Children in a park under a tree

How to Prepare for Your Next Duty Station

There can be a lot of challenging things about being a military spouse. One of those things is trying to remain focused on enjoying the present when all you want to do is focus on the future adventure that’s been revealed to you.

We recently learned that we are headed across the country to JBLM a year from now. I am currently in that weird limbo of being here and there at the same time. I didn’t really dig my heels in here at Fort Bragg at first; I’d known this place was just a stepping stone from the beginning. We knew we’d be here for about two years. It took me a little while to realize that two years would be a long time to just be skimming along with life.

During our time here, I have found some ways to both stay in the present but also prepare ourselves well for the next place ahead. Here are my tips:

  1. Don’t be afraid to make friends. Even if you know you’re leaving soon, try to make some friends. Not the kind of friends who you just have fun with (although this is a plus), but the kind of friends you can count on. Seek out friendships with people who are genuine, compassionate and reliable. Be a friend to them, and they’ll be a friend back. You just never know when you’ll need those friends. I am a big believer that sometimes people are meant to stay in our lives forever, and some are only meant to stay for a season. A lot of military friends will fade over time, and some won’t. If you don’t give anyone a chance, you’ll never make friends wherever you go. If you have a good friend or two, I can almost promise you’ll be able to enjoy wherever you’re planted. Friends help you both enjoy and live presently in the moment.
  2. Make researching your new hobby. In your downtime, begin researching the next place you will live. I like to keep an album on my phone and take screenshots of information I find, comments I read or pictures I see. I store it all on this album so I can go back and reference those things when I live there. With the internet, it’s amazing how much you can learn about a place before you live there. I like to research things like good doctors, dentists, schools, churches and parks. I love to find all the places I want to explore, make bucket lists, and know what options I’ll have for grocery stores and other shopping. I try not to let any of my research overwhelm me, but rather, give me little things to look forward to.
  3. Plan a week-long trip to your new home and get acquainted. If you have the time and the money, make it a priority to visit the area you will move to, long before you move there. Get a feel for the surrounding towns outside the base and the neighborhoods, and drive around the post to get acquainted with the living situation there as well. Decide what feels right for you, and then once you go back home, you’ve narrowed your focus and you’re confident in your priorities. If you’re not able to go for a full week, just go for as long as you can.
  4. Find your favorite places and go to them frequently, but don’t stop exploring! After being here in North Carolina for the last year, we’ve found our favorite spots for eating, family fun and outdoor activities. We try to visit them as much as we can so we can make the best of our time here. However, you can sometimes get into a rut going to the same places again and again. Don’t stop exploring, even if you’ve only got a few months left. Keep trying to make the best of where you’re planted.

My best advice is to continue living your life wherever you are in that moment, but don’t be afraid to start preparing for the future. These are my best tips for preparing well for your next duty station. In the military, you know you won’t stay anywhere forever, and it can be easy to find yourself mentally leaving a place before you physically do. You may be in some places for a shorter time than others, but if you never fully let yourself dive into a place, you’ll get to the end of your military life feeling like you never really lived it.

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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