Tag Archives: spouse

Murphy’s Law while your spouse is TDY

By Jenna Stone
Air Force spouse

blog2 copyMurphy’s law states that “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” For military spouses, that sometimes means “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong while your spouse is TDY.” Why does it seem like things wait until my husband is on a flight to go awry?

My husband is a firefighter with the San Antonio Fire Department, but he’s also an Air Force Reserve C-5 loadmaster at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. His position doesn’t deploy for months at a time, and I am very thankful for that. He does, however, go on temporary duty assignments from two to 10 days once or twice a month. These frequent TDYs seem to be when things around the house break and everyone gets sick.

His longest TDY was three weeks when he attended Survival, Evasion, Resistence and Escape, or SERE, training in Washington State. He left in May right when the school year was wrapping up. I work as a third grade teacher, and May can be one of the busiest times of the entire school year. There are so many things that need to get done before summer vacation can start, so this was a terrible time for him to leave.

About a week into his training, everything was going great. I was busy with things at school, taking care of our two young boys and keeping up with housework. It was then that I decided to tackle the yard work. I am a little ashamed to admit that, until this time, I had never mowed the lawn. I grew up in a house full of hardworking boys who took care of the lawn while I did chores inside of the house. Usually I would wait until my husband returned from his TDY, but the grass was beginning to resemble a jungle, so it had to be done.

I tried to start the mower, but nothing happened. I pulled the cord over and over, and still nothing. This should have been my clue to abandon the yard work, but I was determined to prove that I could take care of EVERYTHING while my husband was away. So, I walked to a neighbor’s house and asked him for a little help. He retired from the military, so he understood my plight. After a little mechanical magic, the mower started up and I got down to business.

I started at the edge of the lawn and pushed forward. It seemed really tough to push, but I powered through it. At the end of my first pass, I looked back to admire my work. To my dismay, I saw a big brown stripe right down the edge of my beautiful green lawn. The mower was on the lowest setting, and I had cut the grass too short nearly killing it. I stopped right away and asked my neighbor on the other side of the house for help. He chuckled a little at my brown stripe, but he helped me set the mower properly so I could finishin mowing the lawn.

The next night, I was outside chatting with some other neighbors when all of a sudden, water began spewing out of my lawn just like Old Faithful. I had no idea what to do! Luckily, my neighbors went over to the sprinkler system and shut it off. They dug down in the lawn a little to reveal a broken sprinkler line right by my brown stripe of grass. I have no idea how to fix a sprinkler system, so this problem was going to have to wait until my husband returned from his TDY.

A few days later, we had some high winds that were strong enough to break the ties anchoring my freshly planted tree in place. It had blown over and was nearly laying down on the lawn. I used some rope that I found in the garage to tie it upright again, but it didn’t quite work. My brother-in-law had to come over and fix it for me. Geez! The lawn and I do not get along!

The next thing to break in the house during his TDY was the front door. Somehow the weather stripping tore completely off of the bottom of the door leaving a gap for light and air to enter the house. I don’t know the first thing about weather stripping, so that would have to wait too. It wasn’t a huge deal, but just another annoyance that would have usually been taking care of by my husband.

While all of those things were very frustrating, they weren’t the worst thing that happened during my husband’s TDY. Our oldest son, Dylan, became extremely sick. He began vomiting, and he had a fever that over-the-counter medicines could not break. His fever would spike up during the night, getting as high as 104.5 degrees. He experienced a febrile seizure when he was young, so I would lay awake with him and watch him like a hawk. I didn’t sleep for days. The doctor drew blood, and it turned out to be a bacterial infection so they treated him with antibiotics. The first round of antibiotics didn’t work, and his high fever continued for several more days. After receiving a stronger antibiotic, he finally began to get better. During this seven-day fever, my mother-in-law came into town and helped me care for my younger son.

I’m not sure how I was able to close out the school year at work during these busy and frustrating three weeks, but somehow everything came together. I found extra minutes to grade papers during bath time and standing at the kitchen counter while making dinner. I finished up my end-of-year paperwork while the kids were enjoying a play date at a neighbor’s house. Another nice neighbor even cooked for the boys and me so I could get extra schoolwork finished.

There are a few things that I learned from this three-week TDY:

  1. Lawn work is not for me.
  2. I should probably learn more about the sprinkler system, and other things around the house so I know what to do when things break.
  3. I could not have gotten through this without the help of neighbors and family.

It’s so important to have a network of trusted friends and family to come to the rescue when things go wrong. Usually military spouses don’t have family in town so they are reliant on the neighbors around them. Get to know the people down the street. I have found that the best way to do this is to play with your kids out in the front yard. You will naturally run into the people living around you. It is an extra bonus when they have kids that your children can play with. Set up play dates and trade babysitting one another’s children. Be friendly and help out whenever you can. Your neighbors will return the favor if you need help.

