Sunday, May 24, 2009

On Being An Air Force Wife.... part 1

Through my blog I get a lot of questions about what it is like being an Air Force wife. I know that my experiences are not typical, and that some other spouses have had a harder time with being married to the military, while others yet, have an easier time.

I have decided to post some parts of emails that I have sent in answer to questions that I get as a way to help others.

I know that some people may disagree with my answers, because their experience is different than mine, and that is fine.

I am just saying that this is my experience, my life and the way that I have seen things unfold in the last 14 years of being married into the Air Force.

If your experience is different then you post about it on your blog, please don't slam me for my experiences.

So without further ado here is part one:

My husband has been in 16 1/4 years, and we have been married almost 14. We met at his first duty station. I can answer some questions about him joining while you are married just because I have had friends that have gone through it.

I am not sure what your husband does now, so I am not sure if the pay will be better after he joins or not. I know for most married couples the first year or so is tough, both being seperated and finacially, because there is a lot of things that he will either need to buy or will be "charged" for where they take it out of his pay. And it will be things that he doesnt think to tell you that they are taking out, because they just do it, and expect that he or you knew that it was happening (uniforms, stripes, dry cleaning.) Plus you have to adjust to having to pay for him to be living somewhere while you are still at home (depending on his tech school it could just be while he is at BMT.) You also have to take into account that they will start taking out dental, tricare, etc right away. And sometimes the first paycheck doesnt go out on the first first, or fifteenth, they "promise" it will, but I have heard of pleanty of people that it doesn't. So if you can save for that chance I would. Or else make sure that you have family backup plan if you can (your parents, his parents what have you). Have the plan in place and if you don't need it that is great, but it really sucks when you need it and you dont have a clue as to how you are going to buy groceries because his check didn't go in like it should have. If you have a mortgage, have him get that on an allotment as soon as he can, same goes for any car payments, student loans or anything that you know goes out monthly and is the same amount monthly. The military doesn't charge you to send the payments, and you don't have to think about them, so it makes it really nice. If you have a house that you are going to want to sell so that you can go with him to his first base, start trying to sell it as soon as he goes to basic if not now. Especially in this market.

I think the best advice I can give you is to take everything that the Air Forces gives you as a gift. If he gets an assignment close to family and friends as his first, know that you are extremely blessed. If his first assignment is in Korea and is a year apart from you, know that it means that you are getting it done quick. If he goes somewhere like England and you can go with him embrace it. Do not just sit at home, hating the weather. Go out and see the culture, get to know where you are living, see everything that you can afford to see. Let the kids get to know the history of your new home. If you sit at home or dont travel more than 10 miles from the base, I can promise you that you will hate it. I know lots of people that hated England because they never did anything! I met a couple right before we left who had been there for 3 years, and had never been to London or Cambridge, and we were only 30 miles from Cambridge, and 70 to London. Same goes if he is stateside, get out and get to know people and the surrounding community.

Know that basic will probably be very hard on him, especially the first few weeks. He will have to adjust to not being able to talk to you every day, as you will too, but he will be totally on his own. Just know that if he doesnt sound as connected to you its not that he isn't its just that he is exhausted. Tech school will be easier, as the demands on him are less, and different. They will still expect him to do PT daily, and he will have to go to study groups, and if he doesn't pass a test they will expect different things out of him. But he will have some freedom after the first few weeks (Phase I). If it is a longer school they will allow you and the children to go to the station with him. If it is a short school they wont, which is actually a good thing if your oldest is starting school in the fall.

At your first assignment he will have to go through a program called first term airmens
class. It is about 2 or 3 weeks. This is where they will show him all of the programs the base has to offer, help him file the moving expenses paperwork, get all of the things you all need. If I remember right, he will check in with his shop and then after about a week in most cases will go to the FTAC program for the next couple of weeks. I can almost promise that in FTAC he will meet other airmen with young families, get to know them and lean on eachother.

We spent 8 years over in the UK and loved every minute of it. Our older two started school there, and if we could have stayed we would have. We have been blessed as far as deployments go, Jerry has only had one to the middle east, one to Italy, one to New Jersey, one to the midwest US, and then two trips to Texas. The worst thing for us I think was his crosstraining, and thats because of how late in his career it was (2 years ago). Most deployments though the guys can call home once or twice a week for free (DSN), the deployments tend to be about 6 months (versus the 18 for the Army), and they tend to be not directly in the line of fire. Of course there are execeptions to every rule, but generally life is easier than it is on the other services.

Trust me the Air Force can and will jerk you around, and life isn't always the easiest, but the way I look at it when that happens is at least he has a good paying job.
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