On Post VS. Off Post

After my husband and I got engaged, the discussion shifted from when we were going to get married to where we were going to live after we got married. Thanks to his commitment to the US Army, he couldn’t move to Kentucky (unless he were to somehow get stationed at Fort Campbell but because of the “82nd black hole” that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon) which only left the option of me moving down there. I didn’t mind of course, I had intended to live down here before we met anyway, so then it became a discussion of on post or off post.

This is a question I’ve had a lot of people who are moving to Bragg ask as well and I wish I had a better answer for them. Really what it all comes down to is preference. There are pros and cons of each and the only way to determine which is for you (without trying them both out) is to take a look at what both have to offer and see what works best for you and your family. In this blog, I’m going to go over the good and the bad and hopefully answer any questions someone might have. I’ll try and keep my points general so that they can be applied to any duty station.

Living On Post
When you live on post, housing works almost exactly like an apartment complex. Generally, the places you can live are broken up into neighborhoods. In those neighborhoods there might be single family homes and there might be duplexes. There might also be more apartment style housing. There is one housing building that acts like a main office for the neighborhood. All complains and questions can be directed there. Generally, there’s clubhouse like area there with a pool, game room and gym that’s accessible by residents of the neighborhood only.

The benefits to living on post: all your rent and basic utilities are paid for. Well, that’s putting it simply. The enlisted service member in the family gets Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and when you live on post, all of that goes towards rent and utilities (not including cable). It goes into his/her paycheck and comes right back out automatically. You never see the money, but you live for free. For the most part. If your electric bill exceeds a certain amount (usually determined by taking an average of how much electric the entire street is using) you have to pay whatever is over that amount. But adversely, if you are under that amount you get money credited back to you. Since living here we’ve gotten one heating bill (not sure where the others went) and we were $15 dollars under the average, so we got that money back.

Another bonus to living on post is that you’re generally in pretty close proximity to a Commissary or PX. Now, there’s nothing stating you have to shop at this places if you’re in the military (and living on or off post), but they do have their perks. Either way, being close to anywhere you buy groceries is nice, whether it’s a Commissary or not. Not only are the Commissary and PX usually pretty close, but just about anything else you’d visit on post is as well. My neighborhood is within five miles of the Comissary and PX, the library and a gym. We’re super close to my husband’s company and my recruiter’s office.

Being so close to my husband’s work is why he likes living on post, but he’s used to being in the barracks where he could literally walk to work every day. A lot of guys I know don’t like being so close to work and that’s why they prefer living off post. Probably one of the biggest draws to living off post is having the very definite distinction between “home” and “work”.

Living Off Post
Now, when you live off post you can live anywhere you want so long as your service member doesn’t mind whatever drive they have in the morning back on post for work. I know people who literally live right outside the gates and I know people who live 30 or more minutes away. Off post living gives you more options as to where you can live. You can do an apartment, a duplex, a house or even just rent a room inside a larger house. This last option is ideal for those service members who are single and have the option of not living in the barracks. I know guys who go in a rent a house together just like friends would do in college.

The way your BAH works when you live off post is that the allotted amount (which changes depending on your rank and how many dependents you have) is deposited into the service members account every time they get paid. You are responsible for using that money to pay for rent and utilities. If your bills are less than your BAH, you pocket that extra money. This is the number one reason people live off post. When you’re on, you see none of it (unless your utilities are less than the average but even then you never see much). If you do you research, you can bank a hundred dollars (or more) a month.

Living off post gives you the ability to live like a normal civilian family. You’re not forced to live by the rules of post (whatever those rules might be) and you’re able to distance your service members work life from your home life more easily. It also affords you the opportunity to make civilian friends. That may or may not be important to you, but I find having those kinds of friends helps keep the world in check a little. You’re better able to escape the military troubles when you’re with someone who has no idea what those troubles even are.

