The Truth About Careers for Military Spouses by Emma

Hi everyone! Today I’m excited to introduce you to Emma from Smile as it Happens blog. She is a Career and Life Coach in the making and I’m sure she will make a great one! Below are some truths about Military Spouses making careers. If you have any advice for fellow MILSOs don’t forget to comment! – Lauren

As a military spouse, you more than likely have to shoulder more than your fair share of responsibility. You function as both mother and father to your kids when your spouse is away on deployment. You handle frequent moves with incredible grace and stamina. It seems unfair that your position as a military spouse also presents challenges with holding down a stable job. Although there are resources to help you find and maintain employment, you’ve probably heard a number of myths that serve only to discourage you. Let’s take a look at some of those myths and learn the truth about the opportunities available.

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It is possible to have it all!

Myth #1: There are no organizations to help you, as a military spouse, establish and maintain a viable career.

Truth: The National Military Spouse Network exists solely to assist military spouses with career searches and development. This organization provides military spouses with assistance in both personal and professional development, focusing on portable career skills and offering an active community of military spouses and professionals.

 *Funding through MYCAA can get you back on track with schooling too! -Lauren

Myth #2: Most employers don’t care about job seekers.

Truth: In today’s competitive job market, it pays for companies to attract the best talent possible to fill open positions. In order to do this, many employers have simplified the application process. Through the use of mobile recruiting platforms, like JIBE, these companies allow applicants to upload resumes and other documents directly from tablets, smart phones and other devices. Additionally, many companies offer work-from-home options and other perks to qualified applicants.

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Check out sites like edX and Udacity for free information and education!

Myth #3: Although you’d like to go back to school to make yourself more viable in today’s job market, you simply can’t afford it, even with a military stipend.

Truth: There are several places online where you can get free information and education. At Udacity, you can take classes in college algebra, statistics or web development, among other things. A site called edX provides a variety of classes taught by professors at some of the country’s top schools.

Myth #4: Because you’ve had several jobs throughout your career, companies will not want to hire you.

Truth: In years past, many individuals held the same job for the majority of their working life. Today, this rarely happens. Often, workers move from company to company in order to get ahead or gain new, marketable skills. Employers understand this and seldom penalize applicants for it. They will look for consistency by checking to see that you have stayed at least a year at a previous place of employment.

Emma is a mid 20-something year old with a passion for life, love, fitness, and helping others. She loves to be active and get involved in as many sport and community activities as possible. Emma is currently studying to become a Career & Life Coach, and loves to network with people from around the world! Check out Emma’s blog at http://smileasithappens.blogspot.com/!

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What to Know For Homecomings

Hello all 🙂

I am writing this blog post on my flight to Little Rock! That’s right today I get to see my airman! I just saw him about 3 weeks ago, but when your airman gets back from deployment they will have all sorts of leave time available to them. They are given 2 weeks of paid leave where they must stay within so many miles of the base they are stationed at. Once those 2 weeks are up, they can then choose to use some of their leave to return home, or save it. Because of my work schedule in June, Taylor chose to save his and now we are going to be able to take quite the amazing trip together.

Tonight I land in Little Rock and tomorrow we start our drive back to Nevada together. We will be taking 3 days and stopping at places on our way. Thanks to one of Lauren’s previous blog posts I was introduced to Roadtrippers and have our whole trip planned out from start to finish! One of those stops includes the Grand Canyon, which is a little off of our route, but I am sure it will be totally worth it!

So enough about my road trip and back to business…well not really because this is a pretty exciting blog post! Today I get to write about the day your significant other COMES HOME!! It is a day neither of you will forget especially if it is a first deployment. There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get when you are in the arms of your airman again!

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Again, remember Silence means Security! Keep our loved ones safe by staying hush about deployment dates and arrivals.

Again, remember Silence means Security! Keep our loved ones safe by staying hush about deployment dates and arrivals.

I went over this in my previous deployment overview post, but thought I would just recap briefly. Just like when they deploy, you won’t know when your significant other will be coming home until what seems like last minute. When Taylor left we thought he would be coming home May 15th, but once he got there they told him it would be anywhere from May 15th.  Even though this is frustrating, especially if you are trying to make travel plans, just remember it is a safety precaution taken by the Air Force to ensure the safety of your airman.

On May 3rd, Taylor called me with a for sure date of May 20th. Again, this was not information that I shared on social media. He told his mom and then I told my parents so they knew when I would be leaving. I also had to figure out work because as the Game Day Producer for a Triple A baseball team I am not exactly supposed to miss games, but I was going to have to. So, I had to take my boss aside and figure out work plans with her. Other than that though nobody else really knew when I was leaving, or when he was going to be home.
It was not until his plane landed on the flight line and I was in his arms again that I put anything on social media.

travelplans So obviously with me living in Nevada the first thing I had to figure out were my travel plans. I did not want to mess with being late on the day of his arrival, so I made my flight reservations for the 19th. This way I was there a day before he was supposed to be and would not have to worry about not being there to welcome him home. Because I was going be getting there before him I also needed to make sure I had a ride from the airport. So I got a hold of his best friend and roommate Travis, who was able to pick me up and take me back to their house.

I also planned it out so I would be there with him for the full 2 weeks of paid leave he was given. The past couple times I have gone to Little Rock he has always had to work, making doing things or going places difficult. So I knew that with all his time off it would be the perfect opportunity for us to really enjoy being in Little Rock together.

