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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How to Avoid Becoming Bitter in Life – For Military & Civilians

Bitterness.

I’m not really one to post things on the weekend. Typically weekends are all about Blair and me time, however the last few weeks have been different due to Blair’s squadron being on lockdown while out in the field… I originally wrote this post last Monday. I had just gotten home from school and was taking a much needed break – and this is what I wrote.

The second I got home today, I just sat on the couch thinking about life.

What exactly is bitterness?

Past memories, emotions, thoughts, feelings, actions and more flooded through my mind. And the more I thought about everything, the more bitterness started to seep into my veins and go start to my heart. It was at that point that I knew I had to stop myself from thinking such negative thoughts. In the matter of minutes, I had gone from being ecstatic about the “A” I had just gotten on my nursing test to feeling like I was stuck in the deepest of dark places…

Now, there are a lot of things that have happened in my life and relationships with others that made me become bitter at times. I’m by no means perfect… We all have been there or even are there at the moment.

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Seriously, it is time to stop bitterness from taking over our lives!

And this is what I’m going to tell you: It is time to stop bitterness from taking over our lives.

From Facebook, to Instagram, to Blogs, to School, and sadly even to Church, we, as women (and men), are constantly trying to one up each other. – Relationships, Engagements, Weddings, & Babies, Clothes, Hair, Makeup, Body Shapes, & even Cars – We are constantly publicly trying to make our life “seem” better than others’. And we are constantly NOT loving each other as brothers and sisters.

Yet, that is exactly what we need to do – love each other. Help each other. Support each other.

I know it may seem like I am ranting, but please understand I am not! I just want to explain how I got to the point today and how I eased myself out of the pool of bitterness.

So… the reason why I’m going into all of this stems from recent events in the Army. Blair was working out in the field on a “3 days on. 1 day off” ratio. Then something of extreme importance went missing. And that’s when this all started. Blair’s whole squadron was put on lockdown due to the missing item, and are on lockdown till it is found or until all means of finding it are exhausted. As crazy as that seems, I understand why the Army has to do this, and that my husband, as a soldier, has to follow those orders. But it was at the town hall meeting held a couple days later that I truly became bitter.

There were easily 50+ wives at the town hall meeting wanting answers.

When is my husband going to be home? I’m pregnant – what do I do if I go into labor? Why is my husband who works in MICO (Management Information Control Office), stuck out there when he wasn’t even in the field to begin with?

It’s that last question that got me on a roll. I instantly thought, “It’s not like your husband is more important than mine. Your husband has been out in the field all of three days. Mine has been out there for two weeks.”

It was a nasty thought – one I’m greatly saddened by and even embarrassed to admit. But I think it’s important for me to share because it is one vital step to kicking bitterness out of my life.

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“Stop and Smell the Roses” everyday.

So, I’m going to give you some tips to help combat bitterness. Be honest with yourself when reading these. And try applying them to your life. It’s not easy to do – and it shouldn’t be easy. I constantly struggle with bitterness because it is ingrained into who I am as a person. Society has taught us to be like this. Sin makes it habit. And it takes quite awhile to break habits…

Try to:

1. Recognize your expectations of others may be too high.

This is a toughie one. One that requires lots of internal digging and compromise. We all have expectations of others that we feel that they should be or act like. And, honestly, most of the time they are way too high…

2. Question any feelings of jealousy you have.

Stop and open your eyes to what’s important! We all take things for granted and become jealous when someone has something we don’t have, yet most of us have the same things right before us.

3. Be thankful.

We may not have everything, but we all should be grateful for what we do have. From the roof over our heads to even the pictures of past memories we have hanging on the walls, being grateful for the big and little things are vital.

4. Accept your flaws.

When personally attacked, I get bitter. Most of the time I don’t understand why someone might not like me. I try to be nice and friendly, so why don’t they like me? This is a huge flaw of mine and only one of my many flaws I have… Stop and truly examine yourself and the flaws you may have.

5. Pray.

I know all of you don’t pray, and I know I will probably lose a lot of you at this point, but hear me out. Prayer is powerful.

“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.” ― John Wooden

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” ― Mother Teresa

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

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I love this! I’m thinking this is going to inspire a future craft project!

