Not a mil family yet, but need advice — The Bump
Military Families

Not a mil family yet, but need advice

My DH is 31 and just graduated college.  He has had a tough time finding a job in his career field and we have discussed him joining the military...specifically the USAF.  His dad is an AF Academy grad and a retired pilot.  I did not grow up in a military family so this would all be new to me.  Just looking for advice on what to expect if this does become a reality. 

Background info on me.  We have a 18 month old DD.  I have a BS degree in Business but recently quit working to stay home with DD.  DH has a training and financial background and business degree.  I have lived in VA my whole life.

Thanks in advance.

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PCOS, Ectopic & M/C of twins October 2010, Currently TTC #2

Re: Not a mil family yet, but need advice

  • I don't know nearly as much about the AF as the Army, but I can tell you that experiences differ greatly depending on the job he wants/gets and the different bases.  Nobody can really tell you what to expect, except for very general things like he WILL be deployed at some point.  Also, while I don't know much about the recruitment side of things at this point in time, I've heard that it's getting more difficult to join, especially in the AF.  While it shouldn't disqualify him, his age may play against him, so be prepared for that. 

    As far as what you can expect as a military wife... it's hard.  Even the short deployments that most AF members do (not all, I'm not saying there aren't plenty that go for a year at a time) will be difficult on you.  You have to do everything, unless you plan on moving back with your family during those months, and for shorter deployments that's kind of pointless and just adds a bunch of extra moves into an already annoying moving schedule.  There is no sleeping in for an extra half hour while your H gets up to feed the kids breakfast, if you're sick you deal and you take care of your likely sick kids at the same time with no help, if you're lucky your base will have free hourly care hours and you'll get a measly 4 hours a week by yourself, you'll count down the days until a family member is planning to visit you just so you'll have someone else who can help get a meal ready or watch your kids long enough for you to run to the post office without a tagalong.  24/7 for a year (or even a few months) is a lot more than people realize.  There are no breaks.  Well there are if you're lucky enough to have great family and friends, but they are very few and far between. 

    Olivia will miss him, to which I know you're thinking, "well duh."  But by the time he joins, trains, gets to a unit, and actually deploys, she will be old enough to "know" what's going on.  If you're lucky she'll be "easy" like Riley, and just cry for Daddy a few times a week, and occasionally ask where he is and why he can't come home to hug her.  If she's on the other end of the spectrum like Nathan is... it will be hell.  He has frequent night terrors (up to several times a night, every single night for a few months), he acts out, he flat out says that he's mad at Daddy and doesn't want to talk to him, he cries for him in his sleep, he's clingy as hell with me because I'm the only constant parental figure for him right now, he randomly throws fits where he just screams over and over "want daddy!" and nothing calms him down... it sucks. 

    I normally don't post on the "what should I expect" threads, because I tend to be brutally honest about the suck side of it, and I don't want it to come across as YOU CAN'T HANDLE THIS, but I "know" you, and I know that you can handle this, and I just want you to really think about what this means for your family, and especially Olivia, before making any decisions. 

    Now, all that said, the military has been mostly great for us.  It hasn't been easy, especially because DH has been on a rough deployment schedule for the last 8+ years, but I will miss my military family when he gets out soon.  I have met some of my best friends through the Army, and they will always be a part of my life.  I am so PROUD of DH for doing this for as long as he has, and I'm proud of myself for handling it from the homefront side of things.  I honestly never knew just how strong I was until I had to hold it together over here by myself.  While I'm happy we'll be done with this effing crazy "now you're here, now you're gone" BS soon, I have loved so much of the last 9 years. 

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  • This is exactly what I wanted to hear Leslie, thank you!  It's a huge decision.  And yeah his age does factor in.  He can go to OTS up to the age of 35, but there are a lot of questions he needs to ask the recruiter.  I have a ton of questions for the recruiter too.  Thanks again for the real deal feedback :)
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    PCOS, Ectopic & M/C of twins October 2010, Currently TTC #2
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  • This is such a tough question.  Military lifestyles vary so much from person to person (let along branch of service to branch of service) that it is really hard to generalize and be giving good "advice".  I hate the thought of saying all of these wonderful things and then having not one pertain to your situation.  kwim?