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If you are married to your deployed airman, then this is not something you will have to worry about. However, if you are not make sure you go into the general base information building outside of most main gates and get a base id the day before their return. The morning of I guarantee you there will be a line of people waiting to get base ids. So to save you time just do it the day before.

Needing a base id was another good thing about having Travis. Make sure you have someone who can take you in to get a base id. If you don’t know someone who can go in with you to get you a base id my best advice would be to call, or go in to find out what you will need to do to get one, so you can be there to welcome your significant other home!

gettingreadyMost significant others get all cute and dressed up for the return of their airman. There were significant others dressed in anything from skirts and high heels to others, like myself, in a nice pair of jeans and a cute shirt or blouse. There is really no specific way you have to dress. I chose jeans because I knew that I wanted to jump into Taylor’s arms the minute I saw him and that wouldn’t have been very easy to do in a dress! 🙂 Then there were little kids all dolled up in matching red, white and blue attire with signs welcoming their daddy’s and mommy’s home from Afghanistan. Many of the significant others had signs as well, but for me I was just keeping it simple. It was out first deployment and I was just so excited to jump in his arms that I didn’t want to have a sign to worry about. However, maybe next time I will make a sign.

Just remember, don’t feel obligated to get all dolled up and have a sign welcoming your airman home…you have just accomplished one of the hardest obstacles in a military relationship…just be there to welcome that airman of yours back home!

waitinggameThe good thing about having Travis was that I had an inside scoop on when Taylor would be landing. He went to work after picking me up from the airport and called around 7:00 a.m. to tell me that they had all been told the plane from Afghanistan would be landing early. He was able to get off work and come get me from the house.
However, you really do not need a Travis to know when your airman will be landing. They told us the plane would be landing between 9:30 and 10:00 and it ended up landing a little after 9:00. So find out an approximate landing time and then just get there early!

homecomingwait

Waiting for his plane to land. This is all of the people standing behind the rope they had set up that we were not allowed to go past until they stated getting off the plane.

Because I had Travis I did not really have to figure out where on base Taylor would be landing. Most of the time your significant other will land around their squadron building. If you do not know where this is, or where they will be landing find this information out the day before by calling, or going into the information office that is normally located outside the main gate.  Taylor also called me during his layover when he landed back in the states. They gave them all an idea of when the plane would take off again and how long the flight would be, so I had a bit of an idea myself when he would land in Arkansas.

Once we parked at the squadron building, we walked down to the flight line where they had breakfast items, coffee,  juice and little flags you could have to wave as the plane landed. Of course I took one because I thought it would be a neat souvenir to have from that day! 🙂

They had a rope up that you were not allowed to pass until the plane landed and the cabin door was open. Because we got there early I had a pretty good spot where I knew I would be able to see from when they began getting off the plane. When the plane lands and the doors are open they will let down the rope and everyone is free to run toward the plane and to their airman.

I knew that when they finally let down that rope it was going to get crazy. So once the plane landed, the cabin door opened and they began coming down the stairs I just walked towards the plane and as I walked I looked for Taylor. I didn’t want to run because I was worried I would totally run right past him….and anyone who knows me knows this would happen to me. When I finally saw him I began running towards him and jumped into his arms! I have never felt so relieved and happy to see him. There is seriously no feeling like it! For the first time in a little over 5 months I felt at home….in the arms of my airman.

Once again having Travis was awesome! He took pictures and got ones that I didn’t even think he would! Then we took a couple more pictures and went to go pick up his truck. Because of course he was almost as happy see it as he was to see me 😉 just kidding, but the boy seriously loves his truck. So Travis took us to his truck and then we drove to where they had told us they could get their luggage. After he had his bags and received his in processing folder the rest of the day was ours!

*Remember homecomings vary from military branch to military branch. For instance, Army homecomings are usually ceremonies where all the soldiers are in formation! – Lauren

homecomingdayThis will be different for everyone just depending on how your airman feels once they get off the plane. For us though this was a busy, busy day! Because Travis moved Taylor and himself out of the apartment and into their house while Taylor was in Afghanistan, he hadn’t seen the house yet. So, we left base and went directly to their new house. This was really good because he was able to kind of settle in and get changed before we went to lunch, which he was super excited about. He had been craving chips, salsa and a hamburger for so long and now he could finally have it all! So I took him out to lunch at Chilis and yes I paid 🙂 it felt good to feed my airman his first meal back in the states! I am pretty sure he enjoyed every last bite!

The next thing we did was go to Burlington Coat Factory where we bought him all sorts of new things for his new house. I wanted to make sure that he felt as at home as possible on his first night back. We bought new bathroom towels and a new bedding set! A new house calls for some new things!

Then we went to Verizon. Taylor was going to get a new phone before going to the desert, but they lady at Verizon told him to wait because deploying is hard on a phone. So, if your airman has a nice phone before they deploy make sure they have a really sturdy case that with keep any weather and sand out. Taylor’s Droid barely made it through deployment. By the time we had gone to lunch and shopping it had restarted at least 5 times and factory reset itself. So we spent much of our afternoon at Verizon setting Taylor up with a new phone.
If we had not already been crazy enough we then decided to go and have my ring checked. It was due for its first cleaning and in order to keep the insurance I need to have it checked and cleaned every 6 months. So we went to the jeweler and got that all taken care of.
We got a lot accomplished in that first day he was back, but it actually worked out really well because we had the rest of the week to just enjoy ourselves and being back together again.



thedayafter

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The day after your significant other comes back from deployment they will need to go in for in processing and get all sorts of check ups done to make sure they have come back from the desert healthy.

