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.

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.

Tanecia’s business card

The MilSpouse Entrepreneur

What comes to mind when you hear the words, military spouse entrepreneur? I think of a military spouse who believed in themselves and their passion enough to build a business around it. Someone who was tired of explaining employment gaps reflected on their resume to future employers. I asked a couple of my friends who are also thinking of taking a leap of faith what they thought. One friend thinks of someone who is motivated, confident, flexible, persistent and resilient. I said, “Wow, she’s right!” At some point in this lifestyle, we all live up to those words.

Betting on yourself and starting a business is scary but we do scary things every day. What is one more, right? Once we set our minds on something we see it through. Once we make it through to the other side of that fear, there is nothing stopping us. Honestly, there is no better time than while your spouse is on active duty to pursue your passions. Take this opportunity and find what will sustain you, fill your cup, and allow the flexibility in your schedule to be what you want to be and who your family needs you to be.

The reality of entrepreneurship as a military spouse is that we essentially must start over every couple of years due to a PCS. Depending on the type of business, moving can mean starting from scratch over and over and over again. That is where the resilient and persistent characteristics come into play. We are lucky because the military has a multitude of resources available to aid us in finding success. I hope the following information inspires you to bet on yourself and provides you with a good foundation to take that leap of faith and go for it.

Step 1: Find your passion.

What does that mean to you? What questions do you need to ask to get the right answers? What do you do with those answers? Only you can supply those questions and answers. Luckily for us, the first two questions are universal.

  1. “If I had to wake up and do one thing every day for the rest of my life, what would that be?”
  2. “What could I do that brings me joy and makes me money?”

Discover those answers and go from there. If by chance you are like, “Nope, no idea,” that’s okay. Let’s say you are good at organizing and finding a place for everything. If that is you, and you are reading this, I will hire you! I have a home full of things that don’t have a place — help me! Maybe starting a professional organizing business is for you. That skill can travel with you everywhere your spouse’s career takes you. Maybe you like to bake, make handmade items, teach others how to do things, or even write.

Step 2: Utilize all the military spouse entrepreneur resources.

  • Military OneSource: Education and employment resources for spouses.
  • MySECO: Has an entire landing page for us! It has everything you need and will provide you with a wonderful foundation.
  • MyCAA: Provides financial assistance with obtaining training or certain credentials or certifications.

Step 3: Get out there and do it!

One year from today, you will be glad you took this leap of faith and bet on yourself. One year ago, I told my husband I wanted to start a blog to rediscover my passion for writing and help other MilSpouses at the same time. Look at me now. Not only do I have a personal blog business, but I am writing for a blog dedicated to military spouses. Like wow, all because I took a leap of faith and bet on myself. I am not saying it’s not hard and there won’t be days where you ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Even when things are down, you can never go wrong betting on yourself.

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