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New to the Military? We Can Help

Tech. Sgt. Damien Cole and Lisa Gonzalez exit the historic Clay National Guard Center Chapel in Georgia as husband and wife. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Miles Wilson.)
Tech. Sgt. Damien Cole and Lisa Gonzalez exit the historic Clay National Guard Center Chapel in Georgia as husband and wife. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Miles Wilson.)

New to military life? Here are some tried-and-true tips for new MilSos from the old pros -- your new friends.

Yes, Military Life is Different

Many a spouse have signed on to this life not realizing quite how dominating the military can be of your service member and, in its own way, you. For starters, deployments, trainings, field exercises, the schoolhouse, and TDYs may send your spouse away for longer periods of time than you’re accustomed to or expected. These phases apart will be even more noticeable if you haven’t lived with your spouse before. It really is one thing when he or she is off doing their thing while you’re doing your thing. But when suddenly your separate things are the same thing, the house can feel noticeably empty.

Find Your Tribe

As much as the military invades your spouse’s life, you’ll find that marriage makes it invade yours, too. For starters: If you’re living on a base or near a base, you’ll find your friendship circle mirrors your spouse’s: Your first forays into friendship will probably within your neighborhood, the other spouses in the unit, and your Family Readiness Group. (If the idea of having no civilian friends freaks you out, fear not. There are lots of ways to build civilian connections in military life.) As you get settled, it’ll be easier to make new friends, and you’ll come up with a core group of people you just can’t live without. We call those the 5 Friends Every Military Spouse Needs. And trust us, you do need them.

Get the Hang Of It

That will be especially true when PCS season rolls around. That’s one of those acronyms you’re probably just now trying to learn -- the military is full of them. In this case, we’re talking about Permanent Change of Station, or the big move you’ll do every few hours as your spouse gets new orders and you change posts/bases/military installations. Despite its name, there’s nothing permanent about the PCS except for the fact that it’s going to be an ever present reality in your life.

You’ll also find that while in civilian life, your administrative requirements didn’t go much past making sure your driver’s license was up to date, you were registered to vote, and the bills were paid, military life is full of checklists. We have our own just for new spouses to make sure you and your family are all set for this new military life. Everything from getting your kids in the system and signed up for healthcare to making sure you’ve registered all the places you’re supposed to, this list is for you.

Use Every Trick In The Book

There are also some little tricks you can employ to make military life easier straight off the bat:

-- When you move to the installation, see if there is a tour of base that is offered. (These are pretty standard, so you wouldn’t be asking for anything unusual.) Pay attention so you can learn where the commissary, exchange, hospital, library, and childcare centers are. Make sure you grab a map of the installation, too. Most installations offer a variety of services you’ll want to use, and it helps to know where you’re going.

-- Memorize your spouse’s social security number. You’ll need it more than your own.

-- Ask someone about the base traditions you’ll need to respect. You’ll find yourself stopping for colors (when they raise the flag at the start of the day and lower it at the end - you actually have to pull over if you’re driving when this happens!) and singing along with the national anthem before the start of every movie. This is a real change from the civilian world - so make sure you ask about all these things when you arrive.

-- You don’t want to get a driving ticket on base. Just follow the speed limit.

-- Learn the protocol for getting onto base and are ready to move through the gate quickly - especially at rush hour. Everyone, especially the person in line behind you, will be grateful. Sometimes it takes a few times to feel like you’ve got the knack of it, but don’t worry. We’ve all been new before.

-- Get involved with your family readiness group right away. It’s an immediate network you can count on to help you get settled, and chances are high it’ll be where you make some of your first friends.

-- And never, no matter what, never, ever go to the commissary on pay day. You can learn that one for yourself ... but we don’t recommend it.

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