    Our experience as a military family has been good!  My husband is in the Navy.  We have PCSed (moved) 3 times in 8 years of marriage (he graduated from the Naval Academy in '02 so he has been active duty for 9 years).  Mostly on the east coast.  My husband recently got his M.S. in Systems Engineering from Johns Hopkins completely paid for by the military.  We have made wonderful friends, gotten to experience travel that wouldn't have otherwise been possible, and generally have felt "taken care of" by the military.  I actually wrote a blog post a few days ago about my favorite thing in the military...  If you care, if you click my blog link in my siggie the post is called "Hearts Wide Open".

    There are some bad things too of course.  MY career has been the biggest bummer so far.  I have an M.Ed in school counseling.  While I have been able to find jobs at our duty stations without much issue, it is hard to leave after 2-3 school years.  I feel that by thte time I have figured everything out, learned the ropes, and feel like I have made my niche that we are up and moving again :(.  It has been a bummer.  Right now I am staying home because our current tour is only 2 years and our kids are super young.  But once they are school aged and I want to go back to work I know that the knowledge that we could have to pick up and move at any given time really stinks.

    Also, deployments...  How do you feel about going it alone for 6-15 months at a time?  My husband is deployed right now and there are definitely some hard days.  You have to be prepared to be independent... and independent WITHOUT built in friends or family right down the street.  I think that is the thing about the military, we do a lot of stuff alone, and we do it in brand new places.  Those two things can be very daunting to some personality types :).  I find that a can-do attitude and sense of humor go a really long way.  But there are many nights where after my kids are in bed and I have poured myself a glass of wine that I just wish I had my husband there to have adult conversation with and cuddle.

    Good luck with your decision.  I honestly think A LOT of your decision is going to be made by the military.  I have a few friends trying to get into the military right now (some with MBAs, law degrees, etc) that can't get a commission because of the economy.  Be open to other branches too.  The Navy has been good for us - and we have a large aviation contingent so if he was looking to work in that field there are plenty of opportunities.  Plus, almost all of our bases are coastal which means more people and infrastructure :).  I am a city girl so some of the AF bases would really put a cramp in my style.

    Married 6/28/03

    Kate ~ 7/3/09 *** Connor ~ 11/11/10

    4 miscarriages: 2007, 2009, 2013, 2014

    *~*~*~*~*

    No more TTC for us. We are done, and at peace, as a family of 4.

    "Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.” — Charles Dickens

     

  • DH is Navy, has been in for 12 years, and so far, so (for the most part) good.  Like you, I grew up very far removed from the military, and to date, DH is the only military member on either side of my family.  I can't really speak about the AF, because I don't have much experience with it, other than we lived for Charleston, SC for 5 years and there's a pretty big base there.  :)  I don't really think that counts, though.

    The worst part, as most people will tell you, is the deployments.  DH is gone right now and we are chugging along at a slow clip.  It's hard to be mommy AND daddy, and be on 24/7/365, but it's not impossible.  I have found an amazing support system in other military spouses, MOPS, the community, etc.  I have my degree in Applied Math/Statistics, but I stay home now with my children.  During our 1st move, I was able to transfer to our new location and maintain my current job.  Again, it's not impossible to stay with a company long-term, but it's not entirely easy either.  Our goal is to be settled in one place by the time DD and DS are in school, because it breaks my heart to hear kids say they're not really FROM anywhere, since their parents were in the military and they moved around so often.  I don't want that for my kids (not that there's anything wrong with it, though).

    I can't really tell you the best part, because for us, there have been so many positives.  We've made amazing friends, who feel like family since we're all so far from where we grew up.  I'll even say my husband is pretty fairly compensated (shall I zip up my flame retardant suit now, or later?).  We live a very comfortable lifestyle and when I made the decision to leave my full time job, the transition financially was a breeze.

