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18th Air Force commander’s spouse highlights education, license reciprocity

A woman in the Airman Battle Uniform shows people a welcome center.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, 18th Air Force commander, and his wife Kelly Barrett tour the new Welcome Center at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Jan. 30, 2019. They learned about how Team Little Rock maintain readiness while ensuring the care of Airmen and their families. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

Women talk to people in the operational camouflage uniform.

Members from prevention offices at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, brief U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, 18th Air Force commander, his wife Kelly Barrett and U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Simpson, 18th AF command chief, during a tour of Little Rock AFB, Jan. 20, 2019. The trio learned about how Team Little Rock maintains readiness while ensuring the care of Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

People clap by a library.

Kelly Barrett, wife of 18th Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, visits the Bobby G. Lester Elementary School in Jacksonville, Arkansas, Jan. 29, 2019. Barrett accompanied her husband during a tour of Little Rock Air Force Base and spoke with military spouses about their children’s education as they move from base to base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)


(Editor's Note: The state of Arkansas passed an amendment on April 9, 2019, for automatic licensure for active-duty service members, returning military veterans and spouses. "Automatic licensure" means the granting of occupational licensure without an individual's having met occupational licensure requirements provided in the state of Arkansas or by the rules of the occupational licensing entity.)

Kelly Barrett, wife of the 18th Air Force commander, visited Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, with her husband Jan. 29-31 to discuss issues affecting military spouses and their families.

Accompanied by military spouses, Barrett discussed the hardships they face such as child education, license reciprocity and taking care of the Air Force family as a whole.

“Quality education relaxes active-duty members,” Barrett said. “It allows Airmen to be able to perform their job better and have confidence their children are in great hands.”

Barrett visited numerous schools in the local area, including a visit to the new Bobby G. Lester Elementary School in Jacksonville, Arkansas, and noted many improvements such as larger art and music rooms and, most importantly, improved academics.

Along with potential impacts to education, orders to a new duty station further affects the entire family. Shifting to a new, unfamiliar area presents new challenges, which can create fear of isolation and the unknown.

“Moving is not just a military issue,” Barrett said. “We are becoming a more global society, resulting in new opportunities and new challenges for dual-income families.”

One of those relocation challenges for spouses is state licensure. Not all states recognize licenses from other states, potentially creating a lengthy or expensive process to earn new licenses in their new home. Some of these career fields include medical professionals, teachers, attorneys and beauticians.

Since many states don’t recognize out-of-state licenses, spouses are required to recertify. These recertifications can take up to a year and potentially leave them underemployed or even unemployed during the process.

Barrett noted the promising work that has been done in Arkansas and pending legislation that could directly affect spouses.

“Later this year Arkansas is potentially voting on license reciprocity, and many other states are moving in that direction,” Barrett said. “This is good news for the military and our civilian counterparts. It is so wonderful to see state legislatures acknowledge and take action on improving the lifestyles of military and civilians, alike.”

Challenges Airmen and their families face are not only external. Barrett had the opportunity to hear from agencies throughout Little Rock Air Force Base that assist families with concerns that can be experienced internally, such as the 19th Airlift Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, the 19th AW Chapel and the 19th Medical Group Mental Health Clinic.

Helping families doesn’t just come from professionals and military programs. Taking care of each other during and after work through spouse clubs or just seeing each other at the supermarket can help reduce stress for Air Force families.   

“We want people to really wrap their arms around other spouses and other family members so that they can get the information they need, and most importantly, to take care of each other,” Barrett said.

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