This takes just about all morning, so don’t make any plans for most of the day after your airman returns.

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Well that is pretty much it! What you do the day your significant other returns is really all up to you and your airman. Like I said it will be different for everyone. Just enjoy every second you have with each other and never take a day together for granted.

You are now a deployment champ and believe me after this I am pretty sure you will be able to conquer anything else the life of being a military significant other has to throw your way! It is not easy, but it is possible to get through. Always remember that each passing day is just one day closer to being in your significant others arms again!

This is it for me in this June series about becoming a deployment champ! I hope I have given you some insight and helpful hints to guide you along the way!

You may hear from me again later down the road, but if you ever need anything or have questions feel free to find me on Facebook! I have been through a lot with my airman and like helping others and giving any advice I can!

Together we can all get through anything! 🙂

Kaitlin Haugen

Deployment Communication

Hello again all!

Oh how I am so very excited for this post!! Communication is so important during a deployment. For Taylor and I, we are used to making sure we call and Skype each other as much as we can. So making sure this continued throughout his deployment was not that big of a change for us. However, for those of you who live with your significant other you may have a harder time adjusting. So I hope these helpful tips can make it as easy for you as possible!

communicationOnce your significant other is out of the United States their phone will not work unless they go to their service provider and pay for overseas service. Know that this is expensive and so NOT worth it with the other technology available to us today.

They have access to Wi-Fi overseas, so communicating is not as hard as it may seem. They can use every mean of social media and video chatting available and even play certain app games with you like Words with Friends or Draw Something.

*Understand the Time Difference*

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The flowers I got for Valentines Day and the Skype date we had.

There is quite a big time difference between places overseas and the United States. This is one of the first things I wanted to figure out, so I knew how different our days would be. There is a 12 and a half hour difference between Nevada and Bagram, which was quite the difference. However, it worked out pretty great for us because Taylor would be going to work right as I was getting into bed.

Once you find out where your significant other will be overseas figure out what the time difference is going to be. It will make communicating easier if you know what time it is there in relation to what time it is where you are.

callsHere is where you will need to look at apps before your significant other leaves. The one that I heard is the best is called Viber. However, this app needs to be downloaded in the United States and Taylor and I didn’t find out about it until he was already in Afghanistan. So he downloaded an app called Magic Jack that gave him a new number while he was deployed, which allowed him to call me. I did not need the app for it to work. He would just call my regular phone number from a different number that the app gave him and we would be able to talk on the phone. Because it was a random number I saved it in my contacts as Taylor Desert. He would call me whenever he had a chance. I normally never called him, but that is because I was never sure if he was sleeping or working because of the time difference!

Both of these calling apps are absolutely free and will not affect either of your cell phone bills.

firstskype

The first night we were able to Skype!

Whatever your means of video chatting is, it is important to see your airman face to face while they are there—it always made me feel better. I would think that messenger and the calls were enough, but there was nothing like the feeling I would get after seeing him on Skype! For those of you who do not have iPhones with FaceTime there is a Skype app, which is what Taylor and I used because he had a Droid. It was nice to have Skype on the go, so that he could be apart of things he thought he would miss. One night I was at a basketball game with his mom watching his sisters cheer and because I had Skype on my phone he was able to get to see them cheer for a while. It meant a lot to him and even more to his sisters!

Be sure to make time to video chat with your significant other while they are deployed because it will make both of you feel so much better just to see each other’s face!

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Facebook is a great way for family and friends to communicate with your significant other. Taylor’s parents and sisters would write on his wall, along with my family and his friends. Then his grandma would write him a note on his wall every single night. It is a really good way for those who don’t get to talk with him on the phone, to communicate with him. He was busy and when he would get a chance to call it was not for a long period of time, so he would just call me and update me on his day and would message me whenever he would have Wi-Fi. So, for his family and friends who did not have that communication with him his Facebook page was a good place to get a hold of him because he would comment back whenever he would have a chance.

Facebook Messenger: Taylor and I used Facebook messenger as our texting. We both downloaded the messenger app to our phones so we didn’t have to go to Facebook every time we had a message from one another. I would get good morning and good night messages from him and we would message throughout the day about what we were up to and how each other’s days were going. We totally used it just like we do texting and that was our daily means of communication. It was really nice to have because even if we didn’t get a chance to Skype or talk over the phone we were still able to talk to each other through messenger every single day he was deployed. It was really nice to have and something I strongly recommend!

lettersI did not send a lot of letters like I thought I was going to. I bought a notebook and pens with the intention of writing a letter every day, but they took so long to get there.

Taylor’s address was in his deployment packet, so the day he told me he was in Afghanistan I sent a letter. Then the very next day I went to his house and his mom and I put together a care package and sent it. The care package got there a week from the day we sent it and the letter was there 4-5 days later. Because letters took so long to get there I got discouraged and was really bad at sending them. I also felt very spoiled by messenger because I had a way to talk to him everyday making writing letters difficult because I didn’t know what to write that I hadn’t already told him. So, I did not send a lot of letters, but it is still a really personal way to communicate and they are neat to have and keep forever.

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His Birthday Care Package!

