Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Life is funny in a way.

As worried as I am about this upcoming move, it isn't turning out to be that much more stressful than any of the other 3 moves we have done. Yes I admitted it aloud, in 15 years (well almost) that Jerry has been in the Air Force we have only had to completely up and move 3 other times.
Jerry and I met after he was done with his initial training and he was at his first base, Luke AFB in Phoenix. When we met, he already knew that he was going to have to move soon, as his planes would no longer be at Luke, after April of 95. We got engaged Christmas of 94, and married July of 95, two months after he left for Eglin. That was a stressful move for me, because I was uprooting myself and my daughter and moving across the country to Florida.
Then in September 96, Jerry found out he had orders to move to Lakenheath England. Of course he found that out less than a week before he went on his one and only (so far) tour to the great big sandbox. This was an excitting move for me, because I HATED Florida with a passion. LOL. Stressful because we would be so far away from home, but excitting.
I got a great job teaching at the American High School over in England and we stayed, and stayed and stayed. Until the Air Force had enough of us staying, and said ok you have to go now. We tried to get Jerry to be able to do his remote to Korea for a year, so the kids and I could stay, it didnt work. ;)
I was even more upset when we found out we were moving back to Eglin. Land of the huricanes (we had 2 big storms within the first 3 months that we lived here in 95), land of no teaching jobs unless you knew someone who knew someone. I came to Florida and did a couple of interviews over spring break and felt that we would be ok. Jerry found a guy at work who had a house here we could rent for a year, since the housing market was so wacky thanks to hurricane Ivan. I took the first job I interviewed for and was offered (which turned out to be a mistake, but you live and learn). The house wasn't all it was cracked up to be, mostly due to the above ground pool collapsing with the kids in it the weekend Hurricane Katrina hit, and the real estate agent in charge of the property doing nothing to help us out. If we called her with any problems with the house it took her days to return the call, most times after we had fixed the problem ourselves. The pool issue took until the following summer for her to do anything about. If we had known that she was going to have someone come in over 3 days (that took 2 weeks) and tear the pool and deck down at the end of it, we could have saved her the money and done it ourselves.
We decided we were not going to rent further because according to the Air Force and a regulation that had come out we were supposed to be here for at least 2 more years. The best laid plans, I swear...
Right after we closed on the house and had moved in we got word that Jerry had to cross train, or get out. After 14 years in (or almost) that was an easy decision, Jerry would change jobs. Here is where our lives got interesting and complicated.
I ended up writing the following to our Senator about what has happened this last year in our lives:
To the Office of Senator...

I am writing to you today with a concern that I felt needed to be brought to your attention. My husband is serving active duty in the United States Air Force, and has been since December 15, 1992. He has served his country with pride, and has done all that has been asked of him in this time.

Last August he received word that he had to cross-train into a new career field, or else get out of the Air Force. Now I am the first to admit that we were upset with this prospect, however we researched the career fields that AFPC (Air Force Personnel Command) said that were eligible for transfer into, and choose three that would be a good fit for my husband’s strengths and for our family. A few days after he submitted his choices AFPC told all of the people in his career field that the list that they had consulted (sent out by AFPC with the notification of cross training), was invalid and that he had made needed to be changed as they were not available. I understand that mistakes happen, and this was an inconvenience at worst, so again we did the research, and submitted new choices.

My husband’s choice of Air Field systems was accepted and he revised his class dates. There were problems with this step in the process as someone in the training command did not look at my husband’s previous training and take this into account when assigning him to classes. They assigned him to take a basic electronics course, which considering he has been working in F-15 electronics for the last 14 years this was unnecessary. My husband and his command had to spend many man hours preparing and filing a waiver, including finding and tracking down copies of training certificates that should be in a data base on a computer somewhere. Finally a few days before he was to be at Keesler AFB for basic electronics we were told that his waiver had been accepted, and his class date for his Air Field Systems course work would begin in April.

