Tag Archives: Good Chaplain

Our Most Amazing Christmas Celebration Happened North of the Arctic Circle

Christmas is often hard on military families, especially when they are far from family. The best thing to do is make memories of your own. We did that when the Executive Presbyter asked the Good Chaplain to lead a Christmas Eve candlelight service in Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, in 1996. Memories were undoubtedly made for our family that year.

Anaktuvuk Pass is a small village in Brooks Mountain Range 150 miles above the Arctic Circle. The only way in or out is via dog sled or airplane, although the people in town did have some vehicles to drive around town. The “terminal” at the landing strip also served as the post office. Think “Northern Exposure” only more remote.

The Good Chaplain is a Presbyterian minister. Above the Arctic Circle, tiny villages dotted the north slope of Alaska. Many of the towns had small, pastorless Presbyterian churches. The Presbytery of the Yukon called on the Good Chaplain from time to time to preach.

When the Good Chaplain first proposed the idea of going there for Christmas, I was reluctant. People in the village stopped living in sod huts only 20 years before. Most of the houses did not have flush toilets. And when the last pastor left, a group of angry teens burned down the manse. Alcohol and domestic abuse are rampant in many of these villages. Did I want to expose our 11-year-old twin girls to that? Besides, Christmas is our family thing.

On the other hand, how cool would it be to spend Christmas in an Inupiat village, learning about a new culture? The girls were all for it, so we went. We even stayed in the school with its Olympic-size swimming pool and running water.

The village is nestled between two mountains in the Brooks Mountain Range

I fell in love the minute we landed. The village, in between two mountain peaks, seemed busy, especially for such a small town. People walked, drove, rode on snow machines. I’m not sure where they were going, but they were on the move.

Subsistence living, or living off the land, was the primary source of food and income. Catching one whale could feed the village for months, not to mention the uses of the blubber, skin, and bones. Caribou were plenty in the area. And, of course, the village received a portion of the proceeds from the Alaska Pipeline.

The town met in the school gymnasium for a gift exchange and meal this Christmas Eve. We did not know about this event, but they included us, even giving gifts to the girls. The meal was caribou stew. We thought the stew had rice in it, but then the Good Chaplain swiped a big glob of fat out of his mouth, and we realized it wasn’t rice at all. We didn’t eat that much fat at home.

The school in Anaktuvuk Pass was the hub for celebrations and feasts as well as basketball tournaments!

I sat in the bleachers watching the villagers interact with each other. Although many were blood relatives, they treated everyone as if they were family, including us. At one point, a young mother thrust her baby into my arms and told me to watch her for a little while. I was astounded. Never would I hand my child over to a perfect stranger. Then the Good Chaplain reminded me I couldn’t take the baby anywhere because there were no roads out of the village. Good point.

I especially enjoyed watching the people interact with the elders of the village. Everyone treated them with respect and kindness. They listened to them and seemed to take heed to the wisdom they imparted.  I wished all of society would be so deferential to our seniors.

Chapel in the Mountains, Anatuvuk Pass, Alaska, complete with the Northern Lights dancing above just like that Christmas Eve.

Soon, the real magic of the evening would begin — the church service. The Good Chaplain, the girls, and I trudged up the snow-covered hill to the little wooden church above the village to set up for service. As the time for the service neared, no one was coming. As we stood on the front porch, we could see a commotion in town at the medical station. A young girl broke her leg in an accident, and a helicopter transported her to the hospital in Fairbanks. After the helicopter left, people made their way to the church.

I commented to The Good Chaplain that the only thing that could make the evening better was the Northern Lights to come out. However, one of the villagers told me it probably wouldn’t happen because it was too warm.

The Northern Lights in Alaska can be spectacular!

