Friday, May 29, 2009

On Being An Air Force Wife... part 6

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 have also decided to post our story, in parts, mostly because I have never typed them all out before. ;) Plus maybe seeing what we have been through will help someone else.

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 six: Our life back in the United States
July 2005 we got on a plane at Mildenhall and flew into Baltimore, in hopes of meeting our Trailblazer at the port (what was supposed to be a 3 week trip for our truck).

Our truck had not made it yet so we took advantage of the situation and played tourist for a week. First in D.C.

Then in Baltimore...

The we rented a minivan and headed for Florida (I had to report to work the Monday a week after we landed.) On our road trip we stopped where Stonewall Jackson was killed...

And in KannapolisThen we arrived at our "new" home in Eglin. I had to report to work first thing Monday morning and now our Trailblazer had finally arrived in Baltimore. Jerry took the kids to his mom's in Mississippi, then he took the rental van back to Baltimore and picked up our Trailblazer. He got back to Florida with just enough time to enroll the kids in school.

Luckily (or unluckily) for us we had found a house before we left England. A co-worker of Jerry's had a house for rent that was coming available on the 15th of August. Which with the housing market at the time was lucky for us. The unlucky part was that I found a job 50 miles away, that I was offered right before we left England. The teaching job market wasn't too hot, so I took it. It was a LONG school year.

It was made especially long given the sickies that infected all of us. DJ got tubes put in, Kelsey had to have 2 root canals, Jerry started his runs with potassium problems, and Natalie and I just had the usual run of sickness.

Then you add in that my 96 year old Grandmother was diagnoised with brain cancer, and the family was called in at Thanksgiving, because the doctors did not feel she would make it to Christmas (she suprised us all and passed away in March of 06). So I missed a lot of days that I did not plan to miss when I took the job.

Anyway, that was a long year.

Renting also was not a happy thing for us. Because we "knew" the owners the property manager thought that meant that we should do more and put up with more issues than the normal renter. Like the above ground pool that was green when we moved in, and then the side blowing out the day before Katerina hit. Yes the fun part about that was the above ground pool was why we were supposedly paying $300 more a month for the house, so that they would have a maintance company come and clean it. And then she didn't even have someone come out to look at it for 7 months, only after we gave our notice that we would not be renewing our lease. It was a major hazard, and we could not allow the kids to play in the back yard at all (it had a deck surrounding it, and not all of the water would drain out.)

We decided after that to look into buying a house. The Air Force had a regulation stating that you had to be on station for 36 months before they could even consider moving you. We figured we had at least 24 months left. So we bought our house, right before the bottom fell out of the market. Like within 8 weeks, of the bottom falling out, too bad we didn't see it coming.

But it gets worse! About the time the bottom fell out of the market, Jerry found out that the Air Force had decided to tell all Staff and Tech Sergents in his career field that they either cross-trained to a new job, or they got out of the Air Force, not retired, just got out, no benefits, no nothing.

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.

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.

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 ended up costin 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.

Yes that time was very very stressful, and it still has been, for the last 18 months since....

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