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.

nmsntruth

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.

edX photo

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/!

Advertisements

A Deployment Overview

Hello all! 🙂

Desktop55

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!

deployment_overview.3

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.

deployment_overview.4

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.

kaitlin_deployment

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

Steam Cleaning: The Only Way to Clean a Fridge

The Fridge.

thenandnowjpg

I purposely made this photo smaller… Not only does the dirty spot gross me out, but it’s also just straight up embarrassing!

It was nasty. Something spilled and it was a terrible sticky mess to clean up. At first, I scrubbed with a sponge to get the residue picked up, but after having no success at doing so I pulled out my handy dandy Steamer.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be posting this for people to see unless I really truly believed in Steam Cleaning. It works wonders while sanitizing and I’m not too sure why it didn’t click until now to use it on and in my fridge. After all, I use it on everything else in the kitchen, bathroom and practically the whole rest of the apartment… I even use a Shark Steam Mop on our floors!

Anywho, the first thing you’ll need is a reliable steamer. I use a Scunci Steamer and I love it, but there are plenty of others on the market for less. Just make sure to read the ratings before you invest in one!

Some other supplies you’ll want are:

  • Old rag *Used to pick up the residue
  • Spray bottle filled with equal parts vinegar and warm water
  • Couple of clean rags *Used to wipe the vinegar & water cleaning solution up
  • Glad Press’n Seal *Optional – used to line any flat solid shelves for quick and easy clean-ups in the future!

Now, Let’s get started:

  1. Get your steamer filled with water and warming up.
  2. While the steamer is warming up, clear your fridge and get rid of any bad food.
  3. Remove any shelves and drawers that you are able to. *You essentially want a blank slate so you can get into every nook and cranny.
  4. Get to steaming! Steam any spills or touch residue first and wipe up with your old rag then get into the tight spots!

    IMGP6234-001

    Reason 1,687,392,735,084 why you need to steam clean. This is nasty and it totally brought out the OCD in me. We rent our apartment so I can only imagine what this fridge has been through…

  5. Once most of the loose residue is steamed and picked up, spray your cleaning solution all around and let it sit for a minute. Wipe up with your clean rags.
  6. Since I had a solid shelf, I lined the top of it with Glad Press’n Seal to help quickly clean up spills in the future.

And you are done!

final

Nice clean fridge! P.S. Glad Press’n Seal is shown in the bottom right photo!

 

Now that I’ve cleaned my fridge this way I can’t imagine doing it any other way. This is a must do for anyone! It makes cleaning the fridge no longer a hassle, but rather quite therapeutic – now, I don’t know about everyone else, but that’s my type of cleaning!

Lauren

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!

Travel Tips: Fort Benning

Fort Benning.

At Blair's OSUT graduation (2nd trip to Fort Benning)

At Blair’s OSUT graduation (2nd trip to Fort Benning)

There are five key things to know before making a trip to Fort Benning, GA – especially if you are under the age of 25! Before Blair’s Family Weekend Pass from his BCT graduation I struggled with planning the trip from Nevada to Georgia. To me, buying a plane ticket, booking a hotel room and picking Blair up was simple. But after taking away the option of me renting a rental car, I might as well have run into a concrete barrier.

Apparently, rental car companies restrict people under the age of 25 from renting a car… And I was 19 at the time so I was in some serious trip planning trouble. While there might have been a few that would rent out to someone younger than that, the extra charges on top of the base rental fee was not worth it. So, I simply just had to do a little bit more planning.

Being three months into being an Army wife at this point, I was wishing that there was some magical site that would tell me all the answers to solving my dilemma.  There wasn’t. And everyday after getting off of work, I searched for the best bargains, military friendly deals and tips to making this trip easy going and stress free. Below are the five key things to keep in mind while planning this trip. The extra planning is well worth it in the end – trust me! Just make sure to follow these steps and truly enjoy your time with your loved one and the Family Weekend Pass will be a success!

1. Getting There

If a rental car from the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport isn’t an option, call Groome Transport.