Facebook can be an amazing tool when it comes to setting up a network of trusted neighbors. The women on my street have started a Facebook group for all of the wives in the neighborhood. It’s a great way to share information and make plans to get together. The extended “family” that I have down the street keeps me sane during those crazy TDYs.

PHOTO: (From left to right) Carter, Brian, Jenna and Dylan Stone pose for a photo during Dylan’s birthday party in Cibolo, Texas,  in November 2013.  (Courtesy photo)

Dual-military families

By Georganne Hassell
Air Force spouse

Even before my husband and I met, people called us by the same name: lieutenant. When you wear a single bar on your shoulder, there’s not much else to call you by anyway. My then-fellow lieutenant and now husband, Jonathan, was a pilot in the 1st Fighter Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., when we met. I was a public affairs officer for the same wing, and each of us was living the dream we had worked toward for years. While Jonathan worked on his tactics as a new pilot, I tried to shed a shade of green working with reporters covering the military beat. In between his upgrade rides and my airshow travel, we had the opportunity to take a temporary duty assignment, or TDY, together to South Korea. Apparently, flying for 13 hours in coach class without annoying each other gave us enough confidence to think about a future together. Less than two weeks later we had no doubt — we would someday be called husband and wife.

The day after Jonathan and I decided we wanted to get married, I received an assignment to move from Virginia to California within four months. Sometimes orders come at the least convenient times, but we both knew that living in the same place was more of a luxury than a guarantee. We were unsuccessful in trying to turn off the assignment, and so a few months after our engagement I settled into life with a new duty Air Force Specialty Code at a recruiting squadron, while Jonathan continued flying at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. Just three weeks after I arrived at my new base, I received another set of orders — this time with Afghanistan as my new destination. These orders caught me even more off guard than my recent permanent change of station for two reasons: recruiting squadrons didn’t traditionally deploy Airmen, and I would be working again as a public affairs officer, which was the career field I was just moved out of so I could work in recruiting. As confused as I was about this recent turn of events, it left Jonathan with a clear mindset. He would volunteer to deploy to Afghanistan.

We didn’t take this decision lightly. My deployment was inevitable, and in truth I was glad to be back working as a PAO and even excited to deploy, but Jonathan would be stepping out of his hard-earned seat in a dual-engine fighter and into a dual-prop aircraft, which is not normally the path of choice for his career field.

Before we took off on our own separate paths to the desert, we got married. We chose to say our vows in the place that brought us together, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis’ base chapel. We welcomed family and friends to Virginia for our wedding ceremony, but asked just one request of them: not to talk about our upcoming deployments. You could read the unease in many of their eyes about a young couple getting married and then going to war, but we didn’t need to discuss it then. We wanted one day of being present and at peace.

I flew back to my recruiting squadron after the wedding and saw Jonathan three more times before I left for my deployment to Zabul province, Afghanistan. He deployed just a few weeks after me to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and our fourth meeting as husband and wife came not long after. Work brought me to his base a few times during our deployment, but even those visits were overshadowed by military protocol and mortar attacks. My deployment only lasted a few months, and though I traveled through Kandahar on my way out, Jonathan was only about halfway through his tour. War brings many burdens. Leaving my husband behind to complete his duty was just one of them.

Thankfully, Jonathan’s deployment ended safely. He returned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis and to his role as a fighter pilot while I continued working in the recruiting squadron. The difficult decision for me to leave the Air Force was made soon after my husband’s redeployment. We knew that the best choice for our family was to only have one of us on active duty, and since he had several more years to go on his service commitment, I would have to be the one to drop papers. My time as a military officer ended later that year, and though my service was brief, it gave me a strong sense of purpose and the honor of working with some truly fantastic people.

The transition to civilian life was not an easy one, especially because of the near-pulseless job market. I looked forward to continuing in the field of public relations and putting my communications skills to work, but opportunities were scarce. Freelancing as a writer and editor offered a good transition, but I did miss many aspects of the service: camaraderie, structure and a fast-paced workplace, to name a few. Luckily, I found a new mission with my current work in academe, but I don’t believe there’s anything that can compare with wearing the uniform every day. I’ve come to accept that my career path will continue to look very different from what I imagined when I first said the oath of office as a new college graduate.

Though life as a spouse challenged me greatly in terms of my career and will continue to do so in the future, I have been overwhelmingly blessed with support of my husband, his squadron and our military community. I have found my fellow spouses to be gracious and caring; I am honored to know them and proud to call them friends. Jonathan and I both knew the day would come when one of us would have to leave the service, and even though it came sooner than I hoped, I look forward to being a part of the Air Force community for years to come.