Care packages can be anywhere from really basic to really extravagant. Because I was a full time student, whenever I had a chance to send a package I would always try to make it as extravagant as I could.

Care packages took exactly a week if not a day or two less to make it to Afghanistan from Reno, Nevada. The best thing to do to find out how long your packages will take is to go to your local post office and ask them!

Tomorrow will be a post on what you’ll need from the post office, plus some ideas to get you started!

So there you have it! These are the basics to communicating with your significant other while they are deployed and the different ways it is possible. Like I said for those of you who are already in a long distance relationship this will not be too different from what you have already been doing. Don’t get me wrong it is still hard. I was not used to having to wait to get a hold of Tay because he was sleeping while I was up, or because he was on the flight line with no Wi-Fi. It was weird not being able to call or message him at any hour of the day and have him answer or reply right away. Sometimes it would be hours before I would hear back from him, but it is something that I got used to.

If you have been living with your significant other and have been able to see and talk to them everyday then this will definitely be a little more difficult for you to get used to. Just remember that it is not forever, it is just temporary and that if you make sure to communicate as much as possible then the time will fly by and before you know it they will be back in your arms again!

Communication is so important because it really makes you feel less like you are a whole world apart from your airman. It will help you get through everyday if you get those good morning and good night messages from them, hear their voice and see their face. It will also help them! Don’t let the fact that the communication is different stop you from taking advantage of all the great ways of staying connected we have now!

Next week will be my last full post in this series and will be one of my favorites because it is all about the day Taylor came home! I will go over what needs to be done before, the day of and the days after your airman returns home!

Until then!

Kaitlin

Preparing for Deployments and the Day After

Alrighty! Much needed block leave came up so I’ve been enjoying my time with Blair. 🙂 But now the schedule for this week will be packed with lots of information so make sure to keep up! There just might be a giveaway too – stay tuned! And now to Kaitlin’s second post! – Lauren

Hello again 🙂

This post is about one of the hardest parts of a deployment –  preparing for, the day of, and day one… There are certain things that need to be done before deployment and because of the emotional toll deployment takes on you and your significant other certain things may be easy to forget.

handbook for family and friends during and after deployment

Have your significant other find out if their squadrons have these available and if not I would go online and find one!

Taylor’s squadron offered them a handbook for family and even friends of service members that’s all about before, during and after deployment. He grabbed one and gave it to me and the first week he was gone I went through the pages and learned some helpful information and wish I would have had it sooner. The handbook I have is called, A Handbook for Family & Friends of Service Members Before, During and After Deployment by Vulcan Productions. I would suggest having your significant other find out if their squadrons have these available and if not I would go online and find one! It will help!

  • Understand the Emotional Toll 

Deployment is emotional and every day leading up to deployment is emotional. There was one day where Taylor was frustrated and I had to explain to him that I understood he was the one leaving, but that he needed to consider that I was having a hard time too. Sometimes your significant other will forget, which is totally natural so don’t worry! Especially, if it is their first deployment! They get so worked up and worried about leaving that they will have moments where they forget how hard it is going to be on you.

So REMIND them. It is nothing bad – it just happens. This is an emotional rollercoaster ride for sure, so make sure you are together for that ride and this may be more up to you than them. You have to understand the stress your significant other is going through and even if they may not admit it they are scared. I have heard that this becomes a lot easier after a few deployments because they begin to know what to expect, but for the first deployment make sure you are there for them and that may mean you need to remind them that this is hard for you too. One of the toughest jobs in the military is being the significant other, but God finds those of us who can handle it!

A Little Background Info

Let me quickly give you all a little idea of how this worked for me! Taylor came home to Nevada for Christmas and we knew that his deployment date was going to be anywhere from January 3rd  to January 10th. So we thought it would be a good idea to leave a little before the 3rd to give us a few days to get him ready to go. We left Nevada on December 30th and we flew to Arkansas together. Because we are already in a long distance relationship this was nice because we only had one emotional, “I will see you later” instead of two.

The Call 

On January 2nd we finally got a for sure departure date. Taylor was told to report to his squadron building at 2:00 in the morning on January 6th.  Once again, you may be eager about posting dates on Facebook to let your friends and family know about the day your significant other is leaving, however, social media is not the place for that. I just called my parents and texted my best friends when I found out because I knew I was going to need them.

So, now onto Preparing for Deployments and the Day After!

Oh the Things to Do! It seems as though there are hardly enough days before your significant other deploys to get all you need to get done before he leaves, but guess what you can 🙂

The easiest way to make sure you get it all done is sit down with your significant other and make a checklist! Taylor and I made one on a 3×5 card, so it was nothing fancy, but boy did it help us! We sat down and I had him tell me the things he had to get done and then I asked him about other things like, “where will your truck be parked” “How will Travis (his roommate) get the keys to the apartment when he gets back from his deployment?” “What bills do you need to pay before you leave?” Your job is to ask the questions they may not think about. They have so many things running through their mind and may forget the small stuff! This is why making a checklist is SO important!

  • What you will need from him: 

Make sure before your significant other deploys you know all the personal information you may need about them. First, middle, and last names of course you will know along with their birthdate, but what about their social security number? Do you know that? Most likely you don’t, but before they deploy I suggest you write it down somewhere will you can find it if needed. I had to use it to set up an account with Samuels Jewelers so he could start making online payments for my engagement ring, and I needed to know it when I called Toyota so I could get information about his account. It is a good thing to have and a good thing to know!

