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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

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)

hurry up… and wait…

You would think I’d be used to that phrase by now. I worked for the Kentucky Educational Television network (KET) for two years and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) for the spring/summer and part of fall. State government work is full of “hurry up and wait”, and it’s no different with federal government. More specifically the military.

It’s been a little over three weeks since I married my husband and I’ll be moving into a house with him on post the day before we hit four. I am thankful, though, that I don’t have to spend the first six-nine months not living with him though. One of the guys in his unit got married January 2nd and deployed last Sunday. I can only imagine how his newlywed wife feels and my heart goes out to her. I dreaded being in her place. So I won’t complain that I have to wait a few more days to be with Daniel, no matter how much I don’t like it.

I’m just excited that I’m finally really getting to start this new chapter in my life. I got asked a lot at work how married life was and my initial guy response was always “it sucks”, but it didn’t suck because my husband didn’t love me or because I never got time to myself. It sucked (and still does for the next four days) because my husband is eight hours away. But in four days and an eight hour drive, he won’t be.

I feel like I should be more nervous about this. Like I should be even a little bit concerned about living with him. I’ve never lived with a guy who was more than just a boyfriend. I always had the option of leaving if it got to be too much. I still have that option I suppose, but it’s more difficult this time. It’s almost not worth taking, though I know if things end up getting beyond repair it’s worth taking it. That thought is mildly frightening, but what comforts me is the belief that it won’t ever get that bad. It’s not a delusional belief either. I really don’t think things will get to the point where we don’t want to be around each other. We’re both adults after all. I turn 27 in April and he turns 29 in May, and we both agree that if we don’t like something in our relationship, we’ll talk about it.

My biggest fear going into all of this was my want to enlist. He’s known about it since before we started dating, but I felt like every time I mentioned it he pulled away from the subject or ignored that I was even talking about it. It was a conversation I wanted to wait to have with him in person, but it was also a conversation I didn’t want to put off anymore than I already had. Should I have talked to him about it before we got married? Yeah, but hindsight is twenty/twenty. So I brought it up last night.

The first and second time I looked into it, I was in a relationship (two different people) but it was just a boyfriend/girlfriend thing. I told them both what I wanted to do and they both said “go for it”, but it never got more conversation than that. I knew they both supported my decision and would never try to talk me out of it. Besides, at the time it was just a thought.

The first attempt at enlistment ended before the relationship I was in at the time did, but the second time I looked into it, the relationship ended when the enlistment process got serious. My first go-around ended because of a medical disqualification (I had heart surgery at 17), but when I discovered the grounds of that disqualification were a mute point, I wanted to try again. At the time I started, my then boyfriend was behind me. He is a Marine himself, so he understood. But as things got going and I was days away from a trip to MEPS with a solid letter from my heart surgeon, he realized he couldn’t support me as a boyfriend. A friend, yes, but nothing more. And so we parted ways.

My relationship ended because of my goals and I didn’t realize it til last night, but I was terrified it was going to happen again. Here I’d found this amazing man who was perfect in ways I hadn’t even imagined possible, and I was terrified that my dream of enlisting was going to push him away. Forget that he’d made a vow of “for better or for worse”, I was still scared shitless and nervous as hell. I had no idea how to bring it up, so I just jumped right into it (in my normal “I’m nervous so I’m going to ramble” fashion) and looked at him over Skype as I waited for him to say something in response. I got nothing for a bit before he was like “And…?” so I just came straight out and asked.

“Are you sure you’re okay with me wanting to enlist?”

I’d said it. It was out there. Now was the time I was going to find out if he knew what this meant to me or if he just figured if he ignored it, I’d give up and never do it. I’m a habitual over-thinker, so of course I had almost convinced myself that the latter was the case.

Thankfully, I was wrong. He laughed at me lightly (in one of those “damn you’re cute” ways) and made sure to assure me that he was more than okay with it. He supported me and when I explained why I had been so nervous to ask he assured me that he wasn’t going to be that much of an ass. He also explained that he understood how important this goal was to me and that he’d never ask me to give it up. He wanted me to be happy and if that meant I had to enlist, then so be it.

If I really think about it, this whole “new chapter” I keep referring to has actually already started. It started before we got married, it started before we got engaged. It honestly started the evening we first met at a Starbucks and sat outside well past close talking about anything and everything we could come up with. It’s not even a new chapter, it’s a whole new book comprised of chapters.

