After he came back from Korea, he went promptly to his new duty station at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and shortly after he deployed to Afghanistan. After finishing my Master’s, I drove solo across country and set up the home that he had left empty for me when he deployed and began teaching at a new school. While some questioned my reasoning for moving out there without a support system in place, I knew I wanted to settle in and be prepared for his return.
Ultimately, my husband and I were separated for a little over three years, with the occasional weekend visit here and there. Looking back on our time apart, it barely seems like a blip on my timeline. We grumble about our separation while we’re in the moment, but I would make those same decisions again if necessary.
As his deployment came to an end, the end of his contract was also in sight. He had reached a frustration level with active duty Army service, and made the decision to transfer to the Reserves. While he initially discussed going into the Air Force Reserve, he surprised me with a contract for the Army Reserve, convinced by a signing bonus. We had made the decision to relocate to Colorado, since the military would move us one last time, and he found an available slot at Fort Carson. I accepted my first-choice job, a position at a high school in the area I wanted to live, with extended family nearby. I saddled up the vehicle and drove across country once again, moving in with family until he began terminal leave and could join me.
After the comforts of an active duty lifestyle, the transition into civilian life and the Reserves did not come easily for us. He was out of work for a little over a year, and found himself increasingly dissatisfied with the leadership in his Reserve unit. I missed the stability and benefits that active duty provided us, the support of the FRG, as well as the quality of life. Financial stress and general uncertainty put tension and stress on our marriage.
Let’s switch gears for a bit though. I had my own dreams of a military career, and after joking long enough, I set a goal of enlistment by age thirty. I had always thought it was too late for me and that I was too far into my civilian career to make a change. I finally realized I could have a civilian and a military career through the Reserves. I told myself that if we didn’t start a family by the time I hit thirty, I would proceed with my plans. My birthday came around and there were no children on the near horizon, so I trotted into the office of my local Air Force Reserve recruiter. Four months later, I was off to Basic Military Training (BMT) with my husband’s blessing. I didn’t believe them when they initially told us, but BMT was one of the more challenging experiences of my life. Ultimately my leadership skills and commitment to excellence paid off, and I received the Top Honor Graduate award, out of the 817 trainees that graduated that day. I kept my standards high for myself in technical training, where I received the Distinguished Graduate award for having perfect scores on all of my tests.
Reintegration back home with my husband and into my civilian job proved just as difficult as we’d experienced in the past. I felt as though my own changes weren’t mirrored by the changes at home. I was frustrated and I felt trapped. The husband and I were eventually able to weather the changes and stressors that life threw at us, and emerged renewed as we finally caught a few breaks.
This brings us to the present. I’m settled into my unit here at Peterson Air Force Base, where I’m continuing to set ambitious goals for myself. My husband was able to switch over to the Air Force Reserve, where he’s found a greater sense of satisfaction and belonging. Looking forward, I’m planning to complete a AAS degree in Human Resource Management from the Community College of the Air Force this summer, as well as meet the requirements for the next skill level in my career field. In the fall I hope to be accepted into a program that will allow me to commission as an officer. He is looking forward to attending technical training to become a Crew Chief on the C-130H. We’re also in the process of home buying, and we’re hoping to establish permanent roots here in Colorado. My military life hasn’t been an easy one, but whose is? I think we’re all the same in that aspect, despite the unique facets of our journeys. All of the skills that I honed as a milspouse – independence, resourcefulness, motivation, and initiative – helped me succeed when I made the leap into the dual military world. My experience has shown me that if you set the bar high for yourself, you can have it all.
Thank you for reading, and best of luck to you in your own military journey! [Psst! Considering enlistment in the Air Force, or know someone who is? Check out my blog where I help future trainees prepare for their own successful careers!]