Two children holding hands on the beach

Choosing Your Next Duty Station

Over the last few months, my husband and I have been in the process of deciding where we would like to go for our next duty station. We were torn on our top three choices. We liked the idea of staying at Fort Bragg where we were comfortable and established, and most importantly, close to all our family that was just a bit north of us. We also loved the idea of moving down to Eglin Air Force base in Florida, another option for us.  We are a beach-loving family and thought it could be a fun place for us to land in this stage of life. We also didn’t mind the idea of moving to Kentucky, to Fort Campbell. It would be fun to be so close to Nashville, and we’d heard great things about all the fun things to do outdoors.

Over the last several months, we had many conversations and discussed the positives and negatives of each place. We knew wherever we ended up, there would be both good and bad. Unless of course, we ended up at Fort Lewis. We really didn’t want to go there for a few big reasons, so we put it at the very bottom of our list and didn’t give it another thought. Until recently.

I will share the rest of our story soon, but in the meantime, here is a list we came up with of our handy-dandy steps to choosing your next duty station:

  1. Consider the location: Consider proximity to family. Are they an easy drive away, or will you need to fly? Is the post near good restaurants and shopping centers that will suit your preferences? Research the areas to see if your family would fit in. Are you looking for an adventure with lots of outdoor activities at your fingertips? Choose Ft. Carson or JBLM. A central area with a nice city around and loads of things to do? Choose Ft. Hood or Ft. Campbell. A more rural southern charm vibe? Ft. Bragg or Ft. Stewart are the places for you. A foreign adventure? Choose Germany, Italy, Japan, Hawaii or Alaska. Truly, the options are endless. Choose wisely!
  2. Look at communities in the area: Are there good churches and schools around the post? Are there communities and groups you can become a part of, like stroller workout groups or other organizations that meet up to form networks of fellowship and support? Are there good parks and playgrounds? How is the on-post community? Be sure to pick a place where you can find your niche.
  3. Decide if the climate is right: Do you thrive in sunshine and heat, enjoying sweaty afternoons in the backyard with popsicles and watermelon? Or do you prefer bundling up yourself and all your littles every time you leave the house? Do you prefer a sunny happy vibe or rather, a moody, cozy climate where you can live your best baggy sweater life for months at a time? Do you like to hang by the beach, the pool, the mountains, go hiking, go camping, go fishing? Find a place where the climate and the topography will suit your family’s lifestyle just so.
  4. Locate nearby airports: Research nearby travel hubs such as airports. Are they accessible, cheap to fly in and out of? If you are far from family, take into consideration the ease and cost at which you will be able to fly to each other.
  5. Weigh your options heavily with your spouse and submit your preferences with hope and confidence: Talk about your next duty station endlessly. Make massive pros and cons lists.  Think about every possible detail and question each other about everything. Decide if it is more important to live close to support systems or to go somewhere more fun and adventurous where there are many activities to make your day-to-day living exciting. Figure out your highest priorities and rank your preferences accordingly.
  6. Disregard steps 1-5 and grow wherever you are planted: Expect the unexpected. You may be one of the lucky ones who get to go where you request. It’s also important to plan on ending up somewhere you didn’t try to go. In fact, you may even get stationed somewhere that was ranked so low it wasn’t even on your list, the place you said “Would be my worst nightmare.”  Trust me, folks, you don’t think it can happen. Until it does. And if or when it does, let yourself feel the weight of your disappointment, but only for a short while. Then, decide how you plan to blossom there against all the odds.

Now, for the rest of our story:

A few weeks ago, my husband brought home the news that he was in fact assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington.

It felt like someone kicked me in my stomach. It was the exact opposite place we hoped to go. As far away as possible (within the country) from all our family on the East Coast. A cold and rainy climate so different from the constant heat and sunshine in the south we have always known and loved.

For me, this was truly a grieving process for a few days. Grieving the lost time our three young children would have with their grandparents who they’ve gotten so used to seeing frequently. Grieving the lifestyle that we live and love in the south, for all we’ve ever known as a family are Texas and North Carolina… the sunshine, the sticky heat, the pool, the beaches, the slower pace of life. I even grieved at the idea of not being able to have our fourth baby for the next few years, if at all. I’m not sure we can handle that right now, living across the country from our entire support system.

The news really did hit me hard. However, over the last several weeks, I have made peace with it. In fact, I have begun to get excited about this next stage of life. I have researched and adapted my expectations, and my husband and I have decided that our best approach, rather than wallowing in bitterness, is to embrace this adventure that was handed to us. It is one we never would have chosen for ourselves, but we know it is an adventure we are meant to be on and one we hope to look back fondly on someday.

Written By Sydney Smith
Army Spouse

Sydney has been an Army wife for four years and has two children. She often writes on the raw experiences military spouses face during challenging times, striving to be a voice of encouragement and validation among the military spouse community.

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