Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Twenty Five Tips for the New Military Spouse

This list is something I really needed when I first married my husband. I didn't know anything about the military. I didn't know a single soul who had served in the military and I certainly didn't know any spouses. The movies and TV shows were inaccurate and honestly dramatic as anything.

These tips are honest. They are not dramatic, unrealistic, or painting a fairy tale that doesn't exist. We have "Army Wives" to paint that story for us.

1. Get ready to learn
The military is its own little world. The lingo, schedules, events, etc. are unique to the military world. I had no idea what most of the terminology meant at all. You don't need to know it all...plus I don't even think its possible. There are so many fantastic resource available to you. I highly recommend checking out militaryonesource.com for any and all questions you may have. It is a LIFESAVER!

2. TRICARE is confusing for everyone at first
Health insurance is not the easiest thing to understand, but then you have TRICARE. TRICARE will change at the drop of a hat and you might not even know it!

There are currently two regions in the United States and three regions internationally.

Photo Credit: TRICARE
The most common TRICARE plans are:
    • TRICARE Prime (Available on overseas assignments)
      • You are provided a PCM (Primary Care Manager) and receive most of your care from them
      • Referral needed for specialists
      • No Deductible, No Copay
    • TRICARE Select (Available on overseas assignments)
      • You are able to use any provider who takes TRICARE select insurance
      • No Referrals needed
      • Deductibles and Co-pays do apply
    • TRICARE  Prime Remote - If you are assigned to a location that is more than 50 miles from a military hospital or clinic. Also available on overseas assignments.
To enroll in TRICARE, you first must be enrolled in DEERS.

3. DEERS Doesn't Have to be Complicated
The Defense Eligibility Enrollment System is a database containing information on military and DOD members and their dependents. Your spouse will be automatically enrolled, but they will have to enroll you and any other dependents.

Your spouse will have to be present in order to enroll you into DEERS. The only way you can enroll yourself or a child into DEERS without your spouse, is with a Power of Attorney that is specifically for DEERS enrollment.

DEERS is where you will receive your dependent ID card. This allows you to gain access to the commissary, MWR facilities, going on base, etc. It also serves as your insurance card.

 It DOES NOT automatically mean you get military discounts everywhere you do.

4. Dental Insurance is different from TRICARE
While your dentist will know what you are talking about when you say TRICARE is your insurance, it is through a different provider. The provider changes frequently so keep an eye out for any changes.

As of May 2018 the provider is United Concordia.  Click here for more info on how to enroll. 

5. EFMP can affect where you are sent/the kind of medical care you receive
The Exceptional Family Member Program was put in place to provide services to military dependents. It provides dependents access to medical care that is more specialized to their needs. These needs can range from severe learning disabilities to cystic fibrosis to ALS.

"The qualifications for EFMP include but are not limited to the following: 
  1. Requires special medical services for a chronic condition
  2. Receives ongoing services from a medical specialist
  3. Has significant behavioral health concerns
  4. Receives early intervention or special education services through an individual family service plan or individualized education program." (Credit: MilitaryOneSource
For information on the enrollment process, contact your local military and family support center by clicking HERE.

6. Housing can be confusing and stressful at times.
You have to have a plan B, C, and D when it comes to where you are going to live. Many times you will find that military housing is full, so off post is your only option. This is not a bad thing at all but you need to be aware of the housing market you are moving into.

When we moved to our current post we scoured trulia to look at crime maps, location, proximity to base, etc. Before making our final decision on where to rent.

I highly recommend joining the Facebook groups that are affiliated with where you are moving to. Ask questions! Odds are everyone who was moving to that post had the same questions about where to live.

7. There are restrictions for "on-post" housing
These vary from post to post but usually most have the same rules. Make sure you check with on post housing to see what they are specifically for your post.

They can include but are not limited to:
  • Dog Breed Restrictions
  • All firearms needing to be registered on base
  • Guests are only allowed to stay or a certain amount of days
  • Limits to the amount of pets in a home
8. Meet your neighbors
Odds are you are far away from family. Your neighbors most likely know the area and neighborhood better than you and can be a great asset! Yes, we have all had bad neighbors but we have also had great ones as well. I was able to ask my neighbors endless questions about army living and they were such as asset when we lived on post.
Photo Credit
9. Get Involved
You don't need to become the picture perfect wife who volunteers for everything. That isn't feasible and honestly it isn't necessary. Volunteering your time when you can is the best way to learn about the military and meet others. I learned most of what I know about the military was from volunteering on post!

CLICK HERE to read my post where I go more in depth about volunteering.

10. Get Connected
Military Facebook groups are a great way to ask questions and learn more about military life. You can learn more about your new home, get care package ideas, and so much more. Like anything with the internet, you might interact with some "unsavory" people. Keep in mind that this is not the majority of spouses.

But remember, you can never be 100% sure who you are speaking to is who they say they are.

11. Learn OPSEC and PERSC
Opsec (Operational Security) and PERSEC (Personal Security) are a set of guidelines used to protect service members and their families. While these have been around for decades, it is used today mainly for protecting personal and sensitive information online.

