Since before the Air Force was established, spouses have raised their hands to volunteer in support of the mission and their communities. This is true during peace times, but especially salient during times of trouble. In 1944, Bee Arnold helped create the National Association of Air Forces Women (NAAFW). Managed by Ruth Spaatz, the association was formed to provide an overarching organization to unite and train spouse volunteers across the Army Air Forces (AAF). The NAAFW did not start from scratch, they cleverly leveraged members of AAF clubs across the country to ensure that they were the most effective in supporting WWII efforts. Their hope was to offer support and direction to individual clubs while giving them flexibility to solve local problems. 

The response to the call for the NAAFW was immediate and immense. Letters flooded in from across the country from clubs and individuals mailing in their $1 dues to become part of the association. The response was so great that the NAAFW opened a second office to handle the influx of new members and the ideas they sent in.  


An excellent example of the work they accomplished came from the Hickam Field Women’s Club.  Within minutes of the Japanese attack on Hickam Field, the women of the club were in the hospital caring for the wounded. They collected blankets, evacuated children from danger and stayed with them until their parents could take over. They drove cars and trucks offering emergency aid, prepared food and drinks, and brought order to a terrifying sense of chaos. It has been noted that what they accomplished was nothing short of a miracle. But as the NAAFW points out, they had already been trained for emergencies.  


Although these efforts took place almost 80 years ago, they echo the military spouse work we see today. This is apparent in the amazing volunteerism that spouses displayed during Operation Allies Refuge. Much like the spouses of the NAAFW, spouses across the DAF leveraged the communities that were already in place to provide necessities and comfort resources for nearly 35,000 Afghan evacuees. To learn more about the work military spouses contributed to, visit

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