Truth be told, it is a shuttle, you are on it for a good hour and a half/two hours and it isn’t the most comfortable or best smelling when it comes to traveling with others in the hot and humid Georgian heat.

However, it’s only $39 one way or $72 for the round-trip. Pretty stinkin’ affordable by my standards…

There is a military discount if you take the shuttle to the base, but in my case, since we stayed at a hotel in Columbus, GA (the city surrounding Fort Benning), I was not able to receive it.

*Something to keep in mind is that Army “girlfriends” do not have access to military discounts! You have to be a spouse/family member and have a military identification card to receive most military discounts.

A little unrelated, but Costello stayed with some family members while I was gone! He certainly lived up to his name while I was away...

A little unrelated, but Costello stayed with some family members while I was gone! He certainly lived up to his trouble maker name while I was away…

2. Taxi

No car = Taxi Cab.

I took American Taxi Cab Co. back and forth from our hotel to Benning and I loved them. Their rates were fair and super friendly. Plus, if you call the same driver for your pick-ups, they tend to give you a discount for your “loyalty”!

Please note that not all taxi companies have the ability to go onto base! Each one has to pass a security process to be able to drive on base, so if you decide to use another taxi cab company, just make sure they have access. You are going to need it!

3. Victory Drive

All I really need to say with this tip is stay off and away from Victory Drive. With this road being less than a mile away from Fort Benning’s main gate, it’s easy to pick a hotel right there.

However, most Drill Sergeants tell the boys to stay away from that area due to it not being the best of places (crime, shootings, etc.).

If you do end up picking a hotel there, keep your soldier in the hotel with you and order food in. The Drill Sergeants aren’t joking when they tell you to stay away from that area and they do patrol. Again, trust me! I learned this on my second trip to Fort Benning… 😉

4. Hotel

For me, exit 10 off of Interstate 185 in Columbus is the best spot to stay. We stayed at the Wyndham Garden Columbus, which ended up being about twenty miles away from Harmony Church where Blair was at Basic Training. While it does seem a little costly to be 20 miles away from the base (taxi rides were about $40 to the base), it was well worth it because you end up being close to good food stops (IHOP, Hooters for those certain boys, etc.) and a huge movie theater.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most of the boys will want to be as far away from Benning as possible. They’ve been there for the past three months or so and want to enjoy their break – not wake up to look out the window and see the place they likely dread the most! 

*A good rule of thumb is to stay within 30 miles of the base. Driving and visiting Atlanta is super against the rules. Do it at your own risk!

Sad to say goodbye

Sad to say goodbye…

5. Leave Time

In the Army, “on time” is late, yet too early is obnoxious. Just plan on leaving reasonably early for wherever you go.

I planned on arriving to Georgia the day before the BCT graduation ceremony. This was the perfect amount of time for me to relax, calm my nerves (I was literally uncontrollably excited and nervous – it was a huge moment in my personal and married life!) and iron my outfits for the next few days.

When it came to the actual graduation, I ended up being four hours too early… All I can say is that I was a tad bit confused on when the ceremony was. Luckily, Blair’s battle buddy’s wife had done the same! So we walked and talked and tried to calm each other down from our excitement the best we could.

When it is time for them to report back, half an hour prior was a good amount of time to say your goodbyes and once again leave them. This was the hardest part about this trip, but what I’ve come to realize is that it is a huge part of being an Army wife. Just stay strong, say your prayers and start writing him letters again as soon as he starts walking back to his troop.

Now this last bit isn’t quite a tip, but rather just common sense. Make sure as a spouse or a family member, that your soldier stays in his uniform if out in public, stays in his pt clothes if walking around the hotel and that he always says sir or ma’am. And if they do run into a Drill Sergeant, they should always stand at parade rest. Nothing too hard for any of them considering they have done all of these things every day for the past three months.

Remember that Drill Sergeants give out rules for a reason. If your soldier decides not to follow them, it is their choice. But as a loved one, push them to do the right thing! Because they really won’t want to mess up the last three months of training they have already had and start again from Day 0 if caught – and yes, that does happen!

I hope that this is helpful to someone out there – I know I sure would have loved to have this for direction!

Lauren