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Social Work Student Receives Air Force Association Joan Orr Award Spouse of the Year
Stephanie Ewers is far more than simply a military spouse. She is an advocate, a go-getter, certified personal trainer, health educator, motivator, UND graduate student, mother of two, and was chosen for the Air Force Association Joan Orr Spouse of the Year Award.
Air Force spouses often serve as the backbone of the family unit as military life requires dealing with frequent moves, deployments, and unforeseeable change. Spouses often turn to one another for support through these difficult times as usually they are the only ones who truly understand what it is like to be a military spouse. Ewers, whose husband, Lieutenant Colonel Bob Ewers, has served as a catalyst for military spouses to come together to form healthy habits and to support one another. When she and her husband were stationed at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, WY, she spoke with other spouses and learned that they wanted more opportunities to exercise with their small children and to make connections with each other. Ewers was able to work with other spouses and base agencies to borrow space for indoor walking during cold winter days as well as a weekly coffee group. In addition, she helped to create other opportunities for spouses as their needs arose. She served as the motivator and person that rallied the group to make a difference in each other’s lives.
One of the things that makes Ewers exemplary is her ability to understand military spouses’ skills and talents and put them together to create opportunities that allow them to utilize their abilities. Ewers notes, “Military spouses are much more than the other half of the military member. They are well educated, both formally and in the school of life – biologists, teachers, artists, and builders, the list is endless! When we can come together to share knowledge and learn about each other’s talents, we can put them together to create something really awesome!”
The Joan Orr Spouse of the Year is awarded by the Air Force Association to a spouse for their contributions to improve the living conditions and the livelihood of the Air Force Life. The process for being presented this prestigious award is quite tenuous. First, Ewers was nominated for the 90th Operations Group (OG). The 90th OG is composed of multiple squadrons. Her nominee submitted a package on her behalf and the group chose her as the winner. After being named at the group level, the process proceeded to the wing level which is FE Warren AFB. From there, her nomination proceeded to the Command Level, which is the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGC), which includes all missile bases. She was presented the AFGS award during her husband’s going away party in Cheyenne. A few weeks later, Ewers family moved to Alabama, where they are currently stationed as her husband is attending Air War College. After arriving in Alabama, she received a letter stating that she was named as the Joan Orr Spouse of the Year.
“I didn’t believe it at first. I was amazed and surprised. I told my husband that I didn’t think the letter was correct, I thought they were just congratulating me for my Command-level award. He told me that it was real and that we were going to Washington, D.C. to accept my award.” Ewers stated.
Ewers was presented with the Joan Orr Air Force Spouse of the Year Award during the opening ceremony for the 2015 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference on September 14th in National Harbor, Maryland. She was presented the award by the Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah James, and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Mark Welsh III.
In addition to bringing spouses together, Ewers enjoys making a difference in the lives of her fellow military spouses and seeing them flourish. One of the spouses who came to Ewers for support expressed that she was burnt-out from the demands of military life. She and her family had been in the Air Force for 17 years and after moving a number of times, making new friends, and helping her kids adapt, she was exhausted. Ewers started working on projects with the woman and they formed a friendship. The connection that they made and the spouses’ ability to contribute to a greater cause helped renew her spirit and now she is working on her own projects and helping other spouses to get through difficult times.
Ewers recognizes that the military lifestyle is not always easy. She enjoys meeting new people and exploring new places but with regular moves, deployment, and every day stressors, the demands can take a toll on spouses which is why relying on one another is so important. Ewers' support system is her family; her husband Bob, her 12 year old daughter, Lauren, and her 16 month old son, Brock. Ewers credits Lauren with teaching her about military life and resilience more than any textbook ever could.
“She is an amazing kid who taught me how to be a mom,” stated Ewers.
Although she and her husband have only been married for three years, Ewers is no stranger to Air Force life. Prior to meeting her husband, she worked as a civilian for a Health and Wellness Center that was contracted by the Air Force. As a health educator and a personal trainer, Ewers worked alongside a Dietitian and an Exercise Physiologist to provide health and wellness opportunities for military members and their families. She hosted nutrition and fitness classes, coordinated outreach events, helped people quit using tobacco, and helped her clients instill healthy lifestyle choices. As a personal trainer she found that her clients would often complete the workouts and start making healthier nutritional choices but would eventually quit or their progress would plateau as they had emotional and psychological barriers that impeded on their progress. Because she didn’t have a counseling background, Ewers would often refer her clients to counselors to help deal with the emotional side of weight loss. However, they often did not follow-through with the referral and instead they dropped out of the program all together because they could not overcome their mental barriers. She realized that social work would help her to develop the counseling skills that she needed to help her clients succeed and meet their goals. She enrolled in UND’s online Masters of Science in Social Work program as she knew that the flexibility provided by the program met the Air Force lifestyle.
Ewers plans to finish her independent study project (ISP) and do internship hours this spring. After graduation she plans to work in a hospital setting until her husband retires. After which, she hopes that she will continue to work with the military as there are a number of great opportunities for social workers. One opportunity that particularly appeals to her is working with combat veterans.
Regardless of where Ewers and her husband are assigned to go next, one thing is for certain, she will make an impact. As a connector of spouses, a catalyst of action, a health promoter, and a supporter of many, Stephanie Ewers is far more than a stay-at-home-mom; she is the Joan Orr Air Force Spouse of the Year. She is phenomenal.