Below is an audio clip of Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll hitting on the topic of ending bitterness in our lives. It is an amazing audio clip that will definitely get you thinking and even crying. Blair and I heard this months back and it literally changed our lives. It makes you question yourself. I challenge you to go listen to it. Like I said, it is life changing, so be prepared. Here’s the link – Ending Bitterness

Just know that you can pick and choose what you embrace and bring into your life and what you can let go of immediately. Fall back on yourself. Emotions are a normal part of life. You might not be able to control the environment or happenings, but what you have is what you can do with the situation. You have to be strong. And that takes practice and wisdom, my friends…

Lauren

P.S. Blair was finally able to come home on Friday. It was a huge surprise and I was beyond ecstatic! He headed back out to the field today so I will see him in just a few days. I’m grateful I had this weekend with him and am thankful he is safe here in the states. On a different note, I just wanted to say thank you to all of the men and women who are still overseas fighting. And I wanted to tell the spouses that I’m extremely proud of you all! Stay strong! We are all here for you!

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.

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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:
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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:

A Deployment Overview

Hello all! 🙂

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Me and my airman!

First, a quick overview about me and then onto the first post for Becoming Deployment Champs!

My name is Kaitlin Haugen. I am 20 years old, a full-time student at the University of Nevada in Reno and am the game day producer for the Arizona Diamondbacks Triple-A affiliate, Reno Aces.

My fiancé’s name is Taylor Ritchie. He is a C-130 crew chief in the United States Air Force and is stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Taylor and I started dating October 20, 2009. He was a senior in high school and I was a junior.

On November 21, 2010 he left for boot camp and from there our long distance relationship started and continues today. I remember thinking that if we were meant to be then the distance would only make the heart grow fonder and we would only become stronger and that we did!

When he graduated from boot camp January 20, 2011 I was more in love with him than I ever had been. I had spent two months missing my best friend and realizing that life without him was not only impossible, but unimaginable – as I’m sure many of you all understand!

We have been together for a little over 3 and a half years and in a long distance relationship for about 2 and a half years. It has not been easy, but all the coming and going to and from Arkansas is worth it because I know someday it will lead to staying. This past December he was able to come home for Christmas before his first deployment in January. We went out to dinner with both of our families and he asked me to be his wife.

I have been through high school, boot camp, distance, and now a deployment with my fiancé and hope I can be of help to other military couples.

Together we can all become champions!

deployment-overview I remember the day Taylor told me he was going to deploy. At first I thought, “This will be good…I am ready for this.”

Taylor and I had been through a lot together and I knew one of the last military related obstacles we had left to overcome was a deployment. Needless to say I was ready to get it going and get it over with. However, it was not as easy said as done. I remember being all right about it after I watched him get onto the bus, and still all right on my flight back to Nevada, but as soon as I laid in bed I really thought about where he was going and it hit me. Half of my heart was in Afghanistan…and it was tough.

Luckily, I had a few days at home with my parents and siblings before having to return back to school and that really helped. I also spent quite a bit of time over at his house and his mom and I put together his first care package. It is pretty tough especially at first, but with a good support system and enough to keep you busy the time will fly and you will get through it.

To start off the series I am going to give a brief overview to deployment and answer some pretty basic questions. These were the first things running through my mind when Taylor told me that he was deploying.

deployment_overview.2  In the Air Force, deployment time depends on your significant other’s job. However, most USAF deployments are between 4 and 6 months. Taylor is a C-130 crew chief and because they have to rotate out the planes that are overseas he was only over there for a little over 4 months.

deployment_overview.1 This was probably one of my biggest concerns. Because Taylor and I are in a long distance relationship we talk and text everyday and try to Skype as often as possible. Right before he left we would have movie date nights over the phone where we would choose a movie on Netflix and hit play at the same time. I got used to our routine and knew that with him being overseas it was going to change.

However, it really doesn’t change – it’s just different. Because they have Wi-Fi over there, they are able to get on social media sites and Skype, so we would Skype quite a bit and used Facebook messenger everyday.

There are also other apps that can be downloaded like Viber that allows you to call and receive calls from overseas free of charge. I have a few other friends who either have a spouse, or parent in the military who strongly suggest downloading this app. Make sure it is downloaded before your significant other leaves the United States or else they will not be able to download it overseas. Taylor and I made this mistake, but he was able to download 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.