I got all of Taylor’s information for his accounts such as usernames, passwords and made sure I knew the answers to his secret questions. If you want to be able to access certain accounts like bank, or in our case Samuels Jewelers for my ring and Toyota for his truck then hopefully you know your airman well enough to be able to answer any of the secret questions they may have listed for these accounts to ask. This is good because if for some reason the Wi-Fi is down, which happens, or they are just unable to access their account you can! I like it because I was able to keep an eye on everything and make sure the payments were coming out every month.

Another thing you will want to get from your significant other is their deployment packet. Before your significant other deploys their squadron will normally give them a vanilla envelope with an important information and paperwork inside of it. This is where the checklist of things they are REQUIRED to pack will be along with any general information about their deployment. Your airman doesn’t have to take this packet with them, but after Taylor and I looked through it and the information in it we realized that it was something that I would need to take with me. For those of you who live with your significant other make sure you keep it handy and in a place where you know it is just in case! For those of you in my situation and in a long distance relationship make sure you take this packet with you.

This packet contains a lot of important information and is a good thing to have and hold on to throughout the entirety of your significant others deployment.

  • Inside the deployment packet: 

In the deployment packet you will find numerous papers. It is a good idea to go through these papers when you get a chance so you know what each one is just in case of any emergency!

The first paper you will find in the packet is the checklist of gear they need to take with them. Everything on this list MUST be packed. Then there is a paper that gives you general information for the base they are deploying to along with the address for letters and packages. Other papers include: his training record, emergency data sheet, checklist for mobility folder, basic Air Force deployment information, and copies of certificates received for training that has been completed. Then there are a bunch of papers that are stapled together of people you may need to contact while your significant other is deployed. Such as The American Red Cross and Legal Assistance

The American Red Cross paper is how you contact your significant other in case of serious emergency or death in the immediate family. When you call there is certain information you will have to provide about your airman, so make sure that you have them fill in the information in the lines provided on this sheet before they deploy.

You can get a hold of the Red Cross at anytime during the day and they can contact your airman and get them home if needed. This is not one of those numbers you just use for every little emergency though. It is up to you to use this number responsibly. Luckily while Taylor was deployed his immediate family stayed healthy and there were never any emergencies that were serious enough for me to have to contact Red Cross.

The legal assistance information may be needed if you have things that may need to be signed while your airman is deployed. It would be a good idea to have a durable power of attorney made before your significant other deploys just in case there may be something that requires their signature. With this durable power of attorney you will be allowed to sign anything that their signature is required on because they are deployed. If you forget to have this document made before they leave it is okay! There are lawyers overseas they can go meet with who will draft it and email it to you. I strongly suggest this is something you have done especially if you are married! Yu never know when you will be filling out paperwork that will require both signatures!

  • Bank:

Not all significant others have to do this, however Taylor and I decided to go into his bank and put my name on his account. We did this because if anything went on with his account while he was away I would be able to call the bank and get it figured out and taken care of for him. He also got me a debit card on his account, which came in handy when he was unable to pay his bills for some reason.

  • Packing:
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Taylor packing away!

In the deployment packet they are given there will be a checklist of things they will NEED to have packed. I am not sure if all branches do this, or even all bases, but Taylor got one, which made getting him packed a lot easier. Taylor was allowed 3 check in bags and 2 carry on bags. He was issued a large military grade duffle suitcase along with a large military grade backpack and I am not exaggerating when I say they are large!

They will tell them how many pairs of multi cam (deployment ABU’s) pants, shirts and even how many socks to bring. Taylor went in January, so there was a certain amount of cold weather gear he had to pack as well. All the gear they need is issued to them, so there shouldn’t be any issues not having what is on the list. We were short one physical training t-shirt, so we just went down to the BX and bought him another one. They are also issued two pairs of new boots and chem gear, which included a gas mask and chemical suit.

Once everything on the list is packed they can start packing other things. Now, I know when you think of Afghanistan you think desert and you think hot, which in the summer…YES this is very true. However, if you significant other is going in the fall or winter months it will be freezing! So the first thing we packed when Taylor got everything on the checklist packed was a big king sized fleece blanket. Then when he got there he was wishing we would have packed a heating blanket as well because it was cold!

Just like flying anywhere else your significant other will have to go through customs before leaving the United States, so make sure that they have no liquids packed away in their carry on items and of course NO weapons, not even a pocket knife.  For Taylors carry on he used the HUGE military grade backpack he was issued. He packed his tablet, some snacks and magazines along with an airplane sized pillow. It is a long flight, so you will want to make sure your significant other packs things in their carry on that will keep them busy and help make them more comfortable.

All check in bags had to be dropped off at the squadron building at 7:00 am the morning before Taylor deployed. They went through all the bags to make sure that everyone had what they needed and what they were issued. Taylor was gone for much of the morning because it was not a quick process…they literally went through the checklist and unpacked the bag we had just packed to make sure everything was there. So to save your airman time that morning make sure the night before you go over the list multiple times.

  • The truck:

Also known as Taylor’s other wife. 😉 Just kidding, but seriously that truck gets almost as much attention as I do, so we just HAD to make sure it was ready from him to leave as well.