With this knowledge I was scheduled for a hysterectomy in January/February for a condition that could not we could not postpone the surgery. A week later we were told that Jerry's class date had been moved up to January. With the help of my husband’s current command (again after many man hours on the part of his section chief, and commander) this was changed back to April. Then they tried to change the class to March, again I was on medical hold due to complications from my surgery and a secondary surgery, so the date was changed to May 1st.

When I originally wrote your office this is where we were having issues. The training command has known since March of Jerry's class date of May 1st. Tuesday April 17th Jerry received an email stating that as of March 1st, 2007; all academic classes longer than 99 academic days no longer can be done in temporary duty status, that this is now considered a permanent change of station. Air Field Systems is a 130 academic day course, so he would be under PCS orders. Jerry went to his command and to the outbound assignments to find out what that meant for our family. After 6 phone calls while Jerry was in the office of outbound assignments , he was told that the family would stay here with full entitlements to Eglin housing allowance, and that he would go to Keesler alone and living in billeting with chow hall rights. This was an answer we could live with.

Tuesday April 24th Jerry received word that the above statement was not true. That his orders would be cut for the entire family to move to Keesler and receive Keeslers housing allowance. Jerry and his chain of command started to argue this situation and try to figure out a way around this.



Wednesday April 25th at 830 in the morning Jerry received his PCS orders to Keesler with a follow on to Warner Robins AFB in Georgia . The orders were for the entire family to move to Keesler and set up house, and then follow on to Georgia in 5 1/2 months when his training is done. Also the orders came with a report no later than date of April 26th at 10 am. I am not sure if you are aware of the time it takes to out-process a military installation but I can tell you that 26 hours is not enough time to do this, even if one were single airmen with nothing to call his own, except a dorm room.



My husband and his command were successful in getting a waiver after about 60 man hours of O-8s and E-8’s time, so that the family can stay on station here at Eglin with Eglin housing allowance. When he received the waiver he was told that he would be put up in billeting for his entire class. This is where we were at, at the time of my original email to your office.



Since I originally brought this matter to the attention of Senator McCain, and your office, some of the problems we were encountering have been resolved, however more were also encountered. Plus we have discovered that we are not the only family that encountered these problems; we have found other members of the Air Force that were force cross trained that did not have a command willing to fight for them, or to ask questions on their behalf.



Upon Jerry’s arrival at Keesler on June 12th he discovered that the base shuts down on every other Friday and his report no later date, happened to fall on such a Friday. So he had driven over to Keesler to an empty base, no one could even tell him what was going on, because anyone he found could not help him.

On June 15th when he reported for his first day of classes, he discovered that no one in the school actually had him on a rooster for that class, and they had to track down someone that knew what was going on. Then he when he in-processed into the finance at Keesler he was informed contrary to what we were told when his waiver for housing and for the family to remain in place, that he was not to be provided with billeting rights for his entire stay and that he was only entitled to the Air Force covering his billeting for the first 10 days of his stay, the rest was to come out of our pockets. If he chose to move into the dorms, like some of his counter parts have done, we would loose all rights to our housing allowance.



Paying for his billeting out of our pockets is costing us $5000 that we had not been made aware of, of course this is preferable to the almost $8000 we would loose if we loose our housing allowance. We have friends that are currently going through this exact hardship, and after Jerry hearing what the other Sergeant’s wife is going through he said no way. Not only do we not have our spouses for 6 months due to this cross-training, but we are also now short on our source of income. Then you add in the fact that someone in finance or military personnel did not enter the waiver for our family to keep Eglin’s housing allowance, which is about $100 more a month, so not only do we have to pay for Jerry’s hotel room, or find a cheap apartment for him to rent for 4 ½ months (which by the way no one in Biloxi will do a short term lease), but they lowered what they said we would be getting.