My mother: the perfect military wife

By Jenna Stone

Editor’s note: In honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day today and Mother’s Day on Sunday, we’re sharing a post from a friend of an Air Force Social Media Team member. The writer is the wife of an Air Force Reserve Airman at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

My dad proposed to my mom outside of the barracks on Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, following his graduation from Basic Military Training. It was a simple proposal, but to my mom it was a fairytale. Eight months later, Mark and Rose Mary were married in a small Catholic ceremony. My dad, in his stark and stunning dress blues, swept my mom off her feet. Her life would now be vastly different. She was now an Air Force wife.

Families eagerly await the return of their Airmen.

My mother knew nothing about the military lifestyle when she married my dad. She had lived most of her life up until then in the same house. Her family was well-known in their small, rural community. All of her friends and family were just minutes away, but after her first move to Big Spring, Texas, it seemed like they were lifetimes away.

Having your first baby is a huge life moment. Many people would not be able to imagine what it would be like to give birth to your first born while your husband is out of town. For many military wives, this is reality. My dad didn’t meet his first child until he was 1-month-old. Luckily, he was present for the birth of his second son, but only because he was on leave for two weeks from his one-year remote tour in Alaska. When my brother was only one-week-old, my dad had to say goodbye to his wife and two young sons once again. He would return after six more months in the frigid cold of Fairbanks, Alaska. During these times when my dad was away, my parents did their best to communicate. They wrote letters and sent a few pictures. They were even able to talk on the phone but not often and not for too long. It was the late 1970s, and long-distance phone calls were expensive.

Like most military wives, my mom is an excellent packer. Every few years she packed up her little family and everything they owned, and she followed my dad wherever he was sent. She didn’t like some of the places they lived. New Hampshire was too cold, and Big Spring was too far west. But the most difficult move was to England. I was born just a few months before the big overseas move. Living in a completely different country with two toddlers and a brand new baby can be overwhelming. My mother has said that the worst part was that she couldn’t see her family back in the states for three long years. Flying a family of five over the Atlantic Ocean was very expensive, so we stayed in England for the duration of the assignment. My parents wrote letters and sent home videos so my grandparents could watch us grow.

Even through constant moving and being away from her spouse was difficult, my mother embraced the military lifestyle. Our family lived on base everywhere we were stationed. My mom worked really hard to make our little duplex a loving home. She registered us for all kinds of activities on base. We went to the bowling alley every Saturday morning and the commissary every other week. We did summer camp at the youth center every year. My brothers and I had our own pool passes, and we were even allowed to ride our bikes to the pool after we got our IDs. Growing up on base was perfect.

Now that I am a military wife, I have so much more respect for my mom. She endured months of raising three young kids without her husband. She spent years away from her family without Skype or Face Time to communicate. She lived in all kinds of different places and had to leave old friends and learn to make new ones. And I never once heard her complain about it.

There is a special place in Heaven for military spouses. These people must move away from friends and family every few years, and sometimes adapt to new cultures. If they work outside of the home, they are forced to find a new job every three years. Many holidays and birthdays are spent alone while waiting for their spouse to return from TDY or deployment. Sometimes they can’t even watch the news out of fear of hearing about the troops in danger. Military spouses are strong, adaptable and above all, devoted to their family.

PHOTO: Families line the runway to welcome home members of the 389th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit. The unit returned to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Sept. 21, 2011, after a deployment to Afghanistan.

Transitional needs of military spouses and families April 16 tweetchat

By Air Force Public Affairs Agency

If you missed our April 16 tweetchat regarding transitional needs of military spouses and families with Mrs. Betty Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force spouse and Mrs. Athena Cody, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force spouse, you can catch up on the questions and answers below!

Q1: As a relocating spouse, what transition assistance services are available to help me find employment at our new location? #BettyWelsh
A1a: There is the Virtual Curriculum in Transition GPS classes you take w/your spouse http://tinyurl.com/kx8d478 #BettyWelsh
A1b: Take advantage of @MSEPjobs (Military Spouse Employment Partnership) http://tinyurl.com/ln65fmw up to 6 months after your spouse separation date. #BettyWelsh
A1c: Check out your new state on American Job Centers for vets/family employment assistance http://jobcenter.usa.gov/ #BettyWelsh

Q2: How is the Air Force going to help transition Airmen out of the Air Force? #BettyWelsh
A2a: A&FRC (Airman & Family Readiness Center) offer the congressionally mandated Transition Assistance Program (TAP) or Transition Goals Plans Success(GPS) #BettyWelsh
A2b: New TAP is better than ever! 4 core blocks & 3 in depth tracks prep you for education, training or entrepreneurship #BettyWelsh

Q3: My spouse has prep’d for this transition & has landed an excellent job. Does he/she have to take all this TAP stuff? #BettyWelsh
A3: Pre-sep counseling, capstone & VA brief are required, but proof of employment can exempt them from TAP/GPS #BettyWelsh