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I’ve never lived off post while being part of this military family, I did live in Fayetteville before getting married (even if it wasn’t for that long). I liked it well enough and wouldn’t mind doing it again, but when we looked at our options it just made sense for us to do on post housing at the time. Daniel’s currently recovering from ankle surgery that has essentially forced him to stop jumping, which means that if i wants to stay in when his contract is up he’s going to have to pick a new job and only the Army knows where that job will send us.

While breaking any contract we signed because he got new orders wouldn’t have been an issue, it was just a headache we’d rather avoid. Though, to get on post housing he had to have at least a year left in his contract (which he had a year and a month). He doesn’t have to stay here for a year, but he couldn’t have gotten housing if he were getting out of the Army in the next eleven months.

So, all-in-all, no one can really tell you which is better in the “on post VS. off post” debate. Everyone has their own opinion of the lifestyle and neither is wrong. It really does all come down to personal preference. It also all depends on which duty station you’re moving onto. To determine which is best for you, I suggest reaching out to people who already live in the area and see what they have to say. Join all the Facebook groups you can that are geared towards that specific duty station and ask away. Those already living there will have insight that no one else can give you that might help sway your decision.

Above all else though, never be afraid to ask any question, no matter how stupid it sounds to you. Chances are you’re not the first to ask it and if you are it’s only because someone else hasn’t gotten up the gall to ask it themselves.

What are your thoughts in the on post VS. off post discussion?

EDIT;; It was brought to my attention by a fellow Army wife that there is at least one restriction to living off post. Well, there is here at Bragg. Apparently, there are stone black listed locations where you can’t live for whatever reason. I suppose you could probably find a way around that if you really wanted to, but the way I look at it is it’s black listed for a reason. Stay away.

6 More Things Your Recruiter Might Not Tell You About MEPS

I’ve officially had my second go at MEPS and this coming Tuesday I’ll be making another trip up there for a psych consult. The doctor that examined me and asked me a few questions was concerned with the two speeding tickets I got in June of last year (“You’re still speeding even after your big accident,” I believe is what she said). So I get to talk to someone about my, apparent, speeding addiction.

Either way, the things I mentioned in my last post about MEPS still ring true. However, as predicted, I have a few other things to add to it, so here goes nothing.

9) Don’t Sweat the ASVAB.
Seriously, it’s not a pass or fail test. You’re not supposed to get every answer correct. This test is to determine your aptitude for certain fields. For the Air Force, your scores are broken down into four different categories that spell out MAGE. They stand for Mechanical, Administrative, Electronics and General. They’re a combination of the ten different categories that the ASVAB is broken up into and they determine what jobs you are and aren’t qualified for. Obviously, if you have a low score in the Mechanical portion of things, you likely won’t get to be a Maintainer (which is pretty much and Air Force mechanic). Either way, stressing over the test is only going to make you do bad on it which is going to lower your scores and either not qualify you for the branch you want or the job you want. So take a deep breath and just chill. Every question on that test you’re taught in high school, so there won’t be any content that you haven’t learned before.

10) Listen and Pay Attention to Direction.
So after I retook my ASVAB and gave my scratch paper to the proctor to destroy, I swear she told me to go back to the Air Force liaisons office. So I did. I knocked on the closed door and was told to sit down and that someone would be with me shortly. Two hours pass and the liaison I checked in with at 0600 that morning walks by, looks at me and goes “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at medical”. Well, I get up and go to medical for my physical exam and it turns out that they had been waiting for me to show up for the two hours I was sitting outside the liaisons office. I have to wonder if I would have gotten through everything any faster if I had just gone to medical first and processed with all the other girls, because waiting for that two hours made me process through on my own and so I got through everything in maybe thirty minutes. Suppose I’ll never know.