    Overall, I think it's a decision that cannot be made in a day, or even a week or a few weeks.  It's a HUGE decision to make.  I guess I'm lucky in that DH was already in the military when we started dating, so I was pretty removed from that whole process.  I wish you and your DH the best of luck!!

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  • I absolutely adore the military lifestyle....But to continue on with the age and officer thing, our experience has been that even if he comes out a 1st Lt. or 2nd Lt., he will still have a lot of respect for his age....at least that is what we have seen with the USMC (which is pretty hardcore on following rank.)
    I am currently pregnant and will give birth while my husband is deployed. He is in the sandbox, at an Air Force-ran base, and he is in awe. He can't believe the great food, how laid back it is, and how everyone is so friendly...He has a step-brother in the AF and he constantly talks to us about how it's so family-oriented.
    I was worried about my son growing up without constantly seeing his grandparents and other family, but then I realized that I grew up that way, and I am perfectly fine. I wouldn't want to raise my child around any other community than a military one. Officers make great pay, your healthcare is taken care of, and childcare is cheap on base if you do go back to work. You get extra money each month for your housing allowance and food allowance, on top of your DH's basic pay, so that makes life that much easier as well.
    You get to attend events, like the USMC has the Marine Corps Ball every year where we get to dawn gowns and see our hubbies in their Blues all night. You get to take part in unit events, like picnics, and your children will always have other children around to play with.
    You do have to deal with the occassional deployment, depending on where your DH gets stationed and his unit, but rarely does the AF have to be on the frontlines like infantry...My DH is in the airwing of the USMC, so he is not out in the field over there, so it makes deployments that much easier.
    But overall with my lifestyle, I just feel extremely secure and comfortable, and I am absolutely terrified of the thought of having to integrate back into a civilian lifestyle, to be completey honest. I think that joining the military is the best thing my husband ever did.
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  • Of all military branches, I say the AF is the way to go for sure. I have many friends and families in other branches and they are not as family oriented as the AF is in my opinion.  I grew up in an AF family and now married to an Airman.  It's great! I'm used to the military lifestyle so I feel I am more comfortable with it than most.  It is odd to be a military wife and not a military child, but you're not alone.  If you decide to live on base (you will recieve BAH which is a housing allowance so you can choose to live on or off base) you are surrounded by women in the same exact position as you.  Alone with children to raise while their husbands are on deployment.  The upside to the AF is that their deployments are not too long, unless they get the fateful Korea deployment which is 1 year. With AF deployments they come back when they say they will come back.  Far too often I have heard of husbands being deployed in the Army for 4 months that turns into 5 that turns into 6.  Not very common in the AF.  Now it does depend on what your DH wants to do in the AF that will get him in quick or not.  Security forces, AMMO, Sensor Operators and a few other fields are in high demand, but people aren't so happy to join those fields because they don't offer much in return for experience or they are hard or boring.  Anything medical, good luck, that list is long.  They are doing a hold on Officers (anyone with a BA or higher) so that might work against him if he has one. He should look into something that offers a bonus for enlisting because those things can be done tax free if he decided to re-enlist overseas. The age factor... I wouldn't worry too much.  My husband is pretty young in his field and he is 24.  Most of our neighbors are 30+ and are the same rank as my husband.  If he is planning on doing 20+ years I would give it more consideration, but for only 6 years, not so much. 

    Now there is a downside to this of course.  Be prepared for when he does deploy.  It is hard!! Being alone with a child that misses her daddy is very difficult to deal with especially when you're missing him too.  The best thing to do is stay busy.  The military bases have a ton of children and wives to co-mingle with.  They have activites and support groups, get involved!  If you stay home twiddling your thumbs and go with the daily grind of raising your daughter, you will only suffer and feel depressed. Get a part time job or arrange play dates with the other wives, just don't stay in the house all day.  Sitting around waiting for him to return will feel like watching water boil... it seems it will never get there, so get involved, stay active :)  One of the best feelings in the world is seeing your hubby come home in that uniform and watching your child run up to him for a hug! It's amazing and so worth it! It's a hard choice to make, but if you're up for the challenge I say it's worth it 100%  Good luck!

