Monthly Archives: July 2020

Officer or Enlisted: Does it Matter to Military Spouses?

Although the military has rules against fraternization between officers and enlisted, spouses do not. So why does it seem to be a division in the spouse world as well? Does it matter whether your military spouse is enlisted or an officer?  Full disclosure: The Good Chaplain was an officer and retired as a Colonel. Staff Sergeant is enlisted. Perhaps I should have Mrs. Staff Sergeant write this post since she lived in both worlds.

To be honest, most of the time, I never knew if someone was married to an officer or an enlisted person. I have had good friends on both sides of the aisle. While stationed at Eielson in the late 1990s, one of my closest friends was a Chief Master Sergeant’s wife. Hanging out together was not a problem for us, but when I was throwing a birthday party for the Good Chaplain and invited my friend and her husband, it became an issue. The Chief could not come to the party because he was enlisted. I felt horrible because I honestly never thought of my friend as an enlisted spouse. Luckily, she’d been a spouse long enough to understand.

I know a perception exists that officer spouses are all snobby and full of themselves, and enlisted spouses are young, inexperienced, and naïve. Neither is true. I’ve gotten along with spouses of all ranks. Sometimes it’s just that in early ranks, enlisted members tend to be younger with younger families than officers. The wise enlisted spouse gets to know an officer spouse who can show her the ropes. But make sure the mentor spouse is a seasoned spouse, not one new to the military herself. I’ve been the surrogate grandmother for many an enlisted family.

By volunteering, I got to know spouses of all ranks. It is an excellent way to break stereotypes and get to know others. I’ve learned from the spouses I’ve met, including how to look at issues from a different perspective. At Eielson our second time, enlisted spouses frequently volunteered at the Thrift Shop, which was run by the Officers’ Spouse Club. Through work at the chapel, I served along with spouses of all ranks, colors, ethnicities, and denominations.

Of course, there are some differences between the officers and the enlisted corps. Pay, responsibilities, housing, and medical treatment, to name a few. Fortunately, the military is starting to recognize some of these inequities and fix them. When we lived at Minot AFB, North Dakota, all the housing was being replaced, which was a good thing. I might have mentioned that the Minot house was the only one I ever cried about. It was tiny and old. On many bases, officer housing gets replaced first, but at Minot, the enlisted housing was renovated before officer housing.

Many officer and enlisted spouse clubs are uniting into one spouse group. And it should be that way. After all, we are all in the same boat. All spouses – whether married to an officer or an enlisted member – have the same purpose, to support their spouse, raise their children, and make their community a better place.

Until next time,

Vicki

Hitting the Books: Educational Options for Military Spouses

Based on military spouse websites, a college education is an interest and concern of many military spouses. Getting one can improve marketability in the workplace and set you up for better-paying jobs.

But it is not always easy to go to college when you are married to the military. Many times you are not in a place long enough to complete a four-year degree. And the cost can be a factor too, although not as much with the Post-911 GI Bill. Your spouse can transfer all or some of the bill to you to further your education.

The best place to start if you are even thinking about college is to go to your installation’s education center. According to the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities page on Military One Source (myseco.militaryonesource.mil), the education center offers resources on college programs, financing, and career exploration and counseling.

They can help you with the many decisions that need to be made including:

  • What career you want to pursue?
  • Do you want to attend online or in-person?
  • Do you want to go to a four-year college or a community college?
  • Which schools are accredited?
  • Which schools will follow you as you move or transfer your credits?

The center can also help you find financial aid resources such as scholarships, loans, and grants. The General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant, is a wonderful grant available to dependents of military members. We used if for our twin daughters when they went away to college. The best thing about this grant is you can get it multiple years.

Also make sure to check out the commissary and your spouse club, both of which offer scholarships. Other resources are available by searching for military spouse scholarships online. Do your research. It may be a pain to look at all the available sources and fill out all the applications, but as the Good Chaplain told our daughters, “If you work 10 hours on a scholarship application and you get $1,000, that’s $100 an hour. You can’t get a job for that pay.”

Whether you are seeking an associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree, as a military spouse you have options.

Until next time,

Vicki

Look Through the Windshield, Not the Rearview Mirror

Apparently, moving is on my mind. The Good Chaplain retired two years ago, and I must admit I miss the Air Force. Also, we should be moving right about now, so no wonder I am thinking about it. Not that, after 18 moves, I want to move again.

Anyway, I heard this quote the other day.

And the reason the windshield is so large and the rearview mirror is so small is because what’s happened in your past is not near as important as what’s in your future.

Joel Osteen

So many of us, when we move, tend to dwell on the past, the last base we were at. Who hasn’t heard or said, “Well, at my last base we…” The previous post is always your favorite, isn’t it?

Rose colored glasses

And we tend to look at our last base through rose-colored glasses. Everything was perfect there. We don’t think about the person who was a real terror to us. Or the hard times we had adjusting to the new climate, surroundings, cultures, or whatever. We forget that when we got to the last base, we felt just as lost as we do at the new station.

While it is good to look at where you came from, it is much more important to look at the opportunities at your new base. I always looked forward to whatever new challenges the following base had in store for me. But, then, I am a positive person.

Not that we shouldn’t look back to learn from our mistakes and recognize the growth we’ve made in the past few years. We just shouldn’t dwell on it. As I look back at the 31 years of being a military spouse, I find something positive about each place I’ve been.

  • Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia — Spiritual growth
  • Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska — Trying new things
  • Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota — How to survive in a small house
  • Vandenberg Air Force Base, California — Creating a community
  • Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama — Amazing history
  • Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska — Finding great friends
  • Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma — Volunteering is fun
  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii — Great neighborhood
  • Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi — Hosting Thanksgiving
  • Joint Base Langley-Ft. Eustis, Virginia — Working with the Army

Those are just a few positive things I found at each base. Growth and soul-searching came from each place we lived in. And although I said I loved each station, and I did, I honestly can and will say Eielson will always be my favorite.