The service itself was beautiful; the Good Chaplain preached through a translator. Singing “Silent Night” in both English and Inupiat in candlelight was a highlight of the evening until we stepped outside. The Northern Lights were indeed dancing across the sky. The elder, who thought it was too warm for the lights, piled us into her sport utility vehicle and took us to a place where the lights were more spectacular than they were at the church. She sang a song meant to cause the Aurora Borealis to dance across the sky as we watched in awe.

Soon it was time to head back to the school and bed. When we got there, we could hear townspeople over the school’s CB radio calling out to each other, thanking them for the gifts, and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. It was indeed a magical night.

The Time I Showed My Parents an Excellent Alaskan Adventure

When my parents visited us in Fairbanks, Alaska, in the summer of 1996, we wanted to show them a uniquely Alaskan adventure. We took them to the Knotty Shop in Salcha for ice cream. We went to a traditional salmon bake. We enjoyed lunch at our favorite sandwich shop, the Chowder House. We even drove eight miles so we could see the mountains “out” at 11 p.m. But nothing could top the trek to a friend’s cabin on the Yukon River.

Curt and Cindee invited us to their cabin for an afternoon in nature and moose steaks for dinner. Curt warned us that we would have to ford the river to get to the place, but usually, it wasn’t a problem.

Mosquitoes could get pretty thick in Alaska!

It was drizzling, but otherwise an okay day. We followed Curt’s directions to the cabin, parked the car, and waded across the river to the house where friendly fire was going to warm ourselves and dry our socks. At one point, we decided to go for a walk through the woods. It was still drizzling as Curt and Cindee showed us the various plants growing wild like raspberries and rose bushes. But the mosquitoes were terrible, and we decided to head back to the cabin to get dinner started. We would need to leave in a few hours to pick up my niece, Julie, at the Fairbanks train station later that evening.

Back at the cabin, we sat around the fire, chatting and listening to stories from our hosts, who were raised in the Fairbanks area. We ate a great meal of moose steaks, something my parents never had before, and then it was time to leave so we could get home, change into dry clothes, and go pick up Julie. But, as we walked outside, the river was no longer a meandering stream we could easily walk across. Because of the steady rain, it was a torrent of rushing water. This situation presented problems.

My dad and the Good Chaplain, attached to a guide rope, went first to see if it was doable for us womenfolk and the girls. If it wasn’t, Curt said there was a trail, part of the old Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race Course, that would lead us to the highway.

After the Good Chaplain and my dad made it across the river, they decided our twin daughters would probably get swept away in the current, so we should go with plan B, the trail. Dad and the Good Chaplain would drive the car to the bridge where the path met with the highway and pick us up.

Sometimes the mosquitoes seemed as big as this carved one outside the Knotty Shop.

The problem – Curt couldn’t remember exactly where the trail was located. At one point, we waited in the pouring rain, swatting at the thick swarm of mosquitoes, while Curt ventured ahead to discern the right path. My mom said she was afraid the swarm of mosquitoes around Illinois Girl were so thick they were going to pick her up and carry her 70-pound body away.

It seemed like we were on the trail for hours when we reached the car at the bridge. It had been only 45 minutes, but we were soaked to the bone and mosquito-bitten as we climbed into the Jimmy and thanked Curt for an adventure we were sure to never forget.

Now it was too late for us to drive home, change, and pick up Julie. We would have to go straight to the train station in our present water-logged condition. We arrived at the station just as the train was pulling in. Julie said she saw the six of us dripping wet, sloshing through the station in soaked tennis shoes and socks, covered in mud, and she almost didn’t claim us as her kinfolk.

This is what we looked like when we picked up Julie at the train station!

In addition, our GMC Jimmy could only seat six, and now we were seven. We could not get on base without everyone in seatbelts. We ended up putting the girls in the rear of the vehicle, laying down where the gate guards couldn’t see them until we made it home.

We absolutely showed my parents an authentic Alaskan adventure they wouldn’t soon forget!

