This is for the Army Families that are going through the beginning of their journey and feel like they need some answers. Let me share my guidebook for going through it. Some tips that will help Army Spouses no matter where they're going.
*ATTENTION: This will NOT be about deployment.
I won't go into too much background on my experience as an Army wife but I will tell you that for our first duty station, it was Hawai'i. We moved from Texas to Hawai'i. Thousands of miles away from family and friends, with an ocean to divide us. Now, don't get me wrong there are benefits to every duty station, but the distance between you and everyone you love is not one of them.
Best Advice I could give you RIGHT NOW:
The one who is going to help you the most is yourself! (This goes for both the Soldier and Spouse)
Into the Tips & Tricks Section:
- (BOTH)Keep ALL Original Documents! (Only give away copies of documents)
- (SPOUSE)Have a digital copy of DD4 and Orders on your phone/laptop (sidenot: highly recommend laptop and printer)*
- (SPOUSE)Don't believe that the ACS (Army Community Service) is a staffing agency. **
- (BOTH)Drive around base! Get acquainted with the exits and entrances. ***
- (BOTH)Highly recommend you stay at the on base hotel for your first duty station arrival. ****
- (SPOUSE)If you have little or no Job Experience, Staffing Agencies are great at putting you in places that will enhance your resume.
- (SOLDIER)Remember to medically in-process as soon as you can: your spouse does not have access to the on base clinics and pharmacy until you do that.*****
- (BOTH)If you already know your destination is far, do not leave things you know you're going to use behind for the movers to take. (Can take up to a month or longer)
- (SPOUSE)Get familiar with your area and with your neighbors. At least, enough for them to watch a package for you. ******
- (BOTH)Go through it TOGETHER!
Okay that was a lot. Let me break down the details of each one. If you can get along fine with just the tips above, that's great, but for those of you who are asking, "Why? I will worry about that later." Read below.
Star One(*): My dear sweet fellow spouse, you will need copies of so much. You will do so much paperwork. ESPECIALLY in the beginning when you're looking for a job. Highly recommend staying on top of it and keeping physical copies safe. Never lose them. When flying, take them in your carry-on and NOT in your checked bag. You could lose everything. ALSO! NEVER GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT YOUR DEPENDENT ID CARD!!! NEVER!!!!
Star Two(**): What I mean by this is there are a lot of great opportunities that ACS offers, such as job fairs and seminars, but don't put all your eggs in one basket. If you don't have much job experience you'll need to really put yourself out there and job hunt like ACS wasn't there to begin with. They aren't responsible if you don't get a job. I see this happen a lot. :(
Star Three(***): Okay, so there are a lot of things that happen on base, different events and all sorts of ceremonies, so it can get rowdy. There are also places like the Exchange and Commissary that you will want to familiarize yourself with. Discounted food, supplies for your home, and gas out? Don't miss out. You'll want to know the best way to get there and the best time to go. There are MOST DEFINITELY rush times when soldiers have breaks and also Sundays. Those are the worst. ALSO! There is typically only ONE 24 hour gate so find that one and remember how to get to it.
Star Four(****): Nobody told us that only certain approved hotels are reimbursed to you. Staying at the on base hotel when you first arrive at your duty station will help with the following: Get your money back($$$), allow you to familiarize yourself with the base first and then you can work your way out, and will be a lot easier for the soldier to explain to his superiors when they are asking where he/she is staying (They can sometimes be over bearing on their own tips and tricks).
Star Five(*****): BIG BRAIN TIME! Listen here soldier, we love you and know you're stressed. Let me share this experience; I got a UTI and had to be taken to the ER (this was our first duty station, we didn't know anything). When I went to the on base pharmacy they told me I was NOT in their system and could not provide me with the antibiotics I needed to get over my UTI. I went to an off base pharmacy only to find that they did not accept Tricare. Then we had to call around and find another pharmacy that would. All because my husband didn't in-process as quickly as he should have. Please spare yourself!
Star Six(******): When you go on vacation to go see your family for the holidays, there's no one to watch your home. There's no one to pick up any packages or call the police if someone is breaking in. SO! Give your contact information to your neighbors and stay on top of local news. Protect your home, and offer to do the same for your neighbors. It helps establish a level of trust and could spare you huge money/property loss.
The biggest thing I want these families to understand is this isn't something each of you are going through alone. This is something you need to do together. Building your first home together or maybe first home as a military family, is not something you do separately. Find even the tiniest of way to help each other out.
Both of you struggle and both of you are going to be in pain. Try to lessen that by being there in those moments. If there's a problem your spouse is going through, don't let them stress all on their own (this goes for both sides). Marriage should be sharing each other's pain not making it worse and not taking it all on yourself.
If you ever feel down and need someone to talk to, the military offer behavior health specialists, covered by Tricare, and you can speak to them about the anxieties and stresses of you and your family. There are people the soldier can go to as well and will keep them anonymous. Do your research and see what your base offers.