It’s normal to learn new things when you move into a new environment. Things like the fastest way to work, which areas to avoid because they’re just that sketchy or the gas stations that generally have the cheapest prices for gas. But when you move into a new environment that just so happens to be a military installation, I feel like you learn a lot of new things that you wouldn’t normally need to know.
In the seven days I’ve been on Fort Bragg, I’ve learned far more than seven things, but for the sake of your eyes and my fingers, I’ve narrowed it down to the top ones.
1) Hurry Up & Wait Applies To Everyone, Not Just Service Members.
When it comes to marrying into the military, it’s important to get things done quickly. The sooner you get a marriage certificate, the sooner you and your husband start collecting Basic Allowance for Housing (also known as BAH). The sooner you get enrolled in Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (or DEERS) the sooner you are eligible for Tricare and can get your military ID which is essential for getting on post and making purchases at the Commissary or PX (or BX). But despite the rush to get all these things taken care of, you are still at the mercy and the speed of the federal government and if you’ve ever had to deal with them you know they take their sweet time. Be prepared to wait for some things that seem like they should come pretty quickly.
2) Making Friends Is Essential.
Unless your spouse has been married while enlisted (or commissioned) previously, chances are they don’t have the answers to a lot of the questions you’ll have. They know things from a totally different aspect than you do. This is where making friends with other military wives/husbands comes in handy. They are more than willing to answer your questions to the best of their ability and if they don’t know the answer they can tell you where to find it. They get that this is something totally new for you, they were once in your shoes after all, and are generally pretty willing to lend a helping hand wherever they can.
3) Military Police (Security Forces) Aren’t Any More Or Less Unnerving As Civilian Police.
This may not come as a surprise to some of you, but MP’s (or SF) really aren’t much different than civilian police. They’re almost like county cops (if you have those where you live). Essentially, they have a jurisdiction that doesn’t go outside of a certain area. For MP’s that certain area is whatever post they’re assigned to. Now there are times where they can do things off post, but for the most part you won’t ever be in those situations (hopefully at least). But when you see one in your rear view mirror while you’re driving to the Commissary, or pass one on a two lane road, you’ll still check your speedometer to make sure you’re not speeding and your hands will slide to 10 and 2. No one likes getting pulled over. Period.
4) Calling Your Spouse’s Friends By Their Last Names Is Normal.
In the military, people don’t have first names. First names are reserved for spouses and children. Your husband or wife’s best friend will be solely known by their last name. You make never know their actual first name, but you’ll never question it. The weird part is you calling your spouse by their first name but their buddies calling them by their last name. It took me a little bit to get used to hearing someone, especially his friend’s spouses, refer to him as “Watkins” instead of “Daniel”.
5) There Are No Stupid Questions, Only Stupid Answers.
This is something I’ve said for years, but it was something I often reminded myself the first few days I was on post. If I didn’t know something but Daniel wasn’t around to ask nor could I present the question to any of the other military spouses, I would just ask. At first I felt stupid and often made the excuse that I was new to this whole thing, but then I realized it didn’t matter if I’d been in the game for years. If I didn’t know, I didn’t know and the only way to learn something was to question it. Don’t feel bad asking anyone for help. If they feel inconvenienced by you for asking, that’s on them.
6) Always Have Dollar Bills On Hand If You Shop At The Commissary.
I learned this day one. I had left a pretty bad snow storm in Kentucky when I moved to North Carolina and it followed me here. Whereas back home was getting inches of snow, it was predicted that Bragg would get one to two inches of ice. So because there was the chance we wouldn’t be able to leave the next day, my husband and I took a quick trip to the Commissary (which was supposed to be closed for President’s Day but had been opened because of the pending storm). The madhouse we dealt with is a story for another day, but it was in that trip that I learned those who work there as baggers volunteer their time and are paid solely in tips. Not only do they bag your groceries for you, but they push the little carts they load them onto out to your car and pack your trunk/backseat for you. It’s a great thing if you’ve got children to tend to but it’s a little pointless if it’s just you. However, tipping them makes sense. But if you’re like me and never carry cash, it can make for an awkward situation. You don’t have to let them take your groceries out of course. You do have the option of loading your own car so by no means do you need to feel obligated to have them do it for you, but keeping dollars on hand is still a good idea. Just in case.
7) Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff.
Another one that probably doesn’t need to be said, but it’s also another one that I’ve had to tell myself a number of times. Moving is stressful. And unless you’ve already lived on your own before getting married and moving in with your spouse, you’re likely going to be trying to furnish your house with the bigger essentials within the first few days to a week. I only had a few pieces of furniture that were mine before I moved, but not enough to make renting a moving van worth it and because Daniel had been in the barracks for three years, he had very little to his name as well. Housing comes with a fridge, range and dishwasher but those are the only appliances you get. It took us a week to get a washer and dryer (utilize the yard sale facebook groups for your post/base. They are a godsend) and I lucked out in finding a microwave for free. But not having much means you’ll be spending a lot in the beginning, but just remember that once you have those things, you won’t need to spend that money again. Don’t argue over it, just let it go. Life will calm down and things will get settled and it’s then that you can take a step back and enjoy the fact that you’re now married and living with the man or woman you love.
Like I said earlier, these are just the things I’ve learned that I feel are important. If you’ve gone through the trials of moving on post, what things did you notice in the first few weeks that you feel are important to keep in mind? I wanna know!