50 Simple Advice for New Military Spouses

50 Simple Advice for New Military Spouses

Joining the military community can be a daunting and foreign experience for individuals unfamiliar with the military life. You are not alone – and you certainly don’t have to navigate this strange new world on your own either. For new military families, the military jargon, customs and courtesies, high OPTEMPO (“operational tempo”), and the myriad of bureaucratic organizations to deal with can be incredibly overwhelming. Never be afraid to ask questions. There are so many experienced families who can guide and support you along the way. Here is some helpful advice that I routinely share with new members of our military community.

  1. Nothing is EVER set in stone!

    This is a motto that I live and swear by from my experience as both a Soldier and as a spouse. This motto has made my life infinitely easier when I know and accept ahead of time that dates and situations will always change because the military works in time frames, not set days, making life unpredictable for military families.  Having worked on operational level staffs, I’ve seen the hard work and planning that our service members’ leaders conduct on a daily basis. I’ve also seen the immense frustration when all the in-depth planning is nixed or drastically altered, requiring immediate attention in addressing the latest issue or timeline change at hand. There’s always someone higher up in the food chain with the authority to alter any given plan. In a perfect world, everything would be predictable and on a set schedule. However, as a new spouse, get used to arrivals, departures, training events, and even vacation leave moving either right or left on your calendar. The same goes for abrupt requirements that will require your service member to have to drop everything and disappear at a moment’s notice for a tasking or for a last-minute change in duties.

  2. Use your family support group

    Each service has its own support group with different names, but they all serve the same purpose in providing information, guidance, access to military post resources, and camaraderie. Their functions are most prominent during times of deployment and extended training when your service member is away from home, but they also serve the same purpose in a garrison environment. The Army has its Family Readiness Groups; Navy has its Ombudsman volunteer and Family Readiness Groups; Air Force has the Key Spouse Program; Marine Corps has the Family Readiness Program; and the Coast Guard has the Work-Life Program. Get to know the other senior spouses – they are a wealth of knowledge and experience and can guide you through the often baffling military system. Check with your readiness groups and on-post facilities to see if they offer introductory classes for new spouses. There are often courses both in a classroom or online that you can participate in to familiarize yourself with ranks, military jargon, military benefits and resources, and deployment preparation.

  3. Ask questions in the absence of information

    The most damaging thing that can harm a unit and its families is misinformation. In the absence of real information, never succumb to rumors and never make assumptions. If something sounds off or if you lack clarity, ask your Family Readiness Group Leader or the Chain of Command (if they have provided their contact information for that very purpose). Always go to an individual or representative who is authorized or has direct access to get the real information. Circulating or purely going off information within a rumor mill is counterproductive to the efforts of readiness groups and units which have the best intentions for the families under their care.

  4. USAJOBS.GOV

    Moving from post to post every couple of years can mean your own career sometimes takes a backseat. At USAJOBS  you can find federal jobs around your current duty station, as it is an incredible resource to becoming a federal employee. The Military Spouse Appointing Authority (Executive Order 13473) gives agencies the authority to hire military spouses without competition, but it doesn’t entitle spouses to a hiring opportunity over all other applicants. For more information, read “Special Hiring Authorities for Military Spouses and Family Members.”

  5. Understand the Leave and Earning Statement (LES)

    Upon first glance, the LES can be highly confusing with all of its acronyms. Learning how to decipher what everything means will ensure you can track pay allowances, benefits, debts, and allocated leave days. Consistent monitoring of the monthly LES can prevent pay issues.

  6. Memorize your sponsor’s (service member’s) Social Security Number (SSN) and birthday

    Commit this information to memory, as all Tricare benefits and any other official military services will always need the sponsor’s information before services are rendered. Just ensure you give this information out judiciously to legitimate organizations and trusted sources to prevent identity theft.

  7. Familiarize yourself with your respective service’s customs and courtesies, as well as personal etiquette

    There is nothing more embarrassing than committing a social faux pas at a military event, be it a formal, semi-formal, or casual event. No one ever wants to go down in unit history as that person. Ensure that you also dress appropriately for unit functions – when in doubt, ask an experienced spouse or the leadership for clearer guidance on attire. (Most event invitations will specify the dress code.) If you’re invited to a small function, a Thank You letter to the host/hostess will go a long way.

  8. Continue to pursue your own needs, wants, desires, and goals

    Military life has a way of overshadowing all of your own goals and aspirations. Remember to prioritize to yourself to prevent burn out in the long run. Find a passion or a hobby that you can take with you wherever you go.

  9. Enjoy where you are

    You can spend 3 years miserable or 3 years happy. Even if you are in the middle of the California dessert with almost no one around, you have to find a way to be happy. Military life is filled with ups and downs and the only way to survive is to find the best in every situation.

  10. Seek out mentors

    Support will make all the difference in the world. Many times you will have to ask for it, and that’s okay. Seek out a more seasoned military spouse and ask for help, support and guidance. Most are more than willing to help because they’ve all been there.

  11. Learn your resources and benefits

    Know what military programs are available to you as a military wife and use them. If you don’t use your resources, they will start to dwindle away. Know your healthcare, retirement and other spouse benefits.

  12. Find a deployment buddy

    It’s nearly impossible to survive deployment without at least one listening ear.

