immediately post-grad, I suddenly found myself completely out of my element, 2,000 miles from home, living my early married days mostly alone due to ops tempo and completely jobless. I knew in my heart that someone was going to join this man on this adventure and while I didn’t know what to expect I did know for certain that I wanted that person to be me - this was the beginning of me learning what the sacrifice of milso life truly is like. It was in those unexpectedly tough moments that I really had to sit with myself and grow. Since then I, like most military spouses, have reinvented myself seven times over through 2 deployments, an OCONUS PCS to Alaska, and the addition of 2 (soon to be 3!) kids. One of the most beautiful parts of this messy military journey has been the deep, family-like relationships that have formed, including my friend and for the last 6 years, business partner, Kirstin. Together Kirst and I co-founded Wives of the Armed Forces, or as it’s more commonly called WAFs. WAFs was born out of Gandhi's idea to “be the change” and the desire to make sure there wasn’t a single military significant other coming up in the generations following us who would feel isolated, forgotten, or unable to thrive in this lifestyle. We created the community and resource we craved so often in those early years. A space full of encouragement and support. A one-stop-shop where you can access legitimate and current career, relationship, and lifestyle resources all while reading the stories of milsos across the world sharing their struggles, learned wisdom, and best advice for those coming behind them. Turns out that mindset of doing the next best thing has taken me for the ride of a lifetime and I am honored to be in a position to leave this space better than I found it.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
In an age when the world has become so more much about “me” than “we”, it’s refreshing to find those who are willing to share the wisdom they gleaned from walking the path before you, rather than walking through the tough parts of life alone. Through creating Wives of the Armed Forces with Kirst, we have established a platform and community of empowered military significant others that choose to thrive in military life rather than fall victim to it. Through the voices of many we are able to offer diverse representation of military life and experiences unique to this career path. Everything from what to expect with a specific military job from the milso perspective to infertility support and the best resources to navigate that as a military family. These voices are powerful and through our leadership and protected communal space, we are able to support a platform that amplifies them.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
One of the sweetest seasons of my military spouse journey was the nearly 3 years I worked as the Unit Program Coordinator for my husband's unit, the 4th Airlift Squadron. This was the time that I also began serving as a Key Spouse, eventually being honored as the 2019 McChord Key Spouse of the Year. Since then I have maintained local involvement, becoming a Key Spouse at our new unit in Alaska. I have been honored to take part in guest interviews on podcast episodes with powerful messaging of encouragement and support; host in-person meet-up opportunities for milsos; secure partnerships to employ a team of paid military spouses; support private Facebook groups to connect military spouses of different branches to likeminded milsos eager to connect; share job opportunities and career resources to help tackle the unfathomable milso unemployment rate; speak and train groups of milsos; engage in thoughtful conversations with senior leadership spouses.

Describe how you support your community:
When conceptualizing Wives of the Armed Forces, the mission was to ensure that at the very least one person received help. Having experienced low seasons along my journey as a milso, the hope was to be a comforting resource (and friend!) to those who came behind us. 6 years into this work, I have learned how powerful words can be. I have personally experienced the hurt that can come from the comparison. Words matter. This is why we intentionally use inclusive language such as milso (military significant other) instead of milspo (military spouse). I have always recognized that as individuals we have limited experience. WAFs was built on the reality that one person’s experience may be vastly different from another’s. The key to making sure milsos know they are seen is cultivating a diverse group of voices. I am humbled to be one of the conduits on the WAF team that connects spouses of all backgrounds and journeys together so that they can feel the support we all need to succeed.

What do you advocate for? Why?
Through Wives of the Armed Forces, I advocate for the brand new milso that has been thrown into this lifestyle with open eyes and open hearts to historically be met with a whole lot of “just you wait”. I believe that comparison between military hardships serves no one and instead through genuine support and encouragement, we can collectively make the lifestyle of a military family more rewarding. I deeply value leaving something better than I found it and, with the pending military retention crisis, am doing my part to shed light on the important military family variables that have often been overlooked such as childcare, milso unemployment, and military family health/wellness to make sure military family voices are heard and effective change takes place. I believe this is possible by using the WAF platform to mediate impactful conversations and advocate for military family needs through social media.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Wives of the Armed Forces is one of the first platforms to effectively use social media to spread positivity and encouragement online and in doing so curate a community of empowered and involved military significant others. From the beginning, we have used social media trends to effectively communicate to large masses of military families and have since expanded those efforts to a variety of platforms and media including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Patreon, Spotify podcasts, published news media, government-paid public-speaking engagements, and more! Together, as the co-founders of this platform, we have created a two-way dialogue within the military community using media that is honest and focused on improving the military lifestyle.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
The best resource we have as military spouses are each other. That was as true 50 years ago as it is now, the only difference being we now have tools to disseminate that word-of-mouth wisdom a lot more efficiently through social media. With the support of the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title we could increase awareness for the Wives of the Armed Forces platform and community, collectively improving the number of milsos helped, seen, and supported.


The experiences of today's military families have drastically changed over the past several decades. However, cultivating a strong military family that is fulfilled in their quality of life has never been more important. Enter Jennifer Ferrell and her friend/business partner Kirstin Navaroli, Air Force spouses who have tapped into authentic, meaningful ways to connect today's modern military spouse through their platform Wives of the Armed Forces. These heart-centered community builders are hardly influencers, they are DOERS that CARE (and happen to be successful social media role models). They have created a two-way dialogue with our community that is refreshing, honest and focused on improving unique situations in a way that best serves each individual's family. These gals are a force with a mission that matters.
- by Lyndsey Akers