Q4: I’m a stay-at-home-mom so I can’t make it to the TAP workshop, is there a way I can participate in the TAP/GPS workshop? #BettyWelsh
A4: Yes, all TAP workshops have a virtual option. Your spouse can set up access for you or visit your local A&FRC #BettyWelsh

Q5: Do Airmen and their families receive any benefits beyond their separation dates? #BettyWelsh
A5a: TERA (temporary early retirement authority) & SERB (selective early retirement boards) members receive all retirement benefits. #BettyWelsh
A5b: Involuntary separation benefits include 180 days medical, two years BX (Base Exchange)/Commissary, PTDY (permissive temporary duty), NAF (Numbered Air Force) hiring pref & more. #BettyWelsh

Q6: Is everyone separating eligible for 20 days CONUS & 30 days OCONUS permissive TDY for house hunting & job hunting? #BettyWelsh
A6:  Members who retire or are under VSP (voluntary separation program), involuntary separation or separate in lieu of meeting a retention board are eligible for PTDY #BettyWelsh

Q7: Will individuals selected for involuntary separation or retirement have to repay Transfer of Education Benefits (TEB) to family? #BettyWelsh
A7: No repayment needed for most members selected to involuntary separation/retire under the Fiscal Year 2014 FM (force management) –visit http://tinyurl.com/l4wzok5 #BettyWelsh

Q8: My spouse may apply for VSP–is there 180-day Tricare coverage & two-year of commissary privileges as part of the VSP benefits? #BettyWelsh
A8: No, the extended benefits are only for involuntary separation. They are not authorized for those who voluntarily separate. #BettyWelsh

Q9: Can key spouses receive information on the links mentioned & share at their squadrons? #BettyWelsh
A9: Key spouses should visit A&FRC to gather info on these sources and share with squadrons.

Q10: Will civilians resources or liaisons be available for separating EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program) families? #BettyWelsh
A10: It’s important for spouses to attend TAP briefing along with mil member to get that tailored info.

Q11: Who is helping spouses with licensure transfers after relocation? #BettyWelsh
A11: @MSEPjobs and @JoiningForces are partnering on license portability.

The next Air Force tweetchat will feature security forces with both an officer and an enlisted Airmen joining us as guests on April 24. Stay tuned!

Tweet chat: Mrs. Betty Welsh, Nov. 15, 2012

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Recently, Betty Welsh, the Air Force Chief of Staff’s wife, sat down to answer a few questions for an Air Force spouse tweet chat, focusing on the Air Force family.

Question: What’s it like to be the CSAF’s wife?

Answer: Awesome, surreal, stressful, exciting, overwhelming and spectacular.

Question: What do you plan to do to make tomorrow’s Air Force better than today’s?

Answer: Making sure we take care of our Airmen and families and educating them on available programs. I plan to communicate with Airmen and families and develop programs that cater to resiliency and retainment.

Question: I’m in the psychology field dedicated to soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Have you had to deal with any of that on your end?

Answer: We’ve come a long way in recognizing those suffering from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. The Air Force is working hard on programs to help our wounded warriors deal with these challenging issues.

Question: Mrs. Amos recently came out with a suggested reading list for military families. Is there one for USAF families in the works?

Answer: Yes! The list will be available the first week in December, and many of the items on Mrs. Amos’ list will be applicable to Air Force families.

Question: What are some resources for Air Force spouses with careers?

Answer: White House Joining Forces Initiative and the Military Spouses Employment Program are two resources I would encourage spouses to utilize. The MSEP encourages companies to hire military spouses and is available to all military spouses in all services. For more information, visit MSEP.

Question: Is Tactical Air Control Party a challenging job to get into?

Answer: Yes, TACP is very challenging, both physically and mentally. For more information, contact your local recruiter or visit the Air Force Recruiting Facebook page here.

Question: If somebody told you they were considering the Air Force, what would you recommend to them?

Answer: If somebody told me they were considering joining the Air Force, I would tell them they won’t find a better service to be a part of.

Question: What is the biggest challenge facing Air Force spouses today?

Answer: The biggest challenge I see is managing families and careers with the increased operations tempo of today’s military to include deployments.

Question: With the recent changes to basic military training, will there be more focus on strengthening military training instructor families? More kid friendly marriage retreats?

Answer: There are many recommendations that are coming out of the BMT review, and we are looking at all of them and how to best implement. Our goal is to make a healthy environment for all.

Question: Being a military family, how has social media helped you stay connected with friends and family?

Answer: It’s a great tool and makes it much easier to stay connected with family and friends. With our busy lifestyles, it is very easy to stay connected with many people by simply jumping online.

Question: A lot of off-base fitness centers have free or low cost childcare. Do you think something similar could be implemented on base?

Answer: Yes, it’s something we are very seriously looking at. Where there is space, we have established mother/child fitness rooms; however, because we are not able to build new facilities, we are trying to do the best we can with our current facilities.