The day my husband swore into the Navy and left for boot camp was a day full of emotions for all of his friends and family. We felt a strange combination of fear, pride, sorrow, and happiness. Over the years spent in the military since that day, my husband and I have noticed that people who have their significant others join the military are so focused on the day they leave for boot camp, that they forget to plan for what comes after. Once the active-duty member actually leaves for boot camp the spouses are then left wondering: “They left…now what?”
Most spouses stay with their parents, or in their own home in their home state, during the boot camp months. They don’t really have a chance to immerse themselves in the military life culture until after graduation and they move to their spouse’s first duty station. There are still ways that a new military spouse can help prepare for what’s to come, though, while their significant other is in boot camp. Here are the ways that helped me prepare the most:
1. Learn Military Time
Your spouse will come from work and say something along the lines of “I have to be back at 0800 in the morning,” or “The FRG meeting for spouses is at 1800 tonight.” When you look up the times that the base pharmacy or commissary is open, the internet will tell you the times in military time format. Knowing ahead of time that 1800 means 6PM will save you a lot of hassle and stress as a new military spouse. The best way that I learned military time was to set my phone clock to portray military time. That way, for the 2 months that my husband was in boot camp, I was able to practice learning the time format and was a pro before we reached his first duty station.
2. Memorize the active-duty member’s social security number
As a new military spouse, I was shocked to learn just how much my husband’s social security number was used. I needed it for health insurance, dental insurance, eye care, and to log into military related accounts online. Carrying around his number in your wallet can be very dangerous in case your wallet gets stolen, so the best advice I can give is to memorize it.
3. Be Patient
“Hurry up and wait” is a real thing. I’m not a fan of being patient, but as a military life you’ll have to be. Don’t freak out if it takes weeks to get your first letter from your significant other while in boot camp. It took me 3 weeks to get the first letter from my husband, and it was very short. Keep sending yours from day one though! Sometimes they can receive mail even if theirs doesn’t get sent.
Be patient with yourself. You will have a lot to learn and it’s overwhelming at times. Be patient with yourself and remember that you can’t learn it all in a day.
4. Plan Your Trip to Boot Camp Graduation
Graduating boot camp is probably the biggest, and scariest, thing that your significant other has ever accomplished. They may play it up that it’s okay if you aren’t there when they graduate, but they want you there. They need you there. You need to be there. Take time off work, book your plane tickets, or check the tires on your car…and go. Tell them ahead of time so that they can reserve you a ticket, or put your name on the list, depending on how the specific branch of military does things. If they offer professional pictures of your active-duty member in uniform at an astronomical price…buy one! We didn’t buy one and have forever regretted it. Here’s a picture of us after his graduation. We were so young!
5. Research where you are moving to after graduation
If you’re one of the lucky ones that know where you are moving to after graduation, then be sure to do TONS of research on the area! Find Facebook groups for the base/post to join and let housing know you are coming if you can. One of my favorite parts of moving to a new duty station is Googling all of the fun activities to experience in the area.
Those 5 steps are simple ones, but they’ll make a world of difference in helping you transition from civilian to military life. Be sure to check out the Military Life section of the blog for more information on what being a military spouse is all about. Welcome to the military community, we’re glad to have you!