The Memorable Time My Indoor Cat Captured a Live Mouse

As I walked into the house after a workout at the base gym one sunny morning in 1999, Mrs. Tech Sergeant was walking out on her way to a babysitting gig.

“Mom, River is acting strange,” she said. “He’s just sitting in the kitchen staring at the cabinets.”

My big, fluffy Chartreux, River

River was our big, fluffy Chartreux cat. He was about three years old at the time.

“Okay, I’ll check it out. Thanks.” I went into the house. “Hey buddy, whatcha doing?” I asked as I stroked his wooly fur. I barely got a mew out of this ordinarily vocal animal.

I shrugged and went into the dining room to start reading my Bible study. Suddenly, a loud crash came from the kitchen.

 “River, what are you doing,” I muttered as I got up to see what happened. As I rounded the corner, he met me in the doorway, with a MOUSE in his mouth! Our house on Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota was on a large corner lot that backed up to a field, so it was inevitable we would have field mice coming in at some point.

As I stood staring at him, River headed down the six stairs to our basement family room where Illinois Girl sat watching television.

 “River’s got a mouse,” I warned her.

“What?” she asked as she looked behind her. Just then, River dropped the mouse, and it tried to scurry away.

 “It’s a real one,” Illinois Girl shrieked as she leaped over the couch and scrambled up the stairs.

I grabbed the phone to call the Good Chaplain at his office.

“River’s got a mouse,” I screamed into the phone.

He calmly replied, “Is it alive?”

“I don’t know,” I said as I peeked down the stairs just as River caught the mouse in his mouth and brought it back upstairs.

“Yes, come home now!” I slammed the phone down, and Illinois Girl and I bolted up the other set of stairs leading to the bedrooms. We ran into my bedroom, closed the door, and cowered on the bed.

As we waited for the Good Chaplain to rescue us, it occurred to us that the bedroom door had a big gap between it and the floor, big enough for a field mouse to fit under it, but not a 10-pound cat.

Illinois Girl’s solution, in the event the mouse did get in the room, was to get into the shower in the master bathroom. “I’m pretty sure the mouse can’t climb up tile,” she said.

From the Good Chaplain’s perspective, he claims all he heard on the phone was a hysterical woman telling him to get home now. He claims he wasn’t even sure it was me. (I don’t know about that!) He did come home, and he walked into an empty, echoing house. He spotted River in the living room, a paw on either side of the mouse, looking proud of himself.

“What do you have there, buddy,” the Good Chaplain said to the cat as he approached. The mouse moved. River smacked it, and it died.

Illinois Girl and I heard the Good Chaplain come in and cautiously opened the bedroom door. “Is it safe?” I asked.

“Yes, you can come down. The mouse is dead,” the Good Chaplain said.

As Illinois Girl and I crept downstairs, the Good Chaplain wrapped the mouse in a paper towel to dispose of it. But he showed it to us first.

“Aww, it’s so cute. It looks like Ralph from The Mouse and the Motorcycle* book,” I said.

The Good Chaplain rolled his eyes. “I’m going back to work.”

Stay tuned for more of my lunacy as a military spouse in next week’s blog!

Until then,

Vicki

*The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary.

What kind of craziness have you gotten into as a military spouse? Reply below.

Shameless plug time: My new book, Where You Go, I Will Go is now available on Amazon.com as both an e-book and in paperback. Check it out here.

Untold Stories: How a Fishing Trip Got Me Out of My Comfort Zone

Editor’s Note: Starting today, my blog posts will feature stories from my 31 years as a military spouse. These are stories that did not make it into my upcoming book, Where You Go, I Will Go, but are entertaining nonetheless. I hope you enjoy them.

I am not an outdoorsy type of person, so Alaska proved to be a challenge sometimes with all the activities that take place outside. But it was a challenge I took so I could experience the Alaskan way of life.