11) If The Doctor Says It’s So, Don’t Argue.
When the doctor told me she was referring me to a psych consult for my speeding tickets my first reaction was an eye roll and to think “are you f*cking kidding me?” to myself. It’s been almost ten years since my accident and while I’ve been in two other wrecks since then, neither of them were speed related. I think I’ve gotten maybe a total of three speeding tickets (two of them being last year) since that wreck. That means I’ve gotten one speeding ticket in an eight year period. I tried explaining that to her and why I got the two last year (the first one was total bogus because why the hell would the speed limit on the interstate be 55 just because you’re within city limits?), but halfway through explaining that and looking at her “puh-lease” face, I decided it wasn’t worth it. Just let them schedule the damn consult and get it over with. They’re going to make you do it no matter what anyway. This is likely the first of many hoops you’ll be jumping through if you get in anyway, might as well get some practice in.

12) Make Friends and Impart Wisdom.
Even though I didn’t process with a bunch of other girls, I made a friend in my roommate at the hotel. She wasn’t up there to test or for the exam, but she was signing her papers that day. She’s in the National Guard and going in as an MP. Her ship date for basic is in September. I found her on Facebook, added her, wished her luck and said if she was ever in the Fayetteville area and needed a place to stay she was welcome to hit me up. There was also a guy there doing his hearing test again who was signing up for active Air Force. He mentioned that he wanted to do something mechanical so I told him to go for Aircraft Structural Maintenance. Told him I had a buddy stationed in Okinawa with that AFSC who loved it. I didn’t get to stick around and see what job he picked, but I like to think that he considered the option I gave him because of what I told him.

13) Do A Dummy Check Before Everything. Twice.
When I left my house, I went through a mental list of the things I needed. Before I left my room I did the same thing but included the things I needed to do before processing, but I only did each check twice. What happened? Well I forgot my phone charger at home. Luckily my roommates alarm woke me up (I turned my phone off overnight to save some battery because I had to call my job in the morning) and I drove up there so I was able to leave my phone charging in my car while I processed, but if it hadn’t been for that I’d have been screwed. Before I left my room, I made sure I removed my necklace and my earrings but completely forgot about the chainmaille bracelet I’d been wearing for the past year plus, so while I was waiting to check in to take my ASVAB one of the other guys waiting asked me if they’d let me keep it on because I clearly couldn’t take it off. I freaked for half a second because I didn’t have my pliers to pry the rings open, but then realized they were aluminum rings that I could easily bend and remove by myself. Crisis averted. But if he hadn’t said anything I likely would have been reamed a new one.

14) Keep A Good Attitude About Everything.
Even when I found out I had been sitting outside the liaisons office for two hours for no reason (watching She’s The Man with Amanda Bynes in it… horrible, horrible movie…), I kept a good mood about everything and it made the process that much more enjoyable. It’s already a pretty awful experience so there’s no need to make it worse. I was joking with the staff the entire time and I think they really appreciated it as well.

Really, number fourteen ties back into number eight but it’s an important thing to remember, so I’ll put it in here twice. And it really applies to everything in life. If you’re not having fun doing something, what’s the point in doing it? I try to look at the bright side of it all so that I don’t look at it so negatively. Ain’t no body got time for that.

Got Ink?: Tattoos and the Military

Once upon a time, a service member being covered in tattoos wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities. Whether they were a soldier or a sailor, seeing men with ink on their arms, chests, and legs wasn’t uncommon. In fact, an entire style of tattooing became popular thanks in part to the military.

(TL;DR version:
“Norman Keith Collins (January 14, 1911 – June 12, 1973) was a prominent American tattoo artist, famous for his tattooing of sailors; he was also known as “Sailor Jerry”.”
-Wikipedia)

So when the powers that be came down hard on our tattooed service members a while back, it seemed almost like punishment to a lot of them for carrying on a tradition that had started years before they were out of diapers (or even a thought in some cases). For the most part, tattoo policies in the military have been the kind that made you go “well that makes sense”. There was the standard nothing offensive (sorry neo-Nazi’s, but y’all lost so give it up), no gang related ink (so if you have something you best get it removed) and nothing obscene or explicit. The rules for content are the same across all the branches. It’s when you get into location and size where things vary. I’m only familiar with the Army and the Air Force’s policy on tattoos, so those are really the only two branches on which I’m going to speak, but I’ll leave links at the end for the Marines and Navy (pretty sure the Coast Guard follows the same rules as the Navy because, let’s face it, the Coast Guard is the National Guard of the Navy).

