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Mrs. Carlson offers advice, support to Air Force spouses

  • Published
  • By Sheila Rupp
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Vicki Carlson has been married to Gen. Bruce Carlson, the commander of Air Force Materiel Command, for nearly 40 years. In that time she has lived the Air Force lifestyle.

During a late February visit to Kirtland with her husband, Mrs. Carlson offered advice for current Air Force spouses based on her personal experience.

While she acknowledges moving around so frequently can be very difficult, Mrs. Carlson said that it's a family's decision to decide whether they will be happy or miserable at a duty station. She tearfully recalled moving while their son was in his senior year of high school and how family friends offered to take him in to finish school. Although she said they appreciated the offers, the Carlsons had a strict policy to keep the family together and to get through things as an entire family.

A family may not like every duty station because of its weather, location or any other reason, but if they decide to find things they like about it, they'll be much happier, she said.

"Make the best of where you're at and bloom where you're planted," Mrs. Carlson said. "Find a way to make that base a better place than it was when you arrived, not only for you but for future spouses who will be stationed there."

She said that spouses should find and participate in activities that fulfill them, whether they are church activities, spouse's groups or playgroups with their children. Mrs. Carlson said that she believes that "plugging in" to activities and groups is important, though spouses should remember that their family is what follows to the next duty station.

Keeping a family together and maintaining a positive attitude is important for any military family, but especially important for those with deployed service members or those on extended temporary duty assignments, or TDYs. Mrs. Carlson said that she believes that it is very important for couples to have a "briefing" before a deployment or TDY so that each party knows that is expected and they are in agreement of how things will be handled.

"It is important to have power of attorney, wills and finances handled before an Airman gets called away so that the service member knows the family will be taken care of and so that a spouse feels comfortable in managing the household from every aspect," she said.

Mrs. Carlson said that when General Carlson was on shorter TDYs, she and their three children would make the time go by more quickly by doing activities that her husband wasn't fond of or by enjoying foods that he didn't like.

Mrs. Carlson said that above all, it's important to maintain familial relationships while an Airman is away. She suggests keeping lots of photographs of the service member at home so that they are always "present" and making sure that the service member has some mementos from home. Thankfully, she said, communications have come a long way and technology enables families to communicate more easily via phone, e-mail or Web cams.

She also recommends counseling and classes available through the Airman and Family Readiness Center, unit support groups and groups such as Hearts Apart, a group for families and spouses with a deployed service member, to help the time go by faster and easier.

"You have to find what works for you - that could be going home to see your family, getting more involved in church or joining a playgroup for you and your children, it doesn't matter as long as it works for you and your family," Mrs. Carlson said.