A big part of Alaska living is fishing. We had fly fishing, river fishing, lake fishing, deep-sea fishing, and all sorts of other fishing. A favorite was fishing for king salmon. A person is allowed only one king a year, and you had to get a special stamp for it on your fishing license.

One day in the summer of 2007, the Good Chaplain came home and said the 18th Aggressor Squadron was going on a camping and fishing trip in a few weeks. Did I want to go? That sounded kind of fun — as long as I didn’t have to bait the hook or clean the fish. I said yes.

Members of the 18th Aggressor Squadron and their children cooking ribs during a weekend fishing trip in 2007.

The weekend was rainy and cold, but we all went anyway. There I was with these macho F-16 fighter pilots, a few other spouses, and some children. Fighter pilots are incredibly competitive, so the trash talk began the first night. Each one was sure they were going to catch the biggest fish.

On Saturday morning, we were divided into teams of three or four. The Good Chaplain, me, and a pilot nicknamed, Skin were put into one boat with our fishing guide. We cruised up the Talkeetna River, looking for a good spot. The guide found a likely spot, baited my hook, and cast my line into the water.

We chatted about inconsequential things while we waited for a strike on one of our lines. Suddenly, a sharp tug hit my line. The guide jumped into motion. Because of the rules, I had to reel the fish in, but the guide could coach me through the process. He identified the fish as a king and proceeded to tell me how to bring it in — pull up on the line, now let the line play out a little, jerk on the line, reel it in, reel it in, reel it in. I lost track of time while I fought this behemoth, but I know it took longer than when I used to catch crappie with my dad. Finally, the fish was in the boat, and it was a beaut.

Soon the Good Chaplain caught one too. Not as big as mine, but decent-sized. Unfortunately, Skin got a strike, but the fish snapped the line and took off. From the looks of it, his fish would have been bigger than mine.

Me with my big catch.

We got back to camp, where others were bragging about their fish until I brought mine around. My fish was 30 pounds and ended up being the largest one caught that day. Hah!

On Monday, during a commander’s meeting, the general gave the pilots a hard time. “You big tough fighter pilots let a woman catch the biggest fish? A woman? What’s wrong with you guys?”

I will always remember this trip. I was out of my comfort zone, and I bested a bunch of macho men! Between my fish and the Good Chaplain’s at 20 pounds, we had enough salmon to last for the next year and a half of our assignment in Alaska.

Stay tuned for more untold stories of my journey in the military world.

Until then,

Vicki

Do you have any fish tales to share? Let’s see them in the reply below.

Super Exciting News! My Book is Ready to Publish

Hey everyone. I’m taking a little different track with this blog. Many of you may know that I am writing and self-publishing a book for military spouses based on my 31 years as an Air Force Spouse.

I’m so excited that the book should be for sale on Amazon by the end of April. It’s called “Where You Go, I Will Go: Lessons From a Military Spouse.”

This is a mock-up of the book cover.

In the book, I use lots of things I’ve learned along the way to help military spouses, particularly new spouses, navigate the strange and wonderful world of the military. The book is filled with many crazy stories, some funny and some serious, about issues I covered in this blog.

Now that the book is coming out, I have many more stories that didn’t make it into the book that I plan to share with you for the next several blogs. Stories like the time a two-star general came up to our table to chat during a base social function. For some reason, the conversation turned to politics. This Major General discussed how much he admired President Barak Obama. Then he said, “But I suppose you are supporters of President Bush.”

I replied, “Yes, Sir. I supported George H. W. Bush in each of his campaigns for President, and I am a huge supporter of George W.” But I couldn’t leave it at that.

I looked at the Major General and said, “But we respect other people’s opinions, no matter how wrong they are.”

The Good Chaplain went apoplectic, but the Major General simply laughed, excused himself, and walked away. We are still friends with that Major General today.

Sometimes my mouth speaks a thought before my brain can process it.

I will keep you up-to-date on the book launch. In the meantime, be prepared to be regaled with more such stories from my life as a military spouse.