Now, the Army policy has changed a few times over the years. Going from no tattoos on the hands or neck, to allowing it, then going back to not allowing it along with removing the ability to have sleeves on the arms and/or legs. If you already had these things prior to the regulations changing, you got to be grandfathered in so you didn’t have to have them removed… however you lost your ability to commission to officer status.

The most recent addendum to the regs stated that any tattoo visible while in a PT uniform must be smaller than the size of your palm and that there can be no more than four visible tattoos on your body. Again, if your ink violated this rule prior to the change, you’re okay but if you want to enlist and you violate this rule… it’s likely not going to happen. Sure, you can apply for a waiver but they issued this change for a reason. They were looking to cut down their numbers after the War in Iraq ended, and this was a sure fire way to slow people coming in as well as force a lot of guys out. Like I said, if you already had ink you weren’t getting kicked out but I know a lot of guys got upset over the rule change and left anyway.

Onto the Air Force. I feel like their policy is slightly more lax than the Army policy, but I don’t really know what percentage of exposed skin the palm of your hand takes up (x4)… so maybe that’s why. See, the Air Force policy is practically identical to the current Army policy except for the rule about how big or how many tattoos you can have on your exposed body while in a PT uniform. Above I linked an Army PT uniform. Now here are the Air Force PT uniforms.

Note: for whatever reason the Air Force doesn’t have just one image of both the short and long PT uniform together so this is the best I could find… and it’s funny so laugh at it. No need to get butthurt.

The Air Force’s rule for ink on exposed skin is that it cannot cover more then 25% of the exposed area. This means that if you have a line of text similar to this, you’re not completely out of the running. That is far less than 25% of his exposed arm but bigger than his palm (which would rule out the Army). The same would obviously apply for tattoos on your legs as well. Now I suppose I should clarify that “exposed skin” doesn’t count hands, neck, head or face. Aside from cosmetic tattoos (eyebrows, lipstick and eyeliner), anything on your hands or above the collar of your tee shirt disqualifies you. This includes your inner lip even though you can’t see it. It is possible to apply for a waiver for anything outside of where it’s supposed to be but actually getting that waiver depends on a lot of things. Pretty much, if you’re thinking of enlisting, talk to a recruiter about any current tattoos (or piercings) because they’re really the only ones who know what will and won’t be approved for certain.

I currently have two tattoos of my own with plans for eight plus more in the future. All of the ones I have plans for fit within the current Air Force Regulations, but if what was released by the Army on April First (it was really shit timing for them to say something then but they swear it was coincidence) is any indication, the tattoo policy across the board should be loosening back up again. I know SEVERAL ink’d soldiers who were ecstatic to hear about the change in policy that’s coming down the line.

“Society is changing its view of tattoos, and we have to change along with that … It makes sense. Soldiers have grown up in an era when tattoos are much more acceptable and we have to change along with that.”
-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno

So pretty much, sleeves are allowed in the Army again, which means my buddy from high school, who had plans to make a career out of the military, can now commission as an office if he wanted to. This is a great thing for the military if you ask me. Odierno is right about society becoming more accepting of tattoos, so it doesn’t make sense to keep to an archaic doctrine where ink = irresponsible. I know several single mothers who have tasteful tattoos and are probably some of the most responsible women I know (Hannah I’m looking at you). While tattoos might have distinguished who the heathens were once upon a time, that’s no longer the case and it’s about time that we stopped treating people as such, especially those who willingly do the job of a soldier or an airman.

