Heartlink helps civilian spouses understand military life

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Have you and your military spouse ever discussed a work issue and you were left with the deer-in-the-headlights look trying to translate military acronyms and terms? If so, Heartlink may be a helpful class to assist in understanding parts of military life and interpreting the alphabet soup.

Heartlink is a quarterly class held by the Airman & Family Readiness Center staff designed to strengthen military families and enhance mission readiness. The Air Force acknowledges spouses play an important role in military life. The overall goal of Heartlink is to ensure spouses are aware of their importance to the Air Force and to answer their questions about military life and beyond.

"Some spouses come to Heartlink who don't even know their spouse's squadron or unit," said Master Sgt. Ann Mitchell, 39th Force Support Squadron A&FRC NCO in charge.

In order to deliver the relevant information to spouses, representatives from several base agencies provide briefings and interactive games to help civilian spouses understand military life. Some of these organizations include legal, finance, the military personnel section, protocol, and the Health and Wellness Center.

"It's geared towards spouses who have been married to an Air Force member for five years or less, but we do have some more seasoned spouses who come in as mentors," said Mitchell. "A lot of the times when (military members) get home from work we're tired and don't want to think about work, so we forget to pass on that information to our spouses."

Military members use common acronyms and jargon that are often unfamiliar to civilians, said Mitchell. Spouses might never understand these terms unless their military spouse provides explanations of what the terms mean. Heartlink can help fill some information gaps and help spouses decode some military terms and acronyms.

Heartlink also offers insight on Air Force traditions such as annual award banquets or change of command ceremonies. Not all spouses are familiar with military ceremonies, and this class helps them understand not only what is done, but also why it is done.

"This base has more formal events than any other base I've ever been at, so it kind of helps spouses understand what they are for," said Leigh Dedrick, 39th FSS A&FRC community readiness specialist.

Along with providing clarity on military jargon and insight into military traditions, Heartlink also offers participants the chance to meet others in similar situations. Opportunities to meet other people are not as easy as it may be at other overseas or stateside locations. It can be especially difficult for spouses at Incirlik due to language barriers, force protection conditions and overall change in scenery from anything most spouses have previously seen and experienced.

"In the states you have all of these civilian places you can drive to easily; but here, this is all we've got," said Mitchell.

Heartlink is not directed for just female spouses, as is commonly believed, said Mitchell. The program offers information and is helpful for both male and female spouses. The A&FRC staff aims to continue helping spouses adjust to Air Force life and welcomes any comments and suggestions on improving future classes.

"I've heard a lot of good, positive feedback," said Mitchell. "I think when you start seeing spouses more involved with the community ... that shows it is helping."

To sign up for the next Heartlink class, contact the A&FRC at DSN 676-6755.