Until then,

Vicki

When have you put your foot in your mouth? Share your stories in the comment section below.

Six Ways to Stay Positive During a Military Deployment

Your spouse just left for a military deployment, and you are sitting in your car at the airport or dock crying. You know you need to get it together. You need to figure out just what this deployment is going to look like. Are you going to be miserable or make the best of the situation?

It’s hard not to look at the negatives of deployment. Something major breaks at home. The kids get sick. You are in charge of making sure every chore around the house gets done. Plus, you are without your soulmate for an extended period of time.

True for both the military member and the spouse left behind

Thankfully, with technology, you have more contact with your significant other. Whenever I boohooed over the 15-minute phone call once a week, I thought about spouses in World War II, and I felt lucky for what I had. Those spouses were happy to get a censored letter every month. The military member was sometimes gone for four years to faraway places. Sometimes letters would arrive after the telegram telling you he was killed in action, a prisoner of war, or missing in action. I can’t imagine being in their shoes. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t have bad moments, but thinking about others who came before you can help.

Keeping busy is the best thing you can do to make the time seem to go faster. If you work outside the home, that will occupy your time. But other things to do include:

  • Socializing: Make time for coffee with friends. Go to spouse gatherings. Start a neighborhood Bunco group. Hire a babysitter and have a night out so you can talk to other adults.
  • Education: Now is a great time to take a class or two you’ve always wanted to take. Or finish your degree.
  • Hobbies: Take up a new hobby or spend more time on the one you already have. Your spouse isn’t around to grouse about all your scrapbooking items scattered all over the dining room table, and your kids won’t care.
  • Kids: Do fun things with the kids. Now you don’t have to worry about your spouse not being able to do an activity. It’s only your schedule and the kids’ you need to consider.
  • Fitness: Do you dream of that smoking hot body? Or maybe you already have it, but deployments are a good time to drop the kids off at school and get to the gym. Although I gained weight when the Good Chaplain was deployed because I worked out less and ate junk food a lot of the time if you are like me. My intentions were good, though.
  • Entertainment: You get to stream whatever shows or movies you want after the kids are in bed. You get to go to the movies whenever you want. I had a friend who went to the matinee once a week while her kids were in school. You also might have more time to read before bed without interruption.

I know all of this sounds Pollyannish. I’m an optimist, and I try to find the good in everything. You will be sad, frustrated, and mad at times. You will wonder why you ever married a person in the military. But I’m here to say you can handle deployments and have fun during them.

As the Serenity Prayer says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Reinhold Neibuhr

You can’t change the fact that your spouse is deployed, but you can change your attitude about it and make the best of it.

Until next time,

Vicki

What positives do you see during deployment? Reply in the section below.

Helpful Pre-Deployment Guidance for Every Military Spouse

Oh no! The dreaded deployment assignment just came through. That means your spouse is going to leave you for six months, a year, or maybe even longer. What do you do now?

Well, the first thing is to cry, then pick yourself up, and go to the mandatory pre-deployment briefing. You will learn some valuable tips at the briefing, like who you can call if you need something (hint: it’s not the wing commander) and what benefits you might get as a deployed spouse.

An invaluable phone number to have is the Family Resources Center on your base or post. They usually have lots of programming for families of deployed members. The last time the Good Chaplain deployed (way back in 2010), the Family Resources Center, called the Airmen and Family Readiness Center in the Air Force, sponsored such programs as:

  • Hearts Apart: Activities to get families out of the house and meet families of other deployed members.
  • Give Parents a Break: Run in conjunction with the Child Development Center is a night for the parent at home to do something without children in tow.
  • Car Care Because We Care: This program used to provide free oil changes for spouses of deployed members
  • Morale calls: I’m not sure if morale calls are necessary now. We were allowed one 15-minute call a week at the beginning of the Good Chaplain’s career. Now, I know Tech Sergeant called Mrs. Tech Sergeant on FaceTime a couple of times a day.
  • Military OneSource: The site for everything military. When in doubt, check with this group.

