Amber Spotten, the 173rd Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at Kingsley Field, poses for a portrait photo in her office July 13, 2019. Spotten was selected as the 2019 Department of Defense Exceptional SARC of the Year for the National Guard Bureau. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason van Mourik)
“I do what I do because I believe in this program and what it stands for,” she said.
Spotten has been the full-time SARC at Kingsley Field for almost three years now. When asked what changes she implemented in the program or how it was run that led up to her being selected for the award, she answers with a thoughtful look on her face. “I just do the best I can for the members I serve and am passionate about doing my job. I believe that survivors deserve the best resources available.”
The SARC serves as the installation’s primary point of contact for integrating and coordinating sexual assault victim care services for eligible recipients as part of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team. A large part of the job is building relationships and networking with people on and off base.
Spotten said she was used to being someone who worked behind the scenes, so being at the forefront of a program has been a new role for her.
She said a critical skill for all service members is self-awareness and self-care–knowing how much stress they can handle and how to cope when things just become too much for them, and that goes for herself as well.
Her version of self-care is being active and enjoying the outdoors. “I got into running, and really enjoy it,” she said with a smile. Paul, her husband, joins her on many marathons and running events. “If you had asked me in 2005 if I would ever do a marathon, I would have laughed and I would not have believed I would have enjoyed, let alone accomplished, these types of events.”
Now they both take part in Half Ironman competitions involving running, swimming, and biking, which take them all around the state and region. To a certain extent, the sports remind her of the military community. “Being around a group of people that are all out there to do the same thing, the camaraderie, the friendship, and the support is amazing,” she remarked. “Everyone is struggling but still cheering each other on.”
Spotten has worked to bring that sense of community to Kingsley Field, overcoming personal and professional stressors in an effort to bring the base and the local town together to work together and achieve the SAPR goals.
“How did I get to this point?” she asks rhetorically. “Sometimes you don’t realize where you’re going to end up. Then all of a sudden it seems that all of the steps and the things that you’ve taken have led to the point that you are at, and it works out for the best.”
She joined active duty Air Force in July 2000 and said her first duty station set the bar for her expectations of a work center. She rarely worried about being vulnerable because her colleagues always looked out for her. “To this day, this is what I expect for others to experience in their work centers,” said Spotten.
She left active duty after finishing her Bachelors degree in Social Psychology to work as a psychosocial rehabilitation worker and joined the Idaho Air National Guard at Gowen Field.
“I fell in love with helping people,” she said. “There’s nothing for me that’s more gratifying than helping someone go from a really terrible spot to go to ‘I can breathe, I’m okay.’”
While in Idaho, she completed her master’s degree in Human Services, Mental Health Counseling to pursue other areas of work helping people in need. After nine years in Idaho, she and her husband moved to Klamath Falls where she became a Child and Family Therapist with Klamath Youth Development Center, now Klamath Basin Behavioral Health, and joined the 173rd Fighter Wing.
Applying for the SARC position two years ago was an uncertainty. She said she was unsure if she wanted to leave her position as a therapist, but in the end it was the best decision she could have made.
“At the end of the day, the SARC position offered me the opportunity to blend my passion with my professional background to help and be a good support in our military culture,” she added.
Spotten said Kingsley’s relationship and integration with the greater community is vital to the success of the SAPR program and her role as the SARC; being able to go out in to the community and get their involvement in wanting to make both Kingsley Field and Klamath Falls a safer place took a lot of effort. Between meetings, phone calls, town halls and unit visits, Spotten worked to educate and bring together both the town and the Airmen.
“There’s no way I would have been able to get the program to where it is without the base and its members and our local community,” she added..
Spotten said that winning the award was both a surprise and an honor.
The award itself is presented by the Department of Defense to each service branch, five in all for this program. “It’s nice to be recognized for the hard work that is being done, not just by our team, but by all of the SAPR teams across the National Guard,” she said. “We’re all fighting the same fight, and we’re all fighting it together.”