"My husband left for Afghanistan on ______ and will be there for ___ months," is a violation of OPSEC.  

"I'm so mad I'll be home alone for the next month while my husband is at NTC," is a violation of PERSEC.

Always think before you post. Is someone monitoring your online presence? Who knows. Violations of these guidelines have caused homecomings to be delayed which has led to VERY angry people...don't be that guy.

 For more information on OPSEC click here. For more information on PERSEC click here

12. Deployment orders will eventually come...ugh...
Two deployments in your would think I would have some grip on what I'm doing...not always. Deployments are different for every person, every marriage etc. Everyone has a different experience and what happens in one country might not happen in another. 

Ask people what their experience was, but realize that your experience could be very different. It could be easier or harder for you and that is okay.

13. Power of Attorneys are a must when you spouse is deployed
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to make decisions based on someone else's behalf. It can cover anything from signing a lease and The two most common types of POA you will see with deployments are the general and special poa.

For deployments most people recommend you have the following POAs:
  1. General
  2. DEERS
  3. Housing
  4. Registering Vehicles
  5. Banking (USAA requires a specific POA)
**Keep in mind certain states have different rules for POAs. Contact your local JAG (legal) office for more detailed information.

14. Go to pre-deployment meetings/town halls
I will be the first to say that I don't attend very many "spouse" meetings. Pre-deployment meetings are the most important meetings you can attend.

Every single deployment is different no matter how many different stories you have heard. There is information distributed at these meetings that are vital to understanding where your spouse is going and who you can contact if you need assistance.

15. Get your finances in order
If your spouse is the one who handles all finances and bills, you will most likely have to take over when they are gone. It is important to have access to the online accounts if needed. You also need to make sure you have all the dates for when bills and expenses will auto-deduct from your account.

Ensure that you have conversations about how best to manage finances with deployment on the way. If necessary speak to one of the free financial advisors available through Army Community Service.

16. Set goals along the way
If the only thing you are looking forward to is the end of deployment...you're gonna have a bad time. It could be looking forward to a girls weekend, taking a college class, working out more, etc. etc. etc. Make this a time for you to grow, not suffer.

Gif Source: Giphy

17. You don't need to be strong all the time
Mental health matters a lot. I feel like a broken record saying this but it is imperative that you seek help if you are feeling depressed, anxious, etc. Military Family Life Counselors offer free non-medical counseling FOR FREE and it everything is confidential.

 Click Here for more information on how to contact an MFLC in your area.

18. It might feel like a lifetime, but homecoming will happen!
After looking at a countdown clock FOREVER you will definitely feel the excitement and nerves of homecoming soon enough. It is a thousand emotions rolled into one.

Click Here for a post about my experience with homecoming, reintegration and all that fun stuff.

19. Military balls are what you make of them
You've probably heard some crazzzy stories from others about military balls. Is there a lot of drinking? Oh yes. Are there interesting outfit choices? Always. But can you still have fun at them? Absolutely! 

Follow your spouse's lead if this is your first ball. They will know what to do...hopefully.

Here are some tips for outfits:
  1. Keep the boobs and butt covered
  2. Floor or tea length dresses are expected
  3. Trains on dresses might not be the best idea since a lot of people are walking around
  4. Rarely ever do people remember the normal dresses...only the inappropriate ones
GIF Credit: Giphy
 20. Rank does not matter to you
To make a friend in the military community, you won't want to ask what their spouse's rank is off the bat. It is tacky and it makes it appear like that is one of the biggest things you care about. It is your spouse's rank not yours.

I have had friends who have spouses who are enlisted to spouses who far outrank my husband, it does not matter to you. You will miss out on making lasting friendships.

21. Don't always listen to the negativity
You will find that certain people can be negative about nearly everything when it comes to military life. Do I love it? Not usually. But I have learned so much about myself as a person and as a partner.

People will love where they are stationed and people will hate it no matter what. This isn't mutually exclusive to military life but it does happen more often. This could be because of the unpredictability of the military but it is not an excuse.

22. Different posts for different folks
Not everyone is going to like every place they are sent to. This is okay! However, just because they hate it does not mean you have to. I am currently living at a post that many think is so horrible they cry when they find out they are moving here. While it is not my favorite place we have lived, I enjoy it here! My job, my friends, and my home are all great!

I definitely makes sense to take advice from those who have lived where you are going, but make your own opinions.

23. Everything is temporary
Even if you hate where you are stationed, eventually you will leave. Deployments are hard, but they do end.

You will be put in some stressful and uncomfortable situations while your spouse is in the military. This is not an opinion, this is a given. The silver lining is that no matter how tough it get, eventually it will come to an end.

Odds are you are stationed at a place you are not familiar with. Getting away for a day even if its just two hours from home, can make you appreciate where you are! You can discover hidden gems, local food, and make your Instagram feed that much more enviable.

25. Take a breath. It will all be okay. 



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