Why Don't You Have a Plan B, Soldier?


“Always, always have a Plan B,” a SpouseBuzz reader advised an Army wife whose husband was recently passed over. “We serve at the pleasure of the President, and, as has been said by other posters, no one's full career is guaranteed.”

That is some good advice. In this era of budget cuts and post-war drawdown (although service members are still being killed in Afghanistan), we military types should all have a keen eye toward the outside world and develop a really solid civilian Plan B.  Agreed?

So why don’t we have a Plan B?

My husband thinks we have a Plan B. All through his career when promotion boards came up, he would draw up these little timelines for our entire family. Here is what we would all do if he got passed over. Here is how we would live if he went to med school. Here is what life would look like if I got my MBA and was the sole support of the family while he rehabbed houses and raised English cocker spaniels.

To the outside world, surely these plans would hold up in court as physical evidence that we had a Plan B…and a Plan C and D and Q and R and Z. We would make stellar civilians overnight because we had a Plan B!

But the truth is that we never really had a Plan B.

“Well, that’s why it is Plan B,” our managing editor Amy Bushatz said when I told her. “Because you don’t really want to do that one.”

If my husband had to actually pursue his Plan Bs he would be appalled. He doesn’t really want to do any of those things. He just wants to stay in the Navy for, like, ever.

This doesn’t apply to everyone. Some military folks get their Plan B together while they are at boot camp.  Other people develop a Plan B when they get promoted to a point where they are bored out of their minds. Or they go through their third knee surgery. Or their husband finishes law school and needs to stay in one place to make partner.

We keep pursuing Plan A.

But for the rest of the people in the military, Plan A is to get promoted and keep moving up. That is the plan. Act on it. Keep trying through board after board until the very last minute where they hand you your marching papers.

Because they will. Everyone is eventually invited to leave the military.

Until Plan B is absolutely necessary.

The way I look at it, this is where workable Plan Bs begin—just like it does in civilian life where they get fired or laid off or their industry collapses. We all have vague Plan B’s until that plan is actually necessary.

It is a mistake to blame service members and families for not having a Plan B because you really don’t have a start date for that Plan B until the military actually gives you a firm NO.

Military careers don’t really lend themselves to Plan B. The military depends on being your Plan A …until they decide they just don’t need you anymore. Then let the Plan Bs commence.

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