More than two years after officials announced its planned creation, a new military spouse transition education program is almost ready for primetime.
The program, currently available only online through Military OneSource, looks to empower military spouses with the information they need to help their service members and family transition into military life, said Eddy Mentzer, associate director for children, youth and families in the Pentagon's Military Community and Family Policy office.
Eventually, Mentzer said, the Military Spouse Transition Program (MySTEP) will contain a series of short video lessons designed to address three spouse life stages: new spouses, spouses whose service members are mid-career; and those getting ready to leave.
But the first of those videos to roll out focuses only on new spouses. A military life orientation of sorts, the 21 videos currently online address issues such as good financial habits, spouse education resources available from the Defense Department, and how to find child care.
The MySTEP videos went live in a soft launch Aug. 1. Mentzer said they plan to start publicizing it in early September.
Mentzer, who has been working on the spouse transition curriculum since the effort was first announced in 2016, said officials chose to focus first on the group farthest from transition as a way to test the system and make sure it's the right fit for the community.
"It was the low hanging fruit. We really wanted to have an impact on newer spouses; we also wanted to learn, knowing it was the smaller bucket," he said. "It gave us a little bit of trial and error."
In the next year, Mentzer plans to add about 180 more videos to the program, the bulk of which will focus on spouses whose service members are getting ready to head into civilian life within a year.
"There's one given in military life, and that is that you will leave military life at some point," he said. "I think that's why this is so vital."
Mentzer said his team spent two years developing their offerings because they wanted to get it right. He brought together an advisory panel of spouses with representation from every branch, including Guard and Reserve, and many walks of military life. They then developed the videos based off that group's input, he said.
"It's easy to throw a couple of fact sheets and a few articles together," he said. "We wanted to do something a little different, and that's where we came up with the idea of video vignettes that we developed."
Rather than creating new resources, the videos focus on recapping what's already out there and then pointing the viewer in the right direction, Mentzer said.
"I don't want to teach them all about the VA because those resources exist already," he said as an example. "I want to lead the spouse to the resource. And, in the end, the action is really on the spouse."
Originally, both online and in-person versions of all the courses were planned, but Mentzer said they now plan to offer only a live version of the material designed for new spouses, the group they see as most likely to come to a face-to-face meeting. Not unlike a new spouse orientation, the program will be capped at an hour and built so that it can be presented by both on-base officials and volunteers with outside spouse organizations.
Eventually, each video will also be accompanied by a downloadable fact sheet, Mentzer said. The videos are free for anyone to view, but those who log into the Military OneSource Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) portal will be able to save videos to their profile for reference later.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.