Jayden Serck is a new military wife. After graduating from college with a Human Development and Family Studies degree, she married Jordan, her high school sweetheart, who graduated from college a year earlier with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. When Jordan joined the Air Force with a direct commission they encountered multiple transitions in their young married life. Jordan traveled from South Dakota to Alabama for training before they traveled together to their first duty station at Travis Air Force base in California. Jayden is not new to military service as her mother served in the Army National Guard and her father is currently serving in the Air National Guard. However, being a spouse of an active duty Service member is new. In this blog Jayden shares her experience as they encounter a variety of transitions.
It’s real. It’s here. When the letter came in the mail it was proof that Jordan (my husband) had been accepted to the US Air Force and the process had officially begun. It was exciting and full of unknowns. During this time, we quickly learned the “hurry up and wait” motto of the military! There was so much to be done, yet each step required completion of a previous task in order to proceed. At this point in our journey, we learned to not stress too much about anything. Jordan was in close contact with his recruiter and prepared for his first PT (Physical Training) test at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station).
Jordan left our home in South Dakota to attend four weeks of commissioned officer training in Alabama. We decided that I would not join him in Alabama so that I could continue working and make plans for our big move to Travis Air Force Base in California. Whether it be basic training, commissioned officer training (aka COT), deployment, temporary assignment (aka TDY), or any other sort of event that causes spouses and families to be separated from their Service member, it is best to appreciate time alone and reflect on the reasons why the marriage and love is worthwhile and strengthening throughout this process. Keeping busy is also HUGE (or “youge” as Donald Trump would say) for staying sane. Picking up extra hours at work or spending time with friends and new acquaintances made the time fly for me.
The past few months I’ve really been able to live out my New Year’s Resolution to the fullest (it’s possible!). In December 2015, I decided I needed to start saying “yes” when asked to do something, no matter how lazy I’d rather be. By doing so, I have met so many new friends, changed my lifestyle and made wonderful memories. For example, I recently took a trip to Santa Clara with a family I’ve met just once to go to a FREE Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Old Dominion and Sam Hunt concert (check our Vet Tix if you have not yet to see how). I anticipated that this experience would be uncomfortable at first, but it was an opportunity I will probably never get again. I want to live my life to the fullest; regardless of whether the outcome of the experience is positive or negative.
The Move & In-processing
I found it extremely valuable to participate in Jordan’s graduation ceremony! Going to Jordan’s graduation helped me visualize and understand what he had experienced the previous month. Alabama was crazy humid and I give all of those officers props for staying disciplined in 100% humidity. After the graduation, everyone was kicked off Maxwell AFB and were on a timeline to get to their first duty station. We took advantage of this time! After being separated for a month, things fell back into place very quickly. It was like being on a mini vacation. We were able to visit landmarks in 10 states and spent a night in Las Vegas on our way to California.
We found that we spent a lot of money during the move. We learned that waiting on housing can take months, and it is likely military families may need to sleep in hotels and temporary lodging for at least one month. A certain amount of these expenses are reimbursed, however that can take a long time (it took about two months for our travel pay to come through) so budgeting is necessary! We’ve also learned that it is common for the LES (paystub) to be messed up after the member starts working too, so be sure to constantly be checking.
Arriving on base was a relief, but was a high paced environment. Jordan was thrown into trainings immediately, before spending 10 days house hunting (we definitely utilized these too!). House hunting was easily the most stressful part of our PCS. We felt we needed to get housing immediately and didn’t have a clue where to look. We were incredibly fortunate to be offered on-base housing within three weeks of arriving on base and moved in two weeks after being offered the house. That meant, we obviously well exceeded our 10 day allotment. After putting down a non-refundable $200 deposit on an apartment, we didn’t even sweat the loss, knowing we’d have an additional 1000 square feet and live in a secured, safe neighborhood.
A lot of spouses choose to work, and a lot do not. Many stay home with their children or have in-home daycares (which they must set up through a base Human Resources; at Travis it is through NAF or nonappropriated funds). Many spouses, like myself, choose to find a job as soon as possible. After looking at a lot of options on and off base, I found www.NAFjobs.org. NAF hires for most of the amenities on base such as lodging, child development centers, and recreational buildings. The process can go quick like it did for me (1-2 weeks) or take much longer (1-2 months – especially for childcare jobs that require FBI fingerprint results to be returned before starting). There are many HR offices on base though for GS jobs (www.USAjobs.com) and AAFES jobs at the BX and commissary. My biggest piece of advice here is to really consider all of your options and choose a job that will make you happy rather than trying to get a job as fast as possible.
Continuing our Community
The most helpful resources in terms of getting to know the area were spouses’ Facebook pages and both Jordan and my co-workers. Within a few days, we had been invited to multiple gatherings and dinner parties by co-workers. They let us know good and bad areas to live, and places in the area that are must sees. People are always flooding on and off the base, so going to any on-base events or parties that may be offered are crucial in establishing friendships and long-term happiness.
I also decided to start a snail mail fund to keep in touch with family and friends back home. Social media is great, but it is so nice to send and receive little presents and letters to keep in touch. Skype is great, too, of course and holding ourselves to calling when we say we will has been important as well.
Overall, our transition was very smooth and we are now happily settled in our California home and life! We learned to laugh at the ridiculously frustrating things and embrace the quiet little moments. Whatever life brings our way, we will be together and are in a caring and helpful community full of people who closely relate to everything we are experiencing.