ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Reserve Citizen Airmen are constantly striving to find balance in life between civilian job, Reserve duty and family. A husband and wife team of Air Force Reserve squadron commanders has found that balance despite their busy schedules and the lofty demands of leadership.
For two years, Lt. Col. Cyrus Champagne and Lt. Col. Kimberly Champagne simultaneously served as commanders of Air Force Reserve squadrons. He led the 710th Network Operations Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, until passing command on to Lt. Col. Zachary Zichang in June. She is still the commander of the 315th Force Support Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.
Kimberly said when she was offered command of the 315th FSS in 2019, she was initially hesitant. “Cyrus was already a commander and it was a big demand on our time as a family,” she said. “We have a daughter who was 13 at the time and I was the Key Spouse for Cyrus’s squadron, so I definitely had to think long and hard about taking on the additional responsibility of my own squadron.”
After a lot of soul searching, discussion with her family and advice from her mentors, Kimberly decided to accept the offer to lead the 103 people assigned to the force support squadron at Charleston.
As an Air Reserve Technician, leading the 315th FSS is both Kimberly’s full-time job and her Reserve assignment. Cyrus is a traditional Reservist who works for the Naval Information Warfare Center in Charleston as a civilian. For the two years he commanded the 710th NOS, Cyrus would make frequent trips to Robins to accomplish his Reserve job while traveling extensively in his civilian capacity.
“Cyrus would always say that even though he was a traditional Reservist, you’re never not a commander,” Kimberly said. “And that’s definitely the truth. As a force support squadron commander, we never close. Being a two-commander family was never easy, but we were up for the challenge.”
So, how do the Champanges balance full-time jobs with Reserve duty and raising a family?
“For us, it all begins with our faith,” Cyrus said. “We start every day off with prayer and look for divine direction on how to balance things. That gets our day off to a good start. We rank and prioritize what needs to be done that day, realizing that we have to make sure we are taking care of each other.”
He went on to say that being a dual-commander family added a level of understanding that made their balancing act a little easier.
“Both of us being commanders, we had an understanding of what the other person was going through, so we didn’t have a lot of the friction you sometimes find when one person doesn’t understand what the other is doing,” he said.
Kimberly said communication is one of the keys to striking a healthy work-life balance. “We make a point to talk about what all we have going on in our lives. That way, we can tap into time management and determine what things can wait and what things can’t,” she said.
Julie Russell, Air Force Reserve Command’s Director of Psychological Health program manager, echoed Kimberly’s sentiments about the importance of communication. “In order to effectively juggle everything you have going on in your life, you have to know exactly how many items you have to keep in the air,” she said. “And, even then, you need to be ready when somebody throws another item at you unexpectedly.”
Along those same lines, Russell said it’s important to carve out time for the important things in your life, including work, family and in the case of Reservists, military duty. “For a lot of people, strictly working nine to five or eight to four is a thing of the past,” she said. “And certainly commanders can expect to work long hours and get calls at all times of the day or night, but it’s critical that we set aside time for our families and the things that make life worthwhile. It’s also important to build in some extra time for those unexpected things you know are going to come along.”
Cyrus said the COVID-19 pandemic added difficulty to the Champagne family’s balancing act. “The pandemic definitely threw us a curve ball, like it did for everyone else,” he said. “There were times when I was on two Teams calls at the same time – one for the Reserve and one for the Navy. I found that working from home, it was easy to just keep working and that made it harder to set aside that family time. It’s so easy to get caught up in what you’re doing at work, especially when you’re teleworking, and you have to be able to shut it off and give that time to your family.”
Kimberly said another important part of achieving a healthy work-life balance is learning how to say no and knowing when to ask for help. “This is something a lot of people, including me, struggle with, but you have to know your limits. There were times when Cyrus and I would be TDY at the same time and our daughter would have to stay with a family member. It always seemed like the perfect person showed up just when we needed them. We couldn’t have done it without help – both at home and at work. I have a smart operations officer who’s a traditional Reservist, wise chief who helps me lead and a strong first sergeant. Together, we lead the squadron. I don’t do it by myself.”
Finally, the Champagnes said their daughter played an important role in their ability to juggle busy civilian jobs and Reserve duties. “Sarah definitely sacrificed for us to have our careers,” Kimberly said. “She’s spent a lot of long nights at the office with me, and she’s been there when we bring things home. It’s a family affair and she’s never missed a beat. Her resiliency is greatly appreciated and saluted.” #ReserveResilient ■