BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo --
Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, is home to not only members from every U.S. military branch, but military members and government employees from other countries. The 460th Space Wing, known as America’s Missile Warning Wing, hosts members from New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom to assist in Buckley AFB’s central mission.
Transitioning from one country to another is something many military members and their families are accustomed to. Military members and government employees from these allied countries come to Buckley AFB for roughly two to three years and typically bring their families with them.
In 2017, it was identified that family members of those allied partners were not allotted the same privileges U.S. military family members received. Things such as shopping at the Base Exchange, utilizing the commissary, and even base access had been overlooked for these family members who had also traveled to a new country with their spouse.
“We didn’t know what we didn’t know,” said Christina Grooms, the 460th Space Wing community support coordinator. “We started talking with these allied partner members and discovered that a problem existed. That’s when we started developing the Allied Family Integration Program, or AFIP, a program that would ease the process of moving from one country to another.”
On March 1, 2018, Grooms stood up the Allied Family Integration Program support team, a group of people dedicated to making the transition for allied partner family members as easy as possible. Their ultimate goal is to make them feel welcomed when arriving here at Buckley AFB.
“Initial concerns identified a lack of continuity, communication and support for our allied partners,” said Grooms. “We did not have a formalized support system, and allied partners received sponsorship information from various sources as there was not a centralized support system that existed.”
The AFIP team gathered allied partners and reviewed Status of Forces Agreements which helped them determine what base services allied partner families were eligible for. With that information, the 460th Space Wing Judge Advocate’s office developed an Allied Partner Benefit Chart so family members could easily reference services they could utilize when arriving at Buckley AFB.
In addition to providing base services to the allied partner family members, the AFIP team started coordinating social events at the community center on base with themes familiar to allied countries like “Aussie Pub Night” and “British Pub Night”.
Australian Air Force Flight Lieutenant Gene L. Elliott, 460th Operations Support Squadron chief of training, was the master of ceremonies for the last Aussie pub night, held in May 2019.
“It was fun, we really like them,” said Elliot. “There’s usually some Aussie specific food like meat pies, Pavlova, lamington, etc. That’s how most of the pub nights go; they have food and drinks specific to the country followed by a trivia quiz with questions about that country.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Joseph McIntosh, 460 Force Support Squadron deputy director, has since taken over the program and plans to continue giving our allied force partners the best opportunities for the duration of their time in the U.S.
“The AFIP created an environment where allied partners feel part of Team Buckley when they arrive,” said McIntosh. “It gives them the opportunity to be fully integrated as a mission partner and not just an extra body.”
The Allied Family Integration Program was such a success that it was briefed to Air Force Space Command and used as a benchmark for other bases, such as Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, which also hosts allied partners at their base.