By Emily Sussman, ParaglideMarch 30, 2018
"Everyone needs that three a.m. friend that you can pick up the phone and call. You have to build your three a.m. friend," said Larin, the spouse of a Psychological Operations Soldier.
The term "three a.m. friend" was coined on the first day of the United States Army Special Operations Command Mentorship Conference during a presentation about community presented by Liz, a Special Forces spouse.
The USASOC Mentorship Conference held at Fort Bragg annually. The conference brings Special Operations Forces spouses together from across the world to build connections and share mentorship techniques. Scheduled for Sept. 2017, the conference had to be rescheduled for March 6 - 8 due to Hurricane Irma.
The conference was created to help spouses connect and foster connections within their communities and beyond.
"(It's about) building that sense of community and building up your own Family, your own friends, because within our community, the SOF community it is all Family," said Lori a 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment spouse.
Spouses from as far as Japan and from all SOF branches, to include PsyOp, Civil Affairs, SF, 160th SOAR and 75th Ranger Regiment were in attendance.
On the first day of the conference, spouses came together to create tiles representing their spouse's unit. When the tiles came together, they built a lighthouse, part of the USASOC Mentorship Conference logo, which is accompanied by the saying 'be the light.'
Ashley, a 75th Ranger Regiment spouse, explained the tools gained at this conference help arm spouses with what they need to help one another understand what is on their Family's horizon.
"They (Soldiers) are focused on the mission, which is not necessarily what our mission is. Our mission is the home front," said Ashley.
The hope is that, through support provided by one another, Spouses can help to contribute to the Preservation of the Force and Family, building bonds within their community, in addition, those with their spouses. These relationships can help preserve them in their partner's absence and limit distractions to their Soldier while away from home.
"It is spouse mentorship for us, but for us, it is also an entire Family readiness and unit readiness mission," said Lori.
The conference was timed to occur at the same time as an Orient, Navigate, Employ, Train, Educate, Advise and Mentor, or O.N.E. T.E.A.M., event.
The O.N.E. T.E.A.M., website explains that the organization is designed to empower and connect current and future spouses of CA, PsyOp, and SF Soldiers.
Coordinating the timing of the two events, allowed spouses of SOF Soldier-students assigned to U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School to connect with operational SOF spouse-mentors from their next projected duty station.
The event opened with a USASOC command video and words of welcome from operational spouses and command spouses, March 7. The evening concluded with break-out sessions, by branch, where spouses were able to ask questions and meet potential mentors, in some cases, spouses from future duty stations both near and far.
Larin described being surprised at finding a new bingo partner among the future SOF spouses.
"The spouse I met last night said she didn't come to the last event. She just got lonely enough and said 'I am going' she just needed a friend … she really just said she wanted someone to go to bingo with," said Larin, who was also excited to find a bingo partner. "I think this program is so wonderful because when I first came in, there was nothing like this, and I was just so lonely, like that girl yesterday. I will not let her be lonely. That's why this is so amazing."
Amy, the spouse of a CA Soldier, said that she hoped that during the CA break-out session she was able to help incoming spouses understand the resources available to them.
Far from home with a two-month-old during her husband's first deployment with CA, Amy recalled wishing she had someone to offer mentorship and support.
"I feel like that is the piece for me, my why, because Families need this. My husband left me while my baby was two months old … and I was like what do I do now, and I wish I had had that (mentor) spouse," said Amy.
By the final day of the conference, it was clear; it is not just about finding that three a.m. friend, but for those attending the conference, it was also about learning to be that three a.m. friend for someone else.
(Editor's Note: In the interest of anonymity, and by request of those interviewed, only first names were used to identify Special Operations Forces spouses in this article.)