“This Is What You Call Love: Adventures in a Dual Military Marriage”
Coming to a bookstore near you… in like twenty years.

oy vey, where did the time go?

It’s been six days since I last updated this thing and it seriously feels like yesterday. I’m starting to think that this daily blogging thing was a bit much to take on given the start to my year, but I’m not giving up yet! It might not be daily for the first little bit of 2015, but it’ll get there I’m sure. Especially when there are more thanks about which to talk. Right now, it’s a whole bunch of planning and waiting for things to start rolling.

Just about the biggest thing to report on is that a date has been picked. Monday next week, I’ll be driving down to Fayetteville, North Carolina with my parents and then the following Tuesday, Daniel and I will be getting married. It’s nothing huge and really we just expected to be doing it ourselves (plus the two witnesses that have to sign as well), but it seems like both our families (or at least our parents) will be there as well as some of the guys from Daniel’s unit. I’m not nearly as nervous as I expected to be… but I am more nervous than I was when we decided to do it the 20th. Which tells me that the closer we get to the date, the more my nerves will grow.

Getting married means that I’ll be moving back to North Carolina soon. I’m hoping for mid-February at the latest. We still haven’t decided if we want on-post or off-post housing, which is one of the biggest things that will decide when I move. The next biggest is transferring my job with Target, but that’s a matter of getting a hold of their Human Resources person. Something I’ve been trying to do for the past couple of days without success. I’ll go into Target while I’m down there if I have to. I won’t be happy about it, but I will.

However, my biggest focus is trying to come to a decision about where we’re living. I’ve weighed the pros and cons of each and honestly feel like, for the time being, on-post is best. With him looking to re-class and possibly be given a new duty station, entering into a lease we’ll just end up breaking doesn’t seem very smart. Though he then posed the question of whether or not post housing is like entering into a civilian rental lease. Of course I have no idea what the answer to that question is but still.

I’m a pretty easy going person. So long as he’s there I don’t care where we live and I’m fairly certain he feels the same way… which means this decision could be a stalemate till it’s too late. So I have a feeling I’m going to need to prod this along and push him a bit with it. Or just come straight out and make the decision. Either way, there’s a bit more research to be done I believe.

But before I get into that… I’m on the hunt for my birth certificate. I know it’s around here somewhere because I got a new one when I went to talk to an Air Force recruiter earlier last year. I just… don’t know where it went :/

auld lang syne

happy new year, interwebz! so what i’m like three days late on this? it’s been a busy week for me. but i joined wordpress’s “blogging 101” class and today’s assignment is “introduce yourself”. i only kinda did that in my first post, so here’s more of an introduction on me.

my name is samantha wintz. i’m 26 years old and from central kentucky. i’ve been riding horses since i was roughly five years old, i work at target and own a pitbull named athena. i’m engaged to a united states soldier named daniel (for those of you who have read past entries… I GOT ENGAGED!) and i’m looking to enlist in the united states air force reserves. my plan is to do reserves until i finish my bacehlor’s degree in psychology (i have an associates in radio and television broadcasting already) and then go active duty as an officer. from there i plan to put in 20+ until i finish a phd in psych and then retire military to open my own practice treating ptsd victims and helping service members transition back into civilian life through equine therapy.

my life has been a pretty interesting one. well, it was boring up until the summer before my senior year when i was in a near fatal car accident that pretty much changed my life. i mean, who wouldn’t walk away from nearly dying a changed person? but it’s made me who i am today and i wouldn’t change that for the world. it was a rough journey getting here, but every step and misstep has been worth it ten fold. the spring after my accident, one of my best friends died in a car wreck and that helped shaped me as well. greatly. then this past spring another high school friend of mine was murdered and that helped put me back on the path i’d sorta strayed from (enlisting).

2014 was definitely an interesting and brutal year. from having my heart beaten up and my trust broken by the last person i thought would ever do those things to me to losing an old friend to moving to a completely foreign place to me and then finally meeting the man i will one day call my husband… it’s been one hell of a ride.

and 2015 promises to be one hell of a ride as well! this blog, and my vlog, is my invitation to you to join me in this adventure. i want you all to take a peek into my journey of becoming an army wife and enlisting in the air force. i want you to share in the ups and downs of it all. so grab a seat, buckle up and let’s go!!