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New Pentagon program empowers military spouses for family’s transition to civilian life

Caitlin M. Kenny | Stars and Stripes

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is rolling out a new program that provides military spouses resources to prepare them and their family for the time when their husband or wife transitions out of the military.

The Military Spouse Transition Program, or MySTeP, is an initiative that launched in early August through the Pentagon’s Military Community and Family Policy office and provides military spouses information to help prepare them for the inevitability of their family leaving the military.

While servicemembers go through the Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, to prepare for their transition, military spouses have faced a lack of information about the transition, which causes a challenge for families, according to Eddy Mentzer, the associate director for children, youth, and families in Military Community and Family Policy office in the Defense Department’s office of the undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

“And we recognize very seriously that when there’s a family involved, the military spouse plays an equal role in the entire transition process,” he said.

Pentagon officials realized about three years ago that there was an information and resources gap for spouses, Mentzer said. Though spouses can attend the TAP program, they found it was often difficult for families to find child care or to take time off from their jobs.

The program’s team spoke to military spouses who had gone through a transition about what they wished they had done as a spouse to prepare them for eventually transitioning out of the military and what resources they wish they had once they left, Mentzer said. Some spouses mentioned how they wished when they were younger that they had developed better financial habits such as saving money. Mentzer said he also was interested to know how important networks were to them, for a career and personal support.

“So we want to educate them… that there are things they can do right now that they can take advantage of,” he said.

The Pentagon developed the MySTeP program as a journey, with resources for the first day that they became a military spouse to the day that their husband or wife retires or separates. MySTeP is available on the Military OneSource website, a one-stop for programs and resources for military families through the Defense Department. By having the program available online, spouses can access its information whenever and wherever they are.

As part of the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program on Military OneSource, MySTeP is comprised of three steps that focus on the different phases of being a military spouse: “Stepping In” is for new spouses, “Stepping Through” for ones who are familiar with military life, and “Stepping Beyond” for spouses about to transition back to civilian life with their husband or wife.

Videos for new spouses in the “Stepping In” section include finding employment help on the installation, locating financial support and assistance, and strengthening your social network with family readiness resources. The videos pop-up with a sidebar consisting of links to resources discussed in the video.

For spouses who are familiar with military life, the “Stepping Through” section is composed mainly of articles on topics including relocation, employment, and health and wellness.

The MySTeP program website only has content now for the first two steps, not the last step for spouses transitioning. The program’s team wanted to test and establish their methodology and way for delivering the resources to the spouses, Mentzer said, and so they started with “Stepping In.” But he said the most valuable resources will be the last step for spouses.

During the next 12 to 18 months, they will roll out content and develop another 170 videos for the program, according to Mentzer. Most of the marketing push for the program will start in September, but Mentzer said he is also hoping to have word of MySTeP spread in online communities for military spouses because it’s “one of the most trusted resources for information.”

Mentzer said he hopes the program will empower spouses by giving them the information and resources they need, and then it’s up to the individual to “own it.”

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