Your wills and any powers-of-attorney are drawn up before your spouse leaves, as well. This task is probably on your spouse’s checklist, and I’m sure it is brought up at the pre-deployment briefing too.

The base lawyer’s office can draw up these documents for free. It would be best if you had at least a general power-of-attorney, but you might need special ones, too. Ask the lawyer. Once, when the Good Chaplain deployed, I received a check in his name from our insurance company. But I could not deposit it in our joint savings account, even with a power-of-attorney. I was stunned because I could buy a house or a car or any number of costly things with the document. But God forbid I try to deposit money with it.

Take the time before your spouse leaves to make memories as a family. Go on special outings, take a short trip if time allows, do something the kids want to do. Don’t be like me. Anytime the Good Chaplain prepared to deploy, I pulled away from him. I was trying to lessen the hurt of his actual leaving, but it had the opposite effect. Just when he wanted to spend more time with me, I wanted less time with him. I guess I thought if I withdrew before he left, I wouldn’t miss him so much. Not quite logical, but who said feelings and emotions are logical? I didn’t realize I was doing that until the Good Chaplain pointed it out to me. Spend as much time as you can together.

Attendees at a pre-deployment retreat in Oklahoma

In that vein, many bases and/or chapels sponsor pre-deployment retreats for families and couples to help them create some memories. They are worth a try.

Next time I will discuss how to handle the actual deployment.

Until then,

Vicki

How do you act before your spouse leaves for deployment? Answer in the reply section below.

8 Tips to Help Your Spouse Reintegrate After Deployment

Welcome home, soldier!

He’s finally returning from his deployment. You are excited and anxious at the same time. Let’s face it, no matter how long he’s been deployed, everything has changed. He may have seen some disturbing things. You became more independent. The kids and pets have grown since he last saw them in person. Things change.

Here are eight tips to help your spouse’s reintegration into the family easier.

First, is he coming home with his unit or by himself? The Air Force tends to send one person or maybe two people instead of an entire squadron or flight. So homecomings are not usually as big a ceremony as the Army or Navy do it. Once, when we lived in Alaska, the whole fighter squadron deployed together. There was a big homecoming for that one, but usually, it was just my husband and maybe one other person returning at the same time.

I did get to attend my Army nephew’s homecoming when we were all stationed in Hawaii together. It was a spectacular event, even though it was about 2 a.m. when his unit finally arrived. Families gathered in a large hangar with large screens set up to see the buses roll in and then see our loved ones file into another part of the room separated by curtains, and then finally appear on our side of the curtain.

My nephew, left, salutes the Good Chaplain, right, while 5-year-old Mason looks on during my nephew’s homecoming in December 2012 . We did not know Mason was there until we saw the photo.

My nephew’s son was about 5 at the time. It also happened to be Christmas Day. My nephew’s wife told their son she had a big Christmas present for him, but they had to go pick it up. When we got to the hangar and saw the buses drive up, we asked Mason if he knew what his present was, and he said, “A school bus.” But then he saw his dad on the screen and said, “That’s my dad,” in a voice filled with awe.

Lesson #1: No matter how they come home — alone or in a group — remember that other people are going to want to see them and welcome them home. I know I always resented when the Good Chaplain’s staff came to the airport or the reunion spot with me because I wanted him to myself. I didn’t even want to share him with the girls. Let others greet him and then steal him away.

Lesson #2: Don’t make a spectacle of yourself. It’s okay to run to him and give him a hug and a kiss, but don’t scream and shout and cause a big ado. If he is in uniform, PDA rules still apply.