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  • My DH just joined the AF in October. So I can give you the perspective of a 'newbie'.

    I have lots of cousins, aunts, uncles and two of my brothers that served in various branches (most were/are Army). So I never wanted to marry a military member because of experiences my family had. Fast-forward to college, I met DH we fell in love, yada yada yada.

    Early in our relationship he did let me know he wanted to join the military - it was a life-long dream for him. I tried to change his mind, but to no avail, it was his dream. So finally I got on board, and he started the process last spring.

    DH has a BS in Applied Health/Chemistry and an MS in Occupational Health. He was hoping to go to OTS and get a job in his field. The main problem is that he had a newbie recruiter that didn't advise him to meet with a specialized recruiter (DH is black, and they actively recruit minorities with technical degrees) I will also say that DH was so anxious to join that he didn't do his due diligence to research his options.

    So, we were told by his recruiter that the OTS approval board was not convening until next year. Since DH was 27, he should enlist now, because 28 is the cutoff age for enlisted. The recruiter told us that it would be easier for him to become an officer after he joined anyway. After DH signed his papers, he had to wait for the monthly 'job drop' to find out what his job would be. He decided to be an Operational Intel Analyst (based again on info from his recruiter)

    Now we know that the AF is actually downsizing. It is a more specialized branch than the others, so their need for personnel is much smaller. There's no guarantee when the board will meet or that DH will be selected when they do. Plus, he has to wait until October (1 year after enlisting) to even submit his paperwork, so now we're just waiting. Also, we now know that he could go reserves at any time (no age limitation). He isn't thrilled with his job choice - he feels like he's not utilizing his education at all. The good thing is that he has a top secret security clearance. If he were to separate from the military when his contract is up, that will help him get a job. And the re-enlistment bonus is 90,000 right now for intel. So his job choice is a mixed bag.

    I will agree with PP about the age difference. DH is often frustrated about being around a lot of kids out of high school and those in their early 20s. Plus, the majority of them are single without families - totally different places in life. If he was an officer it wouldn't bother him as much, because he'd have a leadership position, but that's not the case.

    Looking back, there are a few different avenues he wished he had looked into: ROTC during college, meaning he would have been commissioned right after graduation OR joining the reserves and pursuing a full-time career in his field. He also has mentioned he would have looked into the Army or Navy because it would have been easier for him to get a job that would use his degrees, as well as become an officer.

    With that, my advice is for him to talk to lots of people in the branch that he's interested in, talk to multiple recruiters, research online - anyway possible for him to find all his options so you two can weigh the pros and cons of each.

    As far as military life, DH just graduated tech school, so now we're in the midst of moving to our first duty station (Langley AFB). of course I haven't lived through a deployment yet so I can't speak to that. But what I know so far of the Air Force is mostly good, so I can't complain.

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  • Like everyone else has said the military life varies greatly. My husband has been AF for the last 9 years. It has been both the best thing and worst thing for us. On the plus side we have traveled the world, we have had steady income, I finished both my BS and MS degrees, had health coverage, and met some of the best people you will ever know. The hard part for the first 5 years was the hours. On a good week he would leave for work at 3:30am and be home by 5:30  6 days a week, but I was a lucky one because was actually home and not deployed. For me I want the stability of building up my career again where I stay in the same place long enough to advance in a company without having to move again. All that being said my husband is getting out of active duty in 11 months to become a civilian again, but I would do it all over again if I had the chance. :) My advice is go into a recruiter with eyes wide open. There are no job that never deploy or never work holiday's or down days. Know that you don't get to pick your base you go where the military needs you. Do your own research. Best of luck with your choice :)
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