We started by taking it to the car wash and cleaning out all the trash. Remember if you are not planning on using your significant others vehicle while they are gone or you are in a long distance relationship and it is going to sit in the designated parking lot for those who are deployed then you need to make sure everything that could go bad, is thrown away. When Taylors mom and I dropped the truck off in the designated parking lot the morning we were leaving we made sure that we got everything of value out of sight.

Not everyone has someone to check on their vehicle while they are gone, but like I said this truck is Taylor’s baby. So he left his keys with a friend, so that when his roommate got back from deployment he would be able to go and turn on Taylor’s truck every once in awhile. Those vehicles sit there for months, so it isn’t a bad idea to have someone who is willing to go start it up and check on it, especially if it is just going to be sitting there.

  • Truck Insurance:

Oh boy, oh boy is this important! If your significant others vehicle is NOT going to be driven while they are gone make sure they call their insurance company and let them know that they will be deploying and not driving their vehicle. Taylor called and got his truck insured under something called storage parking, so he had no driving insurance on it while he was gone, but insurance for anything that happened to it while it sat there. All insurance companies are different, but this is very important to do and will save you and your significant other quiet a bit of money, especially if the vehicle is not going to be driven while they are deployed. I am pretty sure we just had to send them a copy of Taylor’s orders, so they had it on record that we was deployed. If it is going to be driven, or right before your significant other returns you just have to make sure to call and turn the driving insurance back on.

  • The house/apartment:

Any payments such as rent, utilities, or a storage shed will STILL have to be paid while your significant other is overseas. Now I know this seems like a no brainer, but if you are in a long distance relationship like me this is not a thought that crosses your mind. Just because they are deployed doesn’t mean they take in their orders in hopes of not having to pay rent. It just doesn’t work that way. Everything MUST still be paid, even though technically they are not living there.

Luckily for us, Taylor’s roommate and best friend deployed in September and was due back around the time Taylor would be arriving in Bagram. So they came up with an agreement that Taylor would pay everything while Travis was deployed and when Travis came back he would take over everything. This worked out great! They were both able to pocket a little extra money while they were deployed because they didn’t have to worry about paying these expenses in Arkansas.

So if you live with your significant other, make sure you know what needs to be paid and when. Also make sure you know any account information such as passwords and usernames, so that you are able to take over these responsibilities while your airman is deployed. They can pay bills on the Internet while they are overseas, but it is nice to give them one less thing to have to worry about.

If you are in a long distance relationship I would suggest doing the same thing. It was nice that Taylor had no rent or utility payments while he was gone because Travis took over the apartment, but if he hadn’t of I would have done this for Taylor. I paid the engagement ring every month using the card we got on his account for me before he left, and I checked his bank account every month to make sure his truck payment was coming out. I even had to call Toyota once to clear up a double payment that was made, which is why I feel it is a good thing if you at least check up on your significant others accounts while they are gone. You never know when mistakes are going to be made and when you are going to need this information, so just make sure you have it!

  • The Night of: 

Taylor had to report to the squadron building by 2:00am. So that day we made sure he had everything he needed together.

Also for those of you in a long distance relationship and just there for the deployment departure MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PLAN. We needed to make sure his mom and I had the hotel room on base for another night and that we had a ride to the airport. These are all things that you may not even think about, but don’t forget about yourself! We went to the squadron building to see him off, took his truck back to the hotel on base where we slept, then we parked his truck in the designated parking lot, and had his best friend’s wife come pick us up and take us to the airport.

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Eating the very last bite of Key Lime Pie and Cool Whip that was left in the fridge!

During the day we just hung around and ran to Walmart to get some last minute things. He and I both bought a notebook and got a huge pack of pens that we split for letters. We also got him his pillow for the plane that would fit on his carry on and looked for an outlet adapter. Which, your significant other will need when they stop at an airport in another country. Tay and I were not able to find one at Walmart, but they did sell them at the airport in Ireland, so he was able to get one it was just super expensive. So try to find one before your airman leaves to pack in their carry on.

After our run to Walmart he laid down and got some sleep. I sat up and wrote him his first letter, which I put in his carry on. I did this right before he went to boot camp as well. It gave him something to read on the plane and even though it made him tear up it also let him know how much I loved him and that I would be there waiting for him when he is back—and I was both times!
He woke up around midnight and got dressed in his multi cams, ate the last bit of Key Lime Pie and Cool Whip that was left in the fridge and then we were off to the squadron building.

This is where he checked in and the waiting began. We were not sure how long we had left together, but we cherished every moment not letting go of one another’s hands. Neither of us knew what would happen once he got on that bus, but we knew we were ready to put this first deployment behind us.  We sat down with everyone and their families. I got to meet all the guys he was deploying with, which made me feel a lot better! After awhile they made an announcement that they would be playing a movie upstairs for families and anyone who wanted to go watch. The last hour we spent together was holding hands watching Despicable Me. My heart dropped every time someone came in to check the screen and look down at their watch. I knew that one of those times it would be to tell us the buses were here and I was right…

Taylor’s mom took some pictures of us upstairs and then we went downstairs and got some more. It was not an easy night, but somehow I was able to hold myself together for him. I walked out with him to the bus and we exchanged our final hugs and kisses, and then he let go of my hand and I watched as he got on the bus and slid down in his seat. His mom and I waited and watched the bus drive off until we couldn’t see it anymore. This was it…he was actually going….our first deployment was underway.
His mom and I got in his truck, went back to the room and slept. Then we woke up the next morning took his truck back to the parking lot across from his squadron building that is designated for those who deploy. His friend’s wife came and picked us up and we left his key with her who would give them to his roommate as he got back from deployment.

