New to the Military? We Can Help

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So you're new to military life? We have tips for new MilSos from the old pros -- your new friends.

The Major Differences Between Civilian and Military Life

The major differences between civilian and military life can be boiled down to three things. First, your spouse will go off on deployment sometimes for long periods of time. Second, your service member's professional life is fairly integrated with your social life simply because co-workers live on or near base together. As a group, you will have great adventures together that you will tell your grandchildren. Third, you will relocate about every three years. All of these things can be good or bad depending on how you look at it.

Your Attitude Defines Success

The most successful military wives are those who look at this lifestyle as a great adventure.  They tell stories of how their husbands went on deployments and they and the other wives met the ship in Thailand.  They throw great parties that unite friends and families.  And they especially get the gang together when the husbands are on deployment, venting frustrations, sharing babysitting duties and road tripping!  Finally, these women keep friends for a lifetime.  Whenever they relocate, they are simply reuniting with old friends.  Wherever they vacation, they always have a free place to stay.  These women may or may not join wives clubs, but they understand the importance of friendship and what military life has to offer.

In stark contrast, the least successful wives dwell on misery.  They do not continue to have their own identities, such as maintaining hobbies or professional skills.  Instead, they stay home and complain to anyone who will listen.  These women are no different that the wives of corporate executives who also dwell in their misery, whatever it may be.  Thus, the difference is attitude!

Keep You Own Identity

In the excitement of joining the military or because of relocation, it is easy to give up your hobbies, your job and even your old friends -- all the things that make you who you are.  Don't.  Instead, redirect your hobbies and professional skills to make them more 'portable' for relocation.  Find new friends who share your interests.  Just don't give up who you are.

Proactively Make Friends

Your new friends on base will be the most important friends you have -- and you will be important to them.  That's why you will find that most military wives are very friendly.  It's not because they are naive or silly, it's because they understand how much you need friends as military wives.  When your husband is on deployment, your friends will help babysit, fix your broken toilet and, most important, be there to have fun and vent frustration.  They will also teach you the 'ins' and 'outs' of the military and share gossip on where your husband's unit is and when they're expected home.  So it's important to make friends, and to do that you have to be a friend.

First Steps in Your New Life

Four resources can become your most important source of information: the Internet, military spouses who already live there (like your neighbors or in your command), the family support office on base, and your base sponsor (usually a peer of your husband).  Do your homework and don't forget to ask questions in the forums. Introduce yourself and get to know them: they are dedicated to helping you.

Once you contact them, take what they say with a grain of salt -- and contact the wives at the local base. They will tell you the real scoop on the base -- things that Department of Defense officials aren't allowed to tell you or simply have wrong.

Other Tricks

    * Memorize your spouse's Social Security number -- you'll need it constantly for forms.
    * Get to know the uniforms and rank insignia so you can learn the rank and service of people before you meet them.
    * Learn about base pay and special allowances to understand exactly how much of a paycheck your husband will receive.  Where you live and what he does directly affects your income.  His Leave and Earnings Statement (monthly pay stub) should tell you or check with your local finance office.  Visit our Military Pay Estimator to see how much money your service member should be making given his job and location.
    * Don't flog base rules.  It would be embarrassing if you get pulled over for speeding.
    * Drive around on base and get to know they lay out and opportunities.  Most bases have great commissaries (grocery stores), Exchanges (department stores) gyms, pools and recreation facilities all on the cheap.
    * Go to parties!  Get to know your service member's co-workers and their spouses.  In the military, spouses' presence and support can really help service members succeed on the promotion track.

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