Lesson #3: Take things slowly when you get home. Allow him to acclimate to the surroundings and the changes. He’s probably got jetlag and is dog tired from flying halfway around the world, so let him rest and relax for a few days. Don’t throw a big party or plan a big trip for immediately after he gets home. Save the party for the following weekend. And you know he doesn’t want to get on a plane or leave home again very soon. Keep the first week or so low key with just you and the children. Also, as tempted as you are to do so, don’t throw all his chores and responsibilities back on him the minute he walks through the door. I know I am guilty of this one. After months of handling everything, you just want him to give the kids a bath for once or for the next year.

Lesson #4: This ties into number 3. Allow him time to get used to the changes at home. The best advice I ever got was to treat him as a guest for a few days to get used to the new way of doing things. The colonel’s wife, who gave me that advice, told me the story of how while her husband was deployed, their child learned to cross the street by himself, but hubby did not know that. So one day, shortly after his return, the child went across the street to play, and his father spanked him for doing it. You can’t remember to tell your returning spouse all the little things like that, nor do you want to bombard them with everything that happened while they were gone. So don’t have them do anything but observe for a little while. You’ve handled everything this long; you can do it for a few days more.

Lesson #5: Do plan a little alone time with your spouse in the first week. It may be awkward at first, like when you were first dating, to know what to talk about or to be intimate again. Go for a walk. Hold hands. Put the kids to bed and then sit on the couch and just talk and cuddle. It will come back soon enough.

Lesson #6: Let him talk or not about what he saw and did. Don’t pressure him to reveal things he is not ready for you to know about. Mr. Tech Sergeant didn’t tell us about a mortar round going through his room until months after returning from his first deployment. But do listen to the stories he does have to tell. It is important to share what he wants to share so you can appreciate what he did and saw.

Lesson #7: Help him recognize the children’s changes and why they might not react to him the way he expects them to. We had one friend whose small daughter did not know him and cried when he tried to pick her up. She was just a toddler, and although she saw pictures of him, this man was a stranger to her. It took a few days for her to come around. You could tell his feelings were hurt, but sometimes children are that way. They may not go to the parent who was deployed for questions or advice for a while because that’s been your role for so long.

Lesson #8: Most of all, be patient! Things will never return to what they used to be, but they can be even better if you take time to get reintegrated.

Now that we’ve talked about homecomings, let’s talk about the actual deployments and what to do during those trying times.

Until then,

Vicki

What advice would you give for post-deployment reunions? Answer in the reply below.

Military Spouses Should Never Reveal These Three Details of Deployments

Many of you have heard the saying “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” It’s an old saying from World War II reminding the military and their families to watch what they say because you never know who is listening.

Today we have Operational Security or OPSEC. Here is an article from the blog, Sandboxx, which lays out why OPSEC is so important. OPSEC exists to protect family members and military members, so both groups need to know what can be said where to whom.

I sometimes thought it was silly to have to be protective of information about deployments, exercises, and the military member’s daily work. As I showed you in my post last week, if four spouses can piece together what was happening by comparing the snippets of information each had, think how easy it would be for a trained spy.

I also scoffed at the idea of a spy caring about what I had to say or that spies were even among us. Seriously, who would want to spy on Warner Robins Air Force Base, with its maintenance depot? Could be a lot of people. And it could be anybody. Recently, a Congressman from California was criticized for having a woman suspected of being a spy for the Communist China Party work as a major fundraiser for his campaigns years ago.

At one of our bases, we a contingent of officers and students from the Middle East. They were receiving training our soldiers were getting on base operations, flight operations, and meteorology. These courses may seem innocuous but think about it. How the U.S. military runs its bases could be valuable information to our enemies.

Today, this information can be passed along by overhearing conversations, whether at the commissary, church or over cellphones and in social media. While the article I referred to on Sandboxx above talks about the why of OPSEC, I want to lay out three things that should not be talked about in a public setting, or over the phone, or on the Internet.

