“My goal is to ensure these five specific areas are highlighted and any challenges under them are met with purpose and resolve, to include the unique challenges to our Exceptional Family Members Program families,” Sharene Brown said in an Air Force news release.
Five and Thrive, which was developed by Brown and a diverse group of spouses who comprise her “Thrive Team,” seeks to focus attention on five areas: child care, education, health care, spousal employment and housing.
The group chose those issues because of their direct impact on family readiness and resilience as well as force retention, according to the release. Surveys conducted by Blue Star Families, Military OneSource, the Military Family Advisory Network and other organizations have all pointed to those areas as the most critical.
A new Thrive Team guidebook for military spouses outlines the elements that Brown will consider in each category:
♦ Child care: On- and off-base daycare options; before and after-school care; child care subsidies, and youth programs
♦ Education: K-12 education; spouse education; spouse career advancement; the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and the Military Interstate Compact Commission (The Defense Department-backed commission works with federal, state and local officials and others to create interstate agreements regarding the special needs of military schoolchildren, who are subject to frequent moves.)
♦ Health care: TRICARE; dental; pharmacy; vision; patient advocates; Exceptional Family Members Program; mental health, and the Family Advocacy Program
♦ Housing: On- and off-base housing; household goods storage and move planning
♦ Spouse employment: Airman and Family Readiness Center programs; hiring assistance programs; re-licensure/recertification; USAJOBS; career development, and entrepreneurial exploration
The guidebook consolidates rules and tools into a one-stop shop for essential information for Air Force families. It is currently available on the AF.mil website and the AF Connect app. Brown and her team also plan to publish a monthly “CSAF Spouse Situation Report” to share the latest policy changes from Air Force headquarters and note available resources.
Her announcement comes amid the ongoing water contamination crisis at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. A Nov. 20 fuel leak into the water supply forced many military families and service members living on base into temporary housing and left them worried about potential health effects. Air Force families have also been hard-hit by nationwide trends, like booming housing costs.
“These actions and policies taking place at the highest levels are not always readily communicated to our spouses and families,” Brown said in the release. “Sharing this information directly to our spouses is vital to their continued support. Military spouses are essential to the success and strength of our force and should be included in those quality-of-life discussions.”