Team Kadena spouses lead the way Published Sept. 11, 2008 By Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky 18th Wing Public Affairs KADENA AB, Japan -- Kadena Air Base held a special forum Sept. 9-10 to highlight the importance that spouses play here and to educate them on their leadership role in the military community. The second annual Team Kadena Leadership Spouses Forum was headed by Marianne Williams, wife of Brig. Gen. Brett Williams, the 18th Wing commander. At the beginning of the forum, the spouses were greeted by both General and Mrs. Williams. "It is true that the Air Force hired your spouse, and your contribution is purely voluntary," said General Williams. "With that said, our experience has shown that involved and committed leadership spouses create a team that is unstoppable." The commitment and appreciation for what leadership spouses provide for the military community was echoed by Mrs. Williams. "I think leadership spouses are the backbone, where the rubber meets the road in terms of interface and support for our military spouses in general," she said. "In particular here at Kadena, my husband and I look at the command team as just that. If the commander is married, then that spouse helps make a leadership command team. That spouse is very much going to be looked at as a role model and for support resources for other spouses within the command." The purpose of this forum was to educate command and leadership spouses here at Kadena, to teach them what's available to them that they can pass on to their spouses, said Kathy Banks, wife of Col. Ronald Banks, 18th Operations Group commander. "One thing that was discussed that really hit home for me was stress on the first-time couples who come here and to see the issues they face and what they go through," she said. "For me, that's something that I'm going to focus on and see what we can do to bolster those who are successful in their military career." While the idea of mentorship is common among Active Duty personnel, the concept is just as important for the spouses here at Kadena, said Lori Johnson-Vegas, wife of Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Vegas, acting 18th Wing Command Chief. "We're in the position of mentorship, in the role of friend and leader for those who are new to the island or military," she said. "Making sure that we are equipped with the information or knowing how to get the information and where the resources are is critical for us and what we're trying to do." Another important aspect of the forum was the interaction between base agencies and leadership spouses. "What's great about this forum is that we have the names and faces of the local agencies we can use here to give us the tools to take back our squadrons," said Cocoa Williams, wife of Lt. Col. Neicko Williams, 353rd Operations Support Squadron commander. "Hopefully that will improve the knowledge of the services that are available here." While the forum was meant to provide information to the leadership spouses, it also provided the opportunity for Wing leadership to thank them for their involvement here at Kadena. "Thank you for your involvement in this forum and demonstrating your commitment," said General Williams. "We clearly cannot do the mission without you."