When it’s time to move for you, remember your last base with fondness, but please look forward to the new adventures your new base holds for you as well.

Until next time,

Vicki

The Pros and Cons of an Overseas Move for the Military Spouse

Sometimes, military families get lucky and are assigned overseas – Europe or Asia. We weren’t that lucky, although Alaska and Hawaii count as overseas assignments. Moving abroad has pros and cons.

Arrangements for the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) usually take longer because you are moving across an ocean in most cases. First, you might be limited in what you can pack since housing sizes vary. Then, most moves require two shipments – hold baggage, which are the items you might need right away to set up house, and the second shipment of furniture. I know several people who received the second shipment first or both at the same time, so hold baggage doesn’t necessarily matter. Also, make sure to have several adapters since the electrical currents are not the same in Europe or Asia. Otherwise, you will have a house full of unusable electronics.

Moving abroad has many benefits for a family. Learning new cultural customs and meeting people from different lands is exciting. Imagine your children going to school in a small Italian town and immersing in the culture. And the history they will learn that is much older than the history of the United States. Our son-in-law, Staff Sergeant, lived in Europe during his formative years. He traveled an hour each way and crossed three borders to get to the International School he attended. And his son, Tony B., went to kindergarten and first grade at the same elementary school in England. How cool is that?

Of course, a big con to an overseas assignment is the distance from family. Tony B. was born in England the day the Good Chaplain reported to our base in Hawaii. I flew from Illinois to England, and four weeks later, I flew from England to Hawaii. Yikes! And the Good Chaplain didn’t get to meet his first grandchild until six months later.

Also, what we consider modern and state-of-the-art in the U.S. isn’t always the same in other countries. For instance, in England, Mrs. Staff Sergeant needed to get used to smaller appliances, and her oven temperature measured in Celcius instead of Fahrenheit. Due to the size and operation of the washer and dryer, it took about five hours to do a load of laundry. With a household of active males, laundry was always running at her house.

The book, “A Practical Handbook for the Air Force Chaplain Spouse,” much of which applies to all military spouses, lists three adjustments to moving overseas.

  • Changes in climates and environments
  • Living in houses of all sizes, styles, and descriptions
  • Living in a variety of communities – small towns, big cities – where we are foreigners

Language is a significant barrier to moving to a foreign country. Even in Hawaii and Alaska, we needed to learn some local idioms and dialects to get along. I found through travel that locals appreciate it if you at least try to speak the basics of the language. I believe that after living in a community, you can’t help but pick up the native language.

Many of my friends who lived overseas lived in the community rather than on base. Some bases don’t have housing available, but choosing to live in a small town, helps get the feel of the culture and customs of an area. You most likely will feel awkward and out of place for a time until you adjust to your new surroundings and make friends with your civilian neighbors, but the experience of doing so can be incredible.

Creating personal relationships with your civilian neighbors, learning the language, shopping in the local community, and getting involved in local activities will go a long way to fitting in abroad.

Until next time,

Vicki

What was your biggest challenge moving overseas? Respond in the comments section below.

Moving Time: Some Things for Military Spouses to Consider

It’s that time of year again when military families all over the world are moving, what we call a PCS or permanent change of station. Many moves were delayed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it appears that they are picking up steam now. After 18 moves in 35 years of marriage, I’m glad I am not one of those people packing up and moving on.

As much as I disliked the physical act of moving, a new place and seeing what God had in mind, always excited me. I wondered about our new house, our new neighbors and our new base and town. I was up for the adventure.

Only once was I upset about our house. When we moved to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, I cried. Our house was 900 square feet. My furniture would not fit in the living/dining room combo. And after unpacking boxes in the one set of kitchen cabinets, when I turned the corner into the dining room and found more cartons labeled kitchen, I lost it. I just sat down and cried.

But that was the worst house. I had the opposite problem in Mississippi, where the house was so large that I had to buy more furniture. It all works out in the end.

We started the Good Chaplain’s career moving every three years, but it soon morphed into every two years as he gained rank and responsibility. Most times, we lived on base, except for Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Sometimes we got the choice of two or three houses, but other times we were assigned a house. Except for Minot, the houses were at least adequate.

Before moving time arrives, military members and their families are asked to fill out a ”dream sheet.” This is the place to list the sites you dream about moving to. Or, as I say, the paper the powers-that-be look at and laugh about before they assign you to the base they were going to send you anyway.

Ironically, Minot is the only base we put down as the first choice that we got. The rest of the time, we selected Europe and got Alaska. Or the Good Chaplain would write we would go where God and the Air Force sent us.

Deciding what base to request depends on several factors, including the impact on your family. First, a job in the military member’s career field needs to be available. If you have school-age children, you need to take into consideration the nearby school districts. And that decision leads to whether you are going to live on base or not. It’s a lot to think about. Then, once your choices are made, the military has to agree with you.

The last decision to make is whether or not to have the military assign a moving company to pack up and move your household goods. You can choose to move everything yourself, move some of your stuff yourself, or let the movers move everything. No matter how I begged the Good Chaplain just to let the movers take everything, we ended up hauling some things ourselves. I didn’t want the stress of packing and moving myself, and he wanted to protect our valuables from any damage from the movers. Sometimes it felt like we moved the majority of the house.

Always look at all your options as it comes time to move and decide what is best for your family. Once you have orders, be sure to check out the website of the base you are moving to. You can gather quite a bit of information that way, including about the base housing, schools, and the nearby community. Also, ask friends and neighbors about that base for the real scoop on the base.

Until next time,

Vicki