I grew up about 30 miles from an army base, so you can imagine my husband's surprise when we met and I knew nothing – seriously nothing – about the military.
To this day he asks how I could have lived so close, yet had zero interaction with the non-civilian world. And my answer is always the same: I shrug and say how it never affected me. I knew it was there, of course, but other than that, Fort wasn't really on my radar.
Thankfully, our first year of marriage also came with an amazing FRG (family readiness group)– it was full of ladies who taught me the ropes. They explained and acted as an incredible support system. Without friendly veteran wives, I'm not sure when or how I would have learned the ins and outs. (And yes, my husband explained things as well.)
But really, I went in knowing nothing. Being from the area, I knew where to shop and how to find things, but in the way of the army, I was essentially clueless.
And then we moved.
Nearly two years of marriage in, and I knew a little more about army life. But what I didn't have on my side was a sense of direction or knowing the town. Our first night of moving in, we were in need of a shower curtain and I remember hopping in my car and just sitting there. I had no idea which way to drive. It was overwhelming and empowering all at once.
Months later, I learned of free spousal classes. Offered on post for newbies (as well as those who are "nearly new"), it's put on by the MWR. (Morale, welfare, and recreation) It comes with a tour, rundowns of the area, an overview of services, and the ability to meet other newcomers while you're there. A priceless resource, I now realize.
And I should have taken it. Really, I should have taken one as soon as we got married. (Then again when we moved.) FRG and townie knowledge aside, it would have helped me learn the ropes far sooner.
You know how things go, you get busy or think you don't really qualify (we'd lived at our new base about six months when I found out about the course). Anyway, it never happened. Meanwhile, I was still using my GPS to get around and hadn't met many new friends. Working from home and not having a home base took away two main sources of reaching out, and going to a simple meeting could have done wonders to reverse that.
As for resources, services unique to our base, and even where they're located – I could have learned all of that from going to said meeting. Plus I could have learned plenty of military logistics while I was there. Soldiers are required to attend such training when they PCS – days of long meetings that talk about paperwork and more. While I got much of this information secondhand, there was so much he never learned, either. Like wife meet ups, fun events and recreations, or even just recommendations for services. Like what salon gives the best haircut? Where do you go when you're in need of a specialty cake? And more.
Not only are these meetings about learning the ropes, they're also about knowing where to go with a question.
Being a soldier's spouse can be a complicated job. There are so many rules and regulations, clubs, and infinite acronyms – it can take years, even an entire career to learn them all. So why not take an extra step to learn as much as possible? It will only help you, after all. And therefore, help your family.
Consider looking up your MWR and finding if they offer spouse welcome meetings or events, and if they do, make a solid effort to go!