This day will be different for everyone, but be strong for him! He needs to see that you are going to be okay and that will make him feel a little better about leaving.

However, allow yourself time to be emotional about it. You will need a you day whether that is at home with Netflix, a bath and a bottle of wine, or a girls night with a close friend or family member. I am pretty sure I laid on the couch with my little brother who is 13 and just cried to him….he just kept telling me it would be okay…and deep down inside under all the tears and emotion I knew he was right!

  • My Day One: 

I was good when I watched his bus drive off, I was good when I went to the hotel room, I was good on the plane ride back to Nevada and I was good when I got home to my family. However, that night I laid in bed and it hit me…half my heart was in Afghanistan and I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I was strong while I was with him and was the one telling him it was going to be okay and that the time would fly on by, but when I laid in bed that night for the first time without him by my side I had an emotional break down.

Like I said above…give yourself time to be emotional! This is why it is so important to have a good support system…and luckily I was home with my parents and siblings. It took me a few days to actually feel like talking about it, but it was so nice to be at home with my family and only a 10-minute drive from his family. It really helped me get through those first couple of days, which were the hardest. So make sure you have a support group! It could be other military wives, your best friends or family. Just make sure there is someone there you can confide in because you will need all the love and support you can get.

  • Social Media Support:
deploymentsblues

This day will be different for everyone, but be strong for him! He needs to see that you are going to be okay and that will make him feel a little better about leaving.

Taylor left on January 6th, but it was not until the 9th that I actually posted anything about it on social media. He told me he was in Bagram and that is when I finally felt okay about posting it. I got many likes and kind words from those close to me and even those I haven’t really seen or talked to since high school. It felt good to know there were people out there supporting me and keeping Tay and I in their thoughts and prayers.

This is only the beginning and I know….it seems like a lot, but guess what?! It can all be done and you too can become a champion! Once you get past the first week or so and your pie chart starts becoming more green than red you will feel better and you WILL overcome deployment!

I am super excited for next weeks post when I will discuss communicating with your significant other overseas via Skype, phone calls, letters and my favorite care packages! It is going to be a good one…and in my opinion one of the most important!

Until then,

XOXO

Kaitlin

Becoming Deployment Champs! Posts:

DIY Entry Table

The Entryway.

entrypostWhether you have a huge house or a small apartment, the entryway is what first makes it feel like home. So shortly after moving up North, it was our entryway that I got started working on ASAP.

At the time we didn’t have a single piece of furniture in the apartment and it was going to be over two weeks until we were, so you can say that it was this project that kept me sane! Being quick, easy and beyond budget friendly, this entry table still makes me smile when I stop and look at it. It is the perfect lil’ something that finishes the entry!

For this DIY, you’ll need:

  • 2 brakets – The ones I bought were $5 each and came with two wall screws and two top securing screws.
  • Piece of wood – I bought mine at Home Depot for only $4.01 from their “Cull Lumber” selection. Great buy and they will cut it for free!
  • Electric screwdriver – When I did this, we didn’t have ours up here so I used a good ole old-fashioned one. It worked perfectly, just took a little longer.
  • Measuring tape and pencil
15dollars

1. Screw the brakets into the wall – I measured 30 inches from the floor to the ceiling and marked the section lightly with a pencil. *Spacing between the brackets depends on how large of an entry table you are making. 
2. Center the precut piece of wood on top of the brakets.
3. Screw the tops of the brakets into the piece of wood to secure it.
4. Decorate! Make sure you have contrasting heights, knick knacks and a photo. This makes it even more personable and feeling like home.

Using our military discount at Home Depot (it’s 10% off), I was able to make this for less than $15. Not only was it budget friendly, but it also adds a unique touch to our entryway!

And, yes, we do keep a baseball bat by the front door… We’re old souls like that. 🙂

Lauren

DIY: Ranger Beads

A.k.a. Pace Counters.
Since moving to Washington, I’ve realized that most people up here consider 50 degrees outside to be practically summer. I never understood this until recently though when the clouds split, the sun came out and the air was crisp, yet warm. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the perfect temperature to go hiking.

While I ended up staying inside doing some much needed laundry, I decided that next time the sun came out and the weather was nice that I would be prepared. So that next weekend, Blair and I made some pace counters for us to use when we do decide to go out on a hike.

To Army guys, pace counters are also known as Ranger Beads. When going out on their 4+ kilometer ruck marches, Ranger Beads help them keep track of how far they have gone and how much farther they may have to go. At a Army surplus store, these little guys can cost up to $13, where as this DIY comes out to be about $1 a piece. Talk about a bargain, right?!

kilometer2

The quick explanation on how to use a pace counter goes like this: There are 1000 meters to every kilometer – so every 100 meters you walk you would slide a meter bead down to the bottom. When you get to the point that you would slide the “10th bead” down, you have gone a kilometer! So go ahead and slide 1 kilometer bead down, and reset your meter beads back to the top.

*While dependent on the length of your stride, my husband and his buddies average about 65 steps per 100 meters (1 meter bead).

**There IS NOT a 10th meter bead! But when it is time to pull that “10th bead” down, you are going to pull a kilometer bead down. So, 10th bead = 1 kilometer bead!

