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Department of the Air Force leaders talk leadership, family during panel at AFA

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) --

Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, moderated the Leadership and the Family panel at the 2021 Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor, Sept. 22, 2021.

Members on the panel were Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., spouse Ms. Sharene Brown, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, spouse Ms. Mollie Raymond, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass, spouse Mr. Rahn Bass, Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman, and spouse Ms. Rachel Rush.

Panel members answered questions highlighting the importance of their key spouses, families, and the impact they’ve had on their overall careers.

“Those of you who know me personally, know family is very important,” said Gen. Brown. “Our job up here is to make sure you have the quality of service and the quality of life so that every one of you, whether you’re (in) uniform, civilian or (a) family member, can reach your full potential.”

Ms. Brown added that just as military members are essential to the strength and success of the military, families are essential to the success of the military member.

“Through their service and through their passion, military spouses should be able to be included in our quality of life issues,” Ms. Brown said. “They have the insight, they have the perspective, and they have the knowledge that impacts our families.”

Modern day family dynamics can be stressful. While military life is very rewarding, dual military life, dual working life, and single parent life is all tough; adding to the complexity of the military family, said Chief Bass.

The stressors and challenges — including COVID-19, constant moves, spouse employment and childcare — that come with being military members and spouses can cause serious hardship on the family unit. Kelly asked what effort the Department of the Air Force is making to increase resiliency in service members and their families.

“We need to integrate resilience in the lives of our Airmen, Guardians and the lives of their children,” Ms. Rush said. “There is an issue with displacement; spouses are displaced from what they know ... at times, they sacrifice their own dreams and ambitions to support their service member. By embracing your loved ones and carrying them graciously through that hard displacement process, you can help support them along the way.”

To aid family members during tough times, the tools in place are more important now, than ever before, according to panel participants.

“Two months ago, I started an email newsletter to families and loved ones and spouses, and I’m proud to say that we have 1,300 email addresses so far … but I’m going to challenge all of you,” said Ms. Raymond. “I would love to get to 2,000.”

She said such efforts help families stay supported, informed and ultimately connected.

Gen. Raymond also stressed the importance of support within his own family unit, recounting a time he received an abrupt permanent change of station to Japan. He broke the news to his children at dinner, which did not go as planned, but once the move did transpire, his children thrived in their new environment.

He mentioned a one-line poem his daughter wrote, which he recalls to this day; “My dad serves and I follow,” he said. “And after reading that, I thought, our children serve, too.”

All the panelists agreed that spouses and families also lead a life of service. They highlighted that spouses and children serve each day in support of their service members — often putting the members’ dreams and ambitions ahead of their own.