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

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

(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.