  13. Take it easy on yourself

    It’s okay if you feel overwhelmed or are struggling sometimes. It’s completely normal. There is no super military spouse out there who handles all of this perfectly.

  14. Mentor other military spouses

    Once you feel comfortable as a new military wife, take other spouses under your wing and mentor them. They will love you for it.

  15. Get involved and volunteer

    Getting involved in your military community is a great way to build relationships. And it’s important to network and connect, so you have support when you really need it.

  16. Military spouses are your biggest asset

    Civilian friends are awesome, but there is no one who understands the challenges of military life more than a fellow military spouse. Befriend as many as possible.

  17. Go out of your way to meet people

    When you are the one moving all the time and living far from family, it is often up to you to initiate new relationships in your life. Doing your best to put yourself out there can really go a long way.

  18. Military marriages are a lot of work

    Marriage is hard work period. Throw in the challenges of military life, and marriage becomes a whole new ball game. Make your military marriage a priority to keep it strong.

  19. Value, respect and support your spouse

    As much as you need support from your husband, he needs you too.

  20. Deployment is an opportunity for growth

    Sure deployments aren’t always peaches and cream, but there is a upside to everything. Find the positive in the negative. Deployments are a great opportunity to focus and invest in yourself.

  21. Homecomings are tough

    Sometimes learning to reconnect after deployment and be a family again is the hardest part about being separated. It’s okay if it doesn’t go the way you hope. It’s completely normal for homecomings to feel challenging.

  22. Prepare to live far from family

    More often than not, this is the case for most military wives. The good thing is that the military spouse community is very supportive, and you will find your own little ‘family’ everywhere you go. Fingers-crossed.

  23. Prepare to move a lot

    While it is challenging moving often, it is also an opportunity to enjoy new adventures that you would’ve never experienced otherwise! Use this handy PCS checklist to help you through!

  24. Plan ahead for everything

    Things tend to run smoother when plans are in place.

  25. Expect none of your plans to actually happen

    Military life changes at a moment’s notice. Expect plans to change.

  26. Stay faithful to your spouse

    This probably seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many spouses I actually knew (yes, personally) who fell into a dark trap while there husband was deployed. Be smart, make wise choices, and be faithful to your husband.

  27. Cut your spouse some slack

    Military life can feel equally overwhelming to a military service member as well.

  28. Know that having kids in military life is different than in civilian life

    It is simply a different facet to raising children. You will have to explain why daddy is gone for work so much and help them cope through the challenging emotions that come with separation.

  29. Making friends is harder in some ways

    Friends are always coming and going, in addition to your hometown friends living far away. This can put a strain on building close friendships every time you move.

  30. Making friends is easier in some ways

    Because everyone is in the same boat, it is sometimes easier to make friends.

  31. Strategize how you will best cope with deployment

    Discover what works well for you during deployment. Does going back to your hometown help? Does taking on several extra hobbies help? Does eating chocolate under the covers help? Nah, I’m probably the only one eating candy bars in bed.

  32. Learn the lingo

    Learning the bazillion acronyms of the military does make life easier.

  33. Know how to find support and help

    Utilize Facebook groups, military websites, community pages, your family readiness officer, and military wife blogs to gain support in your area. Join mom groups if you are a mom or participate in other hobby groups in your community to build a network.

  34. There will be many milestones missed

    Unfortunately, it’s really common for military service members to miss birthdays, holidays, milestones, and even weddings and the birth of a child.

  35. Don’t take yourself too seriously

    You don’t have to be a perfect spouse. If you have bad days, we’re all right there with ya.

  36. Prepare for the possibility of death, injury and PTSD

    As much as I hate saying this, it is important to prepare for anything that could happen. There’s no way to prepare entirely, but learning about what to expect if faced with a serious situation helps.

  37. Keep all the legal stuff in order

    Wills, power of attorney, life insurance…all good things to have completed correctly and in a safe in your home.

  38. Your attitude is everything

    Staying positive will help immensely.

  39. Memorize important numbers

    Memorize your husband’s phone number, work number, social security number, etc. It makes life easier.

  40. PDA is prohibited when a service member is in uniform

    It’s a rule apparently.

  41. Walk on the left side when your spouse is in uniform

    This enables him to have his right arm free to salute.

  42. Refer to all your husband’s superiors as Sir unless told otherwise

    Just good military etiquette.

  43. Take good care of your military ID

    Never post, email, text, or mail a picture of it.

  44. Never mention anything related to training or deployment on social media

    The ultimate goal is to protect your husband and your family. Keeping information secret that needs to be secret is important.

  45. Learn about base pay and special allowances

    If you are married, financial transparency is really important. You both need to know where the money is coming from and going to.

  46. Familiarize yourself with your base and duty station

    Finding your way as a military spouse is all about knowing how to get around your community helps immensely.

  47. Communicate, communicate, communicate

    Keep the communication lines open with your spouse. Read books on how to improve communication in your marriage if you need to.

  48. Don’t blink

    It all really does go by so incredibly fast. In 5 years, you’ll look back and wonder how you ever got through it. You’ve got this!

  49. Be flexible

    Learning to adapt to change is your best military life survival skill!

  50. Know you’re not alone

    It might seem like the road less traveled, but there’s 1.2 million of us to be exact. And we are all in this together!

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