A spouses’ club is a base staple. Military wives, and more recently husbands, have been gathering together for decades for social time, support and charitable work. Spouses’ clubs started off being segregated into Enlisted Spouses and Officers’ Spouses. However in recent years many bases are starting to see these two clubs merge.

I am currently stationed at Shaw AFB. When we first arrived, the two spouse clubs were separated. However, due to dwindling numbers for the Enlisted Spouses’ Club, the Officers’ Spouses’ Club was approached with the idea to merge. I was excited to be a part of that conversation as a new board member.

We ended up agreeing to merge the two clubs into one Shaw Spouses’ Club. You would not believe the work involved in merging two clubs, but it has been so worth it! We have had an amazing year and fantastic participation from spouses of all ranks.

I would like to present the case for a merged club.

1) Increased participation overall.

As I mentioned, here at Shaw we have seen an increased number in membership after our merge. That is a bit of a give-in because you are open to a larger group of individuals. But I have heard many times from spouses in favor of the merge that they joined in part because there was just one combined club instead of two separate clubs. Spouses nowadays like to see and are more likely to join a combined club.

2) No awkward moments when you meet a new spouse

At a previous base and prior to our merge at Shaw, whenever I would meet a new spouse I was always hesitant to invite them to the spouses’ club unless I knew if they were a fellow officer’s spouse. Not being involved with the Enlisted Spouses’ Club firsthand, I couldn’t confidently recommend joining because I did not know what the group dynamic was and I did not know about their social events or charitable work. Now that we have a merged club, anytime I see someone post on Facebook that they are new or lonely, I immediately recommend joining our club. (It has become a bit of a laughable moment among my friends here.) It no longer matters what rank our spouses are. We have a place for all spouses in one combined club.

3) We can work together on one goal

Most, if not all, spouse clubs have some aspect of charitable work. That could be giving away money to local and base organizations in need or it could be a scholarship program. At Shaw, prior to the merge, both the Enlisted Spouses’ Club and the Officers’ Spouses’ Club had a scholarship program. However now that we have merged we can combine our efforts and make a larger impact in the local community and grow our scholarship program. We can work together on fundraisers like our annual Auction to raise even more money to donate! The last year before the merge, the Shaw Officers’ Spouses’ Club was able to give out $7,500 in scholarships across seven deserving military dependents and spouses. The first year after the merge we increased that amount to over $10,000! A large part of that amount came from our annual Auction; that event came together with the efforts of so many of our members. I am looking forward to this coming year to see how much more we can increase the scholarship award amount!

4) Mentorship

As with any group of mixed ages, mentorship in some capacity is bound to happen. It can be overt or subtle, but it is so beneficial. We have been talking about this lately as we transition from our 2017-18 Board to the 2018-19 Board. We have a lot of older spouses in the club, but they are nearing retirement. Having an influx of younger spouses, Junior Enlisted and Company Grade Officers, would be very beneficial. I believe that younger spouses can offer a fresh look at how spouses’ clubs function. They can bring some great ideas for new socials and fundraisers. They have the energy and maybe the extra time to volunteer in the community and on base. However, the older spouses have a lot of knowledge from years of PCSing, raising children, working and living. I believe that sharing our knowledge with each other can only make a spouses’ club, and the military experience, better!

5) As spouses, we don’t wear rank so why would it matter?

I’m sure you’ve heard stories about spouses who “wear their husband’s rank”. It sounds so old-school to me. I am extremely proud of my husband who enlisted almost eight years ago and then was accepted to Officer Training School and is now a Captain. But at no point did I feel like my husband’s rank at all affected me and who I could spend time with. Of course you may click better with people in a similar point in life (and thus of similar ranks), but I’m friends with people from all walks of life and with spouses’ of all ranks. Being in a combined club shows that rank does not matter at all! We can all attend socials together, craft together, drink wine together or do a 5k together. That’s all that matters.

 

Kristen Thoennes

Shaw Spouses’ Club

www.shawspousesclub.com

www.facebook.com/shawsc

President.shawsc@gmail.com