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News > Vance pilot’s wife selected for AETC Key Spouse of the Year award
Jennifer Block
Jennifer Block is the Air Education and Training Command’s 2009 Key Spouse of the Year. Jennifer is the mother of Alexus, right, and Marcus, and the wife of Capt. Beau Block, an instructor pilot with the 33rd Flying Training Squadron at Vance AFB, Okla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joe B. Wiles)
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Vance pilot’s wife selected for AETC Key Spouse of the Year award

Posted 1/13/2010   Updated 1/13/2010 Email story   Print story


by Joe B. Wiles
71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

1/13/2010 - VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- When Jennifer Block was studying to be a "geeky" engineer at San Diego State University, she promised herself she would never marry another "geeky" engineer. Fortunately for Capt. Beau Block -- who holds a master's degree in electrical engineering and is an instructor pilot with the 33rd Flying Training Squadron here -- Jennifer forgot that promise.

This week, while Captain Block is attending aircrew survival training at Fairchild AFB, Wash., before taking a job flying the U-2, a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, at Beale AFB, Calif., Jennifer Block is accepting the 2009 Air Education and Training Command Key Spouse of the Year award at a luncheon Friday during the 2010 AETC Symposium in San Antonio.

She earned the award because of her extensive involvement as a key spouse with the 33rd FTS and first vice president of the Vance Officers' Spouses Club.

A key spouse is the link between a unit's leadership and the families of its military members. "The most important part of being a key spouse is establishing relationships in the squadron," Jennifer said.

Those relationships help squadron family members bring their problems, both large and small, to Jennifer. "I don't give them advice, I give them the means to help themselves," she said.

Although she has a full-time job as mother of Alexus, her daughter who turned 4 this week, and Marcus, her 2-year-old son who is expecting a race-car birthday party in August, Jennifer managed to put in more than 200 hours as the squadron key spouse this year.

She kept the 33rd FTS commander, Navy Cmdr. Todd Bahlau, informed about the concerns of new spouses and those with deployed husbands. Thirteen new families received her personal touch in welcoming them to Vance.

Jennifer managed to update the squadron's welcome package and solved more than 20 family issues within the spouse network.

She is, in the words of Col. Chris Nowland, the 71st Flying Training Wing commander, "my critical link to wing families."

But for Jennifer, there was more that needed doing. "I remember thinking, I have something I need to accomplish but I don't know what yet." That's where the Vance OSC came into play.

As the OSC first vice president, she participated in 24 events, volunteering more than 1,500 hours, helping to raise $20,000 for scholarships, charities and expenses.
For Jennifer, tapping into the OSC was her way of finding an identity. "It was something that was mine. It wasn't my husband's, it wasn't my kids', it was mine," she said.

"This year we have had more than 100 participants in OSC. We don't think of ourselves as colonels' wives or student pilots' wives. We just try to be there for each other," Jennifer said.

"I know I'm the one receiving the Key Spouse award, but it was really a team effort," she said. "When I had problems or questions, I had no doubt I'd get help from the squadron commander and his wife, Becky. Plus I received excellent training from Greg Waide and his people in the Airman & Family Readiness Center. I was able to do a good job because of all the support I had," Jennifer said.

Her drive to serve hasn't been limited to on-base activities. During the 2009 Arthritis Foundation Walk in Enid last April, Jennifer organized a 7-member team and was the top fund raiser for the event. "It was something very near and dear to my heart," she said.

At 22, Jennifer was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. "I don't want to be one of those people who think because they have this disease they can't do anything. There might come a day I will be in a wheel chair. But it's not today. I want to live my life as much as possible right now," she said.

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