Communication is important in becoming a deployment champion. I will dive more into communication later on in the series!

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Remember - Silence means Security! Keep our loved ones safe by staying hush about deployment dates and arrivals.

Remember – Silence means Security! Keep our loved ones safe by staying hush about deployment dates and arrivals.

In today’s social media driven world, the Air Force has been very hushed about deployment departure and return dates.

For Taylor’s deployment they told us he could be leaving anywhere from January 3rd-10th. About 4 days before he left, he got a phone call to report to the squadron building on January 6th to leave for Afghanistan. So if you want to be there to see your airman off make sure you have an open schedule! It is frustrating, but with the rising popularity of social media sites it is just what they have to do for security purposes. Luckily for me it was my winter break from school when Taylor was scheduled to deploy.

After he was in Nevada for Christmas, he and I flew back to Arkansas together on December 30tth and I was with able to be with him until he deployed. I bought a one-way ticket because I was not sure when I would be flying back and how many days I was going to get with him before he left, so if you are in a long distance relationship like I am, make sure you have money saved just for plane tickets. Getting to deployment departures and arrivals is not cheap because you are given the dates in such short notice.

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Just like when they deploy, knowing when they are coming home is something you will not know until 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-25th. Once again this is frustrating, but just remember it is a safety precaution taken by the Air Force to ensure the safety of your airman.

It was not until May 3rd that I knew that the exact day he would be coming home would be May 20th. Normally I have a full Facebook countdown about going to see Taylor, but I knew how important it was to keep it off social media. It was not until his plane landed on the flight line and I was in his arms again that I put anything on Facebook.

deployment_overview.5 The answer to this question is different for everyone – My best advice is to keep busy and find some sort of a support group.

There are support groups for wives that your airman’s section will have that you can join. When I went to see Taylor off, the wives of his section were there and if you were a wife you could sign up and receive invitations to different events they hold during the deployment. It is a good support system and a good way to get to know the other spouses in your airman’s section.

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Right before he deployed… Hard day, but next Thursday I’ll give you more insight on What to Expect Before Deployments!

For me though this was different because I am not a wife and I live in Nevada. Luckily for me I have some great friends and I live a little less than an hour away from Taylor’s family and mine. They were all very supportive and always there for me when I needed them.

The other thing is to keep busy. Thankfully, this was not tough for me. I took 16 credits in the spring semester while Taylor was deployed and it definitely kept me busy. I also have a job, which I absolutely love. I was so focused on making my grades, performing well at work, and keeping in contact with Taylor that before I knew it I was done with my sophomore year of college and he was out processing from Bagram, Afghanistan and getting ready to begin his journey home.

Next week I will be posting about What to Expect Before Deployment, what that last day with your airman is like and what to expect when you show up with your significant other at their squadron building to see them off. This is a hard day, but I am hoping I can help make it a little easier 🙂

Until then,

Kaitlin

Becoming Deployment Champs! Posts:

Stay tuned for Kaitlin's Week 2 post next Thursday - and for Army Wife guest blogger Marjorie's first post soon! Exciting things happening here at The Real Sweetheart! -Lauren

Stay tuned for Kaitlin’s Week 2 post next Thursday – and for Army Wife guest blogger Marjorie and her first post coming soon! Exciting things happening here at The Real Sweetheart! -Lauren

How To: Get A National Parks Pass for FREE

Summertime.

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Our 2013 National Parks Pass – We can’t wait to use it!

I can feel it coming and I’m excited! Camping, hiking, and just being outside makes me very happy. So although it’s been pouring on and off here for the past 24 hours, I decided to go out and get our first Military National Parks Annual Pass for 2013!

Now the best part about getting the pass this year? It was completely, totally, no-fees free. That’s right – FREE.

But before you run out your door, please note that this is only available for Active Duty Military! (Civilians pay the standard annual pass costs.)

If you are in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area, head South to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to pick up one for you and your family! You can also pick up one at any National Park Ranger Station or National Wildlife Refuge Office if you are stationed somewhere else. 🙂 All you will need to bring with you is your Military ID!

