As the wife of a reservist JAG, for a while I was confused about what exactly my husband did and by military life in general. There is so much to keep up with – acronyms (seems like there is one for everything), ranks, uniforms, when to wear a cover, when to salute. Add to that the fact that my husband is a lawyer, so I had no idea what he was doing for a living at each posting. After the initial newness of Army life settled down, I decided it would be a good idea to try to learn as much as I could about military life and structure. Based on what I’ve learned so far, I’ll share tips for learning about your service member’s career and why it’s important to understand their day to day.
The most important thing to understand is that if your spouse is in the military, so are you. You may not have served, or ever will in an official way, but supporting your military spouse is service. The way I came to see it, I owed it to myself and to our partnership to learn about this. Viewing your partnership in this way can enrich your military experience and help you experience a different connection to your spouse. Here are some simple ways you can begin.
The first thing to understand is the ranking system. Understanding the hierarchy, what the designations on the uniforms stand for, how promotions work, and what responsibilities go with each is the first step to understanding the bigger picture of military life. Knowing where your spouse wants to go in their career and what needs to happen for them to get there can help you both plan on how to do it together.
Second, learn and study the acronyms. There is an acronym for everything, and it is likely that your spouse will use them when talking with you about their day. If you have no idea what they are talking about, how are you going to have a conversation? Ask what the acronyms stand for and what they mean, and don’t be afraid to ask more than once if you find yourself getting mixed up. I had to do this over and over until I started to remember them. This can also be helpful in social situations where acronyms will be used, as you will be able to follow the conversation and not feel left out.
Third, at each posting, find out exactly what your spouse will be doing in their day to day. Depending on what that is, you might need them to explain it in layman’s terms. I’m not a lawyer, so there are a lot of things my husband does daily that I don’t understand. But I have the overall gist, which helps me understand enough to talk to him about it. Learning what your spouse does will help you learn how to best help them when things are tough at work. It will allow you to give some advice, be compassionate or just be a sounding board for them.
Actively participating in your military life and working to understand what your spouse does shows them that you are supportive of their choice to serve. Hopefully, your military spouse is also taking the time to understand what it is you do and what happens in your day-to-day life. To support each other, it is essential to understand each other, and it goes both ways.