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The Turning Point: Social media proves valuable information tool for families

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Imagine flipping through a newspaper or magazine while the radio plays in the background and the kitchen TV broadcasts the evening news ... Bling! Bling! Bling!

Oops - the Blackberry rings, and there's a message in the inbox. It's too large to view on the small hand-held screen so you fire up the laptop.

Ah! There it is - a friend out in Texas sends a photo of a shooting at their Army post.

"Holy cow!" rushes through your mind. Moments later a ticker comes on the TV screen - the next day's paper is flooded with the news.

In this day and age, there's a plethora of ways to get the news. How do you sort it? What's timely? What's relevant?

For those Team Mildenhall members who may be struggling, problem-solving news won't likely come through a major network. But, there's a new and growing tab on the base Web page launched just for them.

To compliment the news and information on www.mildenhall.af.mil, unit key spouses also have a tool, which can also be delivered straight to a member's home via social media.

A recent survey reports nearly one third of Mildenhall's junior enlisted Airmen's spouses don't know where to go to receive basic command or support information.

So why not utilize the base homepage and social media?

According to Airman and Family Readiness Center staff members, the Key Spouses Group hosts a social media page to inform families of various campaigns and organizations that offer help and support.

"We realized that we have a great deal of potential to reach our younger Airmen and family members using social media," said Master Sgt. William Dominy, A&FRC noncommissioned officer in charge. "Our key spouses use a Facebook page to keep our friends informed of upcoming activities, ongoing campaigns, and to help them receive support when they need it."

For key spouses, social media provides an avenue to channel a lot of information and let subscribers pick and choose what pertains to them. If one person has information on their personal page, and they are a friend of the Key Spouse page, the information is easily disseminated to all friends.

In addition to what members can learn through their key spouses, the A&FRC continues to orchestrate hands-on events at their location in Building 460.

"We have more than 20 workshops, special events and one-to-one consultations available at the A&FRC," said Sergeant Dominy. "We need to keep on top of reaching those who need us."

Because reaching out to Team Mildenhall is not always an easy task, Sergeant Dominy said he looks to the key spouses for help.

"We realize some prefer to get their news in the social realm, so we use our Facebook page to inform our friends on base news also," he said. "This is an important tool for A&FRC operations."

Once a member is a key spouse's friend, it opens doors to an array of information, some of which leads to A&FRC services.

Each A&FRC staff member has a background in social services and can provide any service offered by the center. The services offered through the A&FRC are:

· Family Life Education
· Personal Financial Management
· Career Focus
· Relocation Assistance
· Transition Assistance
· Volunteer Resource
· Readiness
· Information and Referral
· Air Force Aid

In addition to center-based services, the A&FRC staff performs outreach to all RAF Mildenhall units. Each unit is assigned its own A&FRC liaison who works with the commanders, first sergeants, key spouses and others to determine unit needs and ensure those needs are met.

To compliment A&FRC's initiative, the 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs office will strategically position posters around the base and wants to correspond directly with readers.

"We encourage spouses to contact us directly," said Geoff Janes, 100th ARW PA Internal Information Division chief. "We send a weekly e-mail to all base employees and welcome spouses and family members to submit their e-mail addresses so we can add them to that correspondence."

Family members wishing to receive PA's weekly updates should send a message to marauder@mildenhall.af.mil.

Editor's note: The Turning Point is a recurring series scheduled to continue through May 2010. Look for part 3 of The Turning Point on www.mildenhall.af.mil soon.