edit;; totally forgot the links to the Navy and Marines policies. My bad guys. For good measure, here are the links for the Army and Air Force too. The Army link doesn’t reflect the changes that the SMA talked about in the article above because they’re not in effect yet. But like they said, they expect them to change in the near future.
Navy Tattoo Policy
Army Tattoo Policy
Air Force Tattoo Policy
Marine Corps Tattoo Policy (I couldn’t get the office Marine Corps .PDF link to work so this will have to do for now)
Coast Guard Tattoo Policy (because apparently the Coast Guard policy is different than the Navy policy. All the other branches use a crew neck tee shirt whereas the Coast Guard uses a v-neck… because they’re gay… kidding… kinda… okay totally kidding)

Someday I Hope You Get The Chance…

About six months ago I updated my tumblr with a more personal sort of blog entry. I’m trying to keep personal entries, journal like things, over there and using this one to reach a broader audience. But I digress. I made an entry over there I called the “confidence bucket list”. I’m just going to copy and paste my description of this bucket list in here for the sake of ease and I’ll link the actual entry below that in case you wanted to see what was on that list. Because I’m going to be making a new one now, though some of the same things will still be on it.

“So a friend of mine recently posted a “confidence bucket list”. It’s essentially things you wish you had the confidence to accomplish. Things that may frighten you a bit because they’re outside your comfort zone. I wanted to do it too, not because I have a list of things that I don’t feel confident doing… but because I don’t have a list of things I don’t feel confident doing. I’m a pretty confident person, both in the things I can do and the things I’ve never done. I know that sounds weird, but my biggest fear is failure, so I don’t accept anything less than success from myself. No matter what it is, I give 150% until I succeed.

Like this past weekend, I was on a lake for about four days and day one I was asked if I wanted to try wake boarding. I’d never done it before, though I’d seen it done several times. I understood it in theory perfectly, but I understand a lot of things in theory. It’s the application of said theory that gets tricky. So the first few times I tried it just having it explained to me. Well that failed and I ended up drinking way more of the lake than I wanted to, so I took a break and when we went back out the woman who owned the boat showed me how to do it first. I’m a visual kinesthetic learner, so that worked out better for me. Even though I didn’t get up that second time either (the boat got too low on gas to keep going), I know the next time I try it I’ll do it. Was I scared before I attempted it? You best bet I was, but I was confident I could do it. I believe my exact words after I swallowed half the lake were “I’m fucking doing this before we leave”. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to do it again after that first day, but I have plans to do it before the summer is over even if it kills me.

But I digress. My point is, there’s very little I don’t have the confidence to do so making a confidence bucket list is more about finding those things that I don’t think I’d excel at and doing it anyway. Not accepting the fact that I don’t think I’d do well at them as a reason to avoid them. So these might be stupid, but they’re things I’m scared to try because I have a gut feeling I’d fail. Here goes nothing”

This is the link to the actual entry, and while I’m not just going to copy and paste the things from that list, a lot of them (actually all of them) are going to be on this one… but with a few more added.

1) Enlist in the United States Air Force Reserves.
When I originally made this entry, I was trying to enlist in active duty. I have since changed my plan and am doing reserves first. For those of you who don’t know, I was originally disqualified because of heart surgery I had when I was 17 but I’m appealing that disqualification. My fear isn’t so much that I won’t go through with the enlistment process, it’s more that something else will come up that will prevent me from doing it. That my dream will come to a screeching halt again and I’ll be left not knowing what end is up. I’m not usually the kind of person to put all her eggs in one basket, but I don’t have a plan B for this. I don’t want a plan B. I don’t want to think of any other outcome besides the one I want. But I can’t help but wonder sometimes…

2) Go skydiving.
It’s not the heights that scare me, it’s not even the falling that scares me, it’s the landing if anything goes wrong. I’m not afraid of death by any means… but those moments before you hit the ground and you know you’re going to die… I don’t want to live that. My unease with doing something like this has only gotten greater since I met Daniel. He’s a paratrooper with the 82nd at Fort Bragg and injured his ankle on a jump back in June. Needless to say… it makes me even more nervous about it.