  • Never talk about where your spouse is deployed. It’s okay in most cases to mention he or she is deployed, especially in military settings, but never give out the location. The Good Chaplain still talks about his location in Bahrain as a classified site, even though it closed years ago. You probably shouldn’t mention aloud that your husband is deployed when you are off base as well. One friend, who lived on base, worked as a news anchor on one of the local television stations. Although she never mentioned his name or talked on-air of his absence, she wore a pin signifying a deployed spouse on her lapel on the air. That was a grey area in OPSEC protocol.
  • Never give an indication of how long your spouse is gone. In the Air Force, since 9/11, deployments are generally six months, but not always. Tech Sergeant is deployed right now, and although we know how long he should be gone, we don’t know when he will be home. Even once you get a for a sure date (there is no such thing as a date written in stone), do not post that your sweetie will be home at such-and-such a time or date. That’s easier to keep quiet in the Air Force since our troops usually deploy in ones or twos, but the Army and Navy deploy mostly as units, so there is usually some fanfare when they come home. And third,
  • Never let it be known that you are home alone. Of course, people on base will know, but if the knowledge is public off base, you could be an easy target for the criminal element in your town.

I don’t give these warnings to scare you, but they are something to keep in mind before you open your mouth to talk about how lonely and miserable you are. As I’ve said before, do share that with other military spouses who understand and whom you can trust.

It is okay to talk about deployments without giving away specific details of where, when, how long, and your personal information like your phone number, e-mail address, and physical address. It’s for everyone’s safety.

For more information on OPSEC, visit storyhttps://militarybenefits.info/opsec/ or check out Military One Source, the one-stop-shop for everything military.

Next week we will dive into Social Media protocol.

Until then,

Vicki

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How Four Military Wives Acted Like A Spy Ring Without Knowing It

Today I am going to tell you a story. It’s an innocent story but one that will explain why Operational Security — or OPSEC — is so important not just for military members but for their families as well.

Once upon a time, a captain’s wife enjoyed walking every morning with her neighborhood friends. One day these friends, a lieutenant’s wife, another captain’s wife, and a lieutenant colonel’s wife were walking when the first captain’s wife mentioned her chaplain husband had to stay close to the base the upcoming weekend.

The lieutenant’s wife mentioned her husband, a pilot, was on call for the weekend. Hmmm.

The other captain’s wife, whose husband was in communications, also said her husband was on call. Double hmmm. What was going on?

When the fourth wife, the Operations Support Squadron Commander’s wife, said her husband would be working all weekend, the ladies all knew something was up. What was going on in the news that week? The ladies put their heads together to try and figure out what would require their husbands, all in different fields on base, to stay near home.

It was the U.S. invasion of Haiti in September 1994. You can read more about the invasion here, but the gist of it is that troops from the Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force gathered in Puerto Rico and Southern Florida to support an invasion led by the Joint Special Operations Command.

General Joseph Raoul Cedras

The purpose of the invasion was to get General Joseph Raoul Cedras to step down as president and re-instate the elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Cedras led a military coup to overthrow Aristide in 1991.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide

A diplomatic delegation of former President Jimmy Carter, former Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff Colin Powell, and U.S. Sam Nunn of Georgia went to Haiti to negotiate with Cedras. It wasn’t until he was shown a video of the 82nd Airborne aircraft being loaded with troops that Cedras capitulated. He apparently assumed it was a live feed but was told the video was taken two hours before, and the planes were already over the Atlantic Ocean headed for Haiti. Cedras accepted the best deal he could get, and Aristide returned to Haiti in October 1994.

That’s enough of a history lesson for now. The important piece here is how four wives put together what they knew about their spouses’ orders and, together with what they saw on the news, figured out what was going on before it happened.

“This is how spies work,” the Good Chaplain said. They gather bits and pieces of information, get a clear picture of what is going on, and sometimes determine exactly what is happening.

Remember OPSEC. Next week I will talk about what not to talk about.

Until then,

Vicki

Do you have an OPSEC story like the one above? Share it in the comments below.