To make these, you’ll need:

  • 550 Chord (a.k.a. Parachute Chord) divided into 25 in. sections (remove the white inner strings to make it less bulky)
  • 13 Black Pony Beads
  • Tweezer
  • Scissor
  • Lighter
  • Ruler

test

After folding a 25 inch piece of 550 chord in fold in half, make a knot about an inch down. *This will make the loop for you to be able to hang it on belt loops or ruck sacks.

  • Step 1.Then take the ends and cut them at a narrow angle. You’ll want to carefully reconnect the loose strings of each end by warming it with a lighter and pressing it firmly together with your fingers. *TIP: Make sure to not cut too much away from the ends – you’ll need all of the chord!
  • Step 2. Add the 4 kilometer beads and knot the section off. Leave enough space to slide the beads up and down and to be able to tell which ones you have slid down already! *TIP: Use the tweezers to pull the chord ends through the bead.
  • Step 3. Add the 9 meter beads. Again, leave space to be able to slide them up and down. Then finalize the whole thing off with the last knot.

*TIP: Sway the lighter under each knot as you go to tighten the knot. Since the 550 chord shrinks under heat, this will prevent the knots from ever moving!

This is one of those DIY’s that the second one is always better, so don’t worry if the first one isn’t perfect. With the cost of all the supplies being so cheap, practicing on the first one won’t make you bankrupt! I’m excited to make some for myself that aren’t so Army-ish – maybe a pink one or something like that. But in the end all I can say is that I’m really looking forward to the sun coming out one of these weekends so I can try this little guy out with Blair on one of the many Washington hiking trails nearby!

Lauren

*This post was influenced by Army Ranger Beads on instructables.com.

Taxes – Army Style

Taxes. 

Seeing as how Blair had staff duty (a 24 hour shift) yesterday, I had prepared a huge To Do list of things to accomplish. I wanted to get a blog post up, deep scrub the bathroom, reorganize our bedroom closet, maybe take Costello for a walk and get our taxes done. Since I’ve had busier days before, I thought I would be able to pound these things out without a doubt. However, as the day quickly came to an end, I found myself hitting my head against our dining room table out of frustration.

TurboTax Military Edition is free for E1-E5's!

TurboTax Military Edition is free for E1-E5’s!

The day had practically gone as planned until I sat down to do our taxes. Now I’m not too sure if this is embarrassing for me to say or not, but this was my first time actually filing taxes. Before I had always been claimed as a dependent or asked my Dad to file my taxes for me (BTW, thanks Dad!). I had not only watched him file taxes before, but also several other family members – and every time it seemed to be just as easy as “1 – 2 – 3”.

I’m not a number kind of person, but I figured that all I was essentially doing was “copy and pasting”. However, I didn’t take into account how much filing as a newly married military couple would confuse me – and it did just that and more. Again, embarrassingly, I felt like I was having a complete mental breakdown all thanks to filing taxes.

To give you a little bit more background info, I was using TurboTax’s Free Military Edition for (ranks) E-1 to E-5. After doing a little research, I found that there were several different places that would do our taxes for free or had a free diy tax filing program. At Fort Lewis, there is the Tax Center or the H&R Block At Home Online tax preparation is available too, but I found that most people find TurboTax’s edition to be better when it came to getting more tax refunds. And, hey, who doesn’t like more money?!

But here are some Important Things to Know Before Filing Your Military Taxes!

1. Know your Home of Record. In our case, it is actually Blair’s Home of Record because he is the active duty enlisted one. Typically, the Home of Record is going to be the state you lived in when you joined the military – a.k.a. state of residency. So despite currently living in Washington, Nevada is his Home of Record.

*If you aren’t sure, check his LES (Leave and Earning’s Statement) through mypay.gov.

2. Understand and decide whether you will use the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act. This relief act allows military spouses to claim their active duty spouse’s state of residency even if you have PCSed to another state. For me it made sense to keep my residency in Nevada – state taxes are considerably lower there!

3. Make sure you are keeping track of what you can write off!  While many of the tax write offs out there for military service members, veterans and their families may not apply to your life, sometimes they do! So always make sure to do your research to see what is out there! Currently there are tax write offs associated with PCSing costs, uniform costs and more.

*So, Army wives, start keeping all of your receipts associated with any personal military spending right now!!! Next year you’ll be able to add up what you spent out of pocket for things like uniforms. Just make sure you don’t include the uniforms they buy using their annual uniform allowance!

4. Take advantage of the free tax programs out there. Even though I had a difficult time doing ours to begin with, as long as you know and understand terms such as Home of Record and Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, you are set. Why pay when something free is available to you, right?

5. Do your research and be prepared. In the end, I wasn’t able to finish our taxes because I hadn’t done this step. While I had all of Blair’s W-2 information (Army makes this super easy to access through mypay), I didn’t have mine… Major Fail. 😦

*Just so you know, your employer actually has till the end of January to send out W-2’s! Also, 2013’s Tax Deadline is Monday, April 15th!

Despite not clicking the send button on our taxes yet, I still found myself having a productive day, even after all of the frustration and stressing. And to calm myself down after this fiasco, I  got a little crafty/organizational and created February’s Draper Family Newsletter. Now it may seem cheesy, but it is oh so helpful for me – and it was the perfect way to end my day filled with taxes!

Lauren

Our January and February Newsletter. I use templates in Apple's Pages program to create these!

Our January and February Newsletter. I use templates in Apple’s Pages program to create these!