3) Be a mother.
That might seem a bit weird, but failing as a parent is the biggest reason I’m on the fence about having kids of my own. I know it’s one of those fears you never really get over until you do it, but I want myself to be in the best position possible for success before I even try it. Seems smart right? Well, when you don’t know when that position will come up, it’s a bit scary. What if I’m never there? Will I really hold off on ever having a child? I wouldn’t mind adopting in the least, but I would like at least one of my own. And this “when is the right time” question gets even harder now that I’m actually married. I know that family will start asking when we’re going to have kids eventually (hell, his mother is already begging for one), so we’ve talked about it but it’s still a bit daunting and nerve racking. Very, very nerve racking.

4) Sell a car.
Okay, now that one is really weird and random, I admit. But I’ve applied for lots of jobs in my life and every time I’ve ever needed a job badly, at least one person has told me I should go sell cars. That I’d be good at it. I’ve worked at a dealership before, I know what goes into selling cars, and I know I couldn’t do it. I have a personal problem with putting someone in a vehicle I know they can’t afford just so I can make something on the front end. I’m too honest and compassionate to sell cars. Which is precisely why I want to sell at least one. I probably won’t make anything off the commission, but that’s okay. I sold a car. And if my job search down here keeps going like it is… I might have to resort to trying to sell cars.

5) Open up to a stranger.
Not sure if anyone else will count that I did this one… but I’m going to. I met Daniel online (not even gonna lie about that one) and we talked virtually for about a week before we actually met in person. The conversations we had through messages were pretty average. We talked mostly about our days and the like, but when we actually met up at a Starbucks and sat down to talk… we just sort of instantly clicked. Here was this complete stranger, some guy I’d only just met and been talking to for a collective of maybe two days, and yet I couldn’t help but tell him everything. And it wasn’t just me spilling my guts. He answered every question I threw at him without hesitation and without avoiding the feels. It was weird and refreshing and unexceptionally nice. Four months later… we married.

6) Fail at something and be okay with it.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of this one first. I even said in the beginning that my biggest fear is failure, so it goes without saying that I’ll have mastered my confidence bucket list when I’m comfortable failing. When I’m comfortable not being successful at something and not thinking less of myself because of it. I don’t know when that will be, if ever, but it definitely deserves to be on this list, if not at the top.

7) Become a wife.
This one should have been on my list from the beginning but I didn’t really think of it until I was faced with it. When Daniel asked me to marry him, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to. It wasn’t the marrying him part that I had an issue with. It wasn’t until later that I realized it was the letting him see all of me part that was my problem. And I don’t just mean just-woke-up-no-make-up-bed-head me either. I mean the part of me that feels like a failure when I realize I’m going on 27 and have nothing to show for it. The part of me that feels like ugly baby crying every time I hear “Amazing Grace”. The part of me that gets short and rude and defensive when things aren’t going how I want them to. I didn’t want him to see those parts and not love me anymore. I still don’t want him to see those parts and not love me anymore. But it’s something I had to do anyway. If I wanted to marry him (which I very much did), I had to be okay with the fact that he might see those and wonder what the hell he’d gotten himself into.

8) Start my own business.
This isn’t something in which I lack the confidence to do. I’m sure that if I put my mind to it, I could start my own business. My issue is not knowing which business to start (chainmaille jewelry, DIY crafty things, photography, dog training, pet sitting, horse back riding instructor, etcetc) and not having the revenue to really focus on it and solely it. I’d love to get back into photography more, and actually plan on doing so, but until I have a clientele set up and enough jobs coming in, I can’t focus on photography and just that. The same with any of the other ideas I have. It’s just going to take time… and I’m not the most patient person in the world.

That is not the end of my “confidence bucket list” by far, but it’s a good start. What things would you put on your list?

7 Things I’ve Learned in 7 Days of Living on Post

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!