These men and women that are being force cross-trained in the Air Force are doing so because they love fighting for their country, and they love being in the United States Air Force. They are doing what is being asked of them, and they are doing it proudly. They had a chance to decide to get out of the Air Force or to cross train. However this new regulation of requiring them to completely PCS to the training base for such a short amount of time is killing the families and the morale of the airmen and their families. It is hard enough knowing that your spouse can be called at any time to go off to fight in this war, that he/she may not come home from, but even worse when you have to wonder where you are going to get the money to pay for your house, food for your table, and all of the other added expenses because of a training situation. I know in our situation the way it is right now if Jerry was to get deployed shortly after completing his school, we will be broke. As it is I am not sure how long it is going to take us to recover from loosing $5000 to put him up in a hotel for 5 months.



However one must take a minute or two and look at the costs that the Air Force is incurring in just my family alone with this change.



I figured out what the Air Force is looking at spending for each family and member of the military that they expect to under go this hardship, and it is roughly as follows:



Step one: pack up house, by movers and ship household items to Biloxi : approximately $30,000



Step two: Put family in TLF until family finds a house that they can rent for 4 months: $60 a night for at least 2 weeks



Step three: Dislocation allowance for said family: $1000 (that’s on the low side).



Step three: Find family a house for a lease of 5 or less months



Step four: rent a house in Biloxi while trying to sell our house in Fl



Step five: Move family into house in Biloxi



Four months later:



Step five: Movers come and pack up house, and ship belongings to new duty station (Robins as of right this minute): $30,000



Step six: Move family into TLF at Keesler until official move to Robins probably $60 a night for a week or two



Step seven: Move family from Keesler to Robins with probably an overnight somewhere in there, because it’s not a short drive. Pay mileage and hotel $100



Step eight: Move Family into TLF at Robin until family finds house in WR area. Again probably at least 2 weeks at $60 a night



Step nine: Receive dislocation allowance of $1000



Step ten: move family into home at Robins



How is any of this saving the Air Force money? Lets not forget the added fun of the move to Warner Robins GA , (actually that part is not bugging me too much). The Air Force just forked out at least $50,000 to move us from the United Kingdom to Florida less than 2 years ago. With the budget fight that is going on in congress right now with the pentagon they want to needlessly move us again! There are two bases here that Jerry could do his new job, within driving distance, heck the one is within bike riding distance if J had a death wish and wanted to take on HWY 85 on a bike. But when he asked about the move to Robins he was told that there was no manning room for him here. OK but you are going to shell out the money to move him, again, this soon?



My concern is this, how is the best use of Air Force money? I understand the regulation was changed regarding the tdy/pcs status because of people taking these courses, and then being sent overseas and due to the length of both TDY assignments they were going into remote status. I also understand that this change was aimed at people like my husband who is changing career fields (even if he was told either do this or get out of the Air Force.)



I appreciate you taking the time to look into this matter


Now we are waiting for Jerry to get done with this tech school. We are still paying for him to live in Mississippi, but I think we have the house situation sorted out.

Our friends Pat and Niki are moving here, there are several companies here interested in Pat going to work for them when he retires in October. Jerry and I had talked this weekend about maybe offering them to rent our house until July, so that they could take their time finding a house to buy, plus get to know the area instead of just buying over the internet.

Pat and Niki started talking about the same thing, not knowing that we were thinking it.

Niki emailed me last week about it, and we went back and forth in about 10 emails.

What I think is going to happen is:
Pat and Niki will move here in October when Pat retires, and live with us until the end of November when we will move to Warner Robins.
Then they will rent our house from us until next summer and when we are ready to put it on the market in the spring they will help show it for us.

Which means that my decision on whether to go back to Lowes or to see about the college job is easy. I am going to go back to Lowes and then transfer to the Lowes in Warner Robins in November/December.
Once we are up there then I can start subbing up there and looking for a job there.

The girls are sort of upset because they will move in the middle of the year, but it will be better for us as a family, to all be in one place, plus to get our new lives just started.
Now to figure out where we are going to live, when we get there.
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