The ranger I spoke to at Nisqually explained that the Annual Pass – Military comes along with some extra steps when using them:

  1. Do not lend the Military Annual Pass to other family or friends.
  2. To successfully enter the National Park or Refuge, you will need to show your Military ID along with the pass itself.
  3. The pass will allow other passengers entrance into the parks. Meaning, you, your active duty spouse and any other passengers inside the car will be allowed into the park – so not just those with Military IDs!
  4. Both you and your active duty spouse will sign the back of the pass. So if you just so happen to forget your Military ID and your spouse has their’s, you will still be able to successfully enter the park when he gives his CAC Card to them.

For more FAQs on Military Annual Passes, check the U.S. Geological Survey’s Military Pass Site here.

Enjoy!

Lauren

P.S. Today marks Blair’s first year in the Army. It’s hard to believe that last Mother’s Day I was dropping him off at the recruiter’s and now a year has already passed. I’m extremely proud of him for who he has become throughout this whole experience and proud of him for all that he has done. This also goes for all the soldiers already out there – without you guys, we would not be a FREE country! Thank you for your service!

Army Wife Opinion: Is the Commissary Worth It?

The Commissary.

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To see promotional items or what’s on sale at your commissary, check out http://www.commissaries.com. It’s an awesome site with helpful tips!

I’ve had several discussions with fellow Army wives on whether the commissary is really worth going to. I’ve heard all of the arguments for shopping there – There’s no tax. The prices are cheaper. The meat is better quality. Literally, I’ve heard them all. Yet, I’m still not completely sold on shopping there…

Since I plan our meals out on a monthly basis, I go grocery shopping once a month. This makes sense for us to do, especially considering the first paycheck of the month goes directly to bills and the second one goes to food, gas and our savings. So planning ahead is seriously the best option, but where exactly is more debatable!

Just so you know, here in Lacey, WA – right outside of Fort Lewis – I have several options on where to go grocery shopping:

  • Safeway
  • WinCo
  • Wal-Mart
  • Costco
  • The Commissary

Now, here are some thoughts on the subject from fellow military wives!

“We’ve tried shopping at both for an extended period of time and overall, we have a lower grocery bill at the commissary. Spices are WAY cheaper at Winco though. We also don’t think the quality of meat we got at Winco was as good as the meat at the commissary.”-Cindi

“I shop for most stuff at Wal Mart. Olympia Seafood Market is the best fresh seafood in the area. Winco tends to be cheaper from what I seen but I do not like there family packs of meat or wilted produce. Try Bountiful Baskets for fresh fruit and veggies and whole grain bread; Michaels meats has good freezer packs. All food is tax free. The commissary charges a percentage on everything you buy. The best deal to me at the commissary is tampons.” –Jennifer

“Winco for food. Walmart for household things.” –Brooke

“I shop at winco or Fred Meyer if I have the coupons and get my meats from Costco and paper products. The money I would spend in gas To post I save shopping here.” –Staci

Personally, I don’t shop at the Commissary unless I’m on base. These are my reasons why:

  1. I’m not a “brand” person. So if I can still get a generic box of pasta for 50 cents less than the brand name box of pasta at the commissary, I’ll keep shopping at WinCo.
  2. Proximity. WinCo is close – like 6 minutes away from our apartment. While Safeway is even closer, we only stop there for our favorite ice cream – otherwise it’s too expensive. And while the base isn’t that far away, I still have to get on the freeway, go through the gate and find a parking space along with the other 500 million people there.
  3. Surcharge. I don’t quite fall for the “There’s No Tax!” phrase. When you go to the commissary, there IS a surcharge. And there is no food tax here in Washington. So even though some things I may pick up at WinCo are taxable, I still would rather save the gas money than drive to post to buy groceries with a surcharge.
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Check them out and see which one works best for you!

Now, don’t think I’m bashing the commissary! It does have some great deals – like their cheese! All I can say is – Just Shop Smartly.

Like the wives above, try out some of the different options first then make a decision which works best for you, your family and your budget.

We shop mostly at WinCo, get bulk items at Costco, and misc. items at Big Lots. That’s what works for us – so find out what works for you! Good luck!

Lauren