Welcome to the amazing, crazy, “What was I thinking of?!” life of a Black Military Wife or Woman (if you’re the actual service-member)! The beginning, like the beginning of most things, is exciting! Most of us can remember the familiar feelings of anxiety–and maybe a little fear–as we excitedly packed our bags, fantasied about our upcoming adventures, practiced writing our new signatures, got Military ID (Dependent) cards and prepared to move out of the State for the first time or go to a Country that we’ve never visited. Some of you have never flown on a plane. Some of you don’t have passports! Well sistas, that’s probably about to change!!! While your spouse went through his/her basic training, there are some basics that would be helpful for you to know too! I’ll try to cover as much as possible!
- PCS (Permanent Change of Station–this does not mean that you will “permanently” be living there): “When will you PCS?” translates to, “When do you all move/leave?” The first PCS can be intimidating. First, try to relax. You can do this! Get ready to take being an adult and an independent woman to a whole new level!!! This military lifestyle is not for everyone, and yet, it can be done beautifully with support and resources! Okay, let’s get down to business. IF you are making these arrangements alone, get a copy of your spouse’s orders. Also, make sure you have the Power of Attorney (POA) to be able to initiate the PCS and do anything else that you all agree to as a couple. Because you can get the logistics regarding how to schedule a PCS from the “Transportation or Personal Property Office” at your current installation (base/post), I will stick to some other things that I’ve learned over time: A) Purge!!! Make donations or throw away things that you no longer need/want. B) Carry-Ons: Whatever you want to “carry with you” as you drive/fly to your next duty station, put into an empty bathroom or closet. Tape a sign on the CLOSED DOOR with the words “DO NOT ENTER or DO NOT PACK.” Some items that you don’t want to be packed are: Paperwork (Birth Certificates, Passports, Checkbooks, etc.), Medications, Suitcases filled with clothes, Phone chargers, etc. C) Consider getting a Personal Mailbox (PMB) through the local UPS office at your next duty station, BEFORE you move there. Unlike a P.O. Box at the post office, a PMB can be opened over the phone and you will be given a “physical address” which may be required for some situations.
- Military Discounts: Do not be ashamed or to proud to ask in restaurants! Even clothing stores offer discounts to service-members and their families.
- Budgeting: It’s easy for us to live outside of our means, especially with a steady income coming into the household. Create a list of how much is coming in and what is going out. Save! Find a Navy Federal Credit Union or other banks that offers great incentives, and open accounts for your children too!
- Tricare (Prime/Standard) Healthcare Insurance: With “Prime,” there are no enrollment fees, deductibles, or co-payments for families of Active duty service-members. “Standard” has more flexibility in choosing a provider, but unlike “Prime,” it does require that you make co-pays and for you to satisfy a yearly deductible before TRICARE payments begin, and you will be required to pay a portion for outpatient care and inpatient care.
- Important Phone Numbers/Websites: These numbers are in my cell phone!!!! Get ready to store these must-have contacts: The Nurse Advice Line (24/7 consultations over the phone), 1-800-847-2273. Tricare: 1-877-874-2273. Military OneSource (FREE counseling services, H&R Block FREE Tax service, and 24/7 resource for all questions): 1-800-342-9647
- Common Acronyms: OPSEC (Operation Security: Don’t share IN DEPTH details about spouse’s location, deployment return dates with base info, etc.), CONUS (Continental United States), OCONUS (Outside Continental United States, may include Alaska and Hawaii), BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing), TDY (Temporary Duty), EFMP (Exceptional Family Member–has a medical diagnosis), PCS (Permanent Change of Station), SM (Service-member)….Just to name a few!
- GI Bill: Funding for education. If unused by the service-member, he/she may consider transferring to dependents.
- VA Loans: Huge perk! Maintain your credit. There’s a “cap” (max) for the loan amount. Usually, a ZERO down payment is required. Find the Regional Loan Center Contact Information for your area, and CALL them with your questions. Each State has a different office. http://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/contact_rlc_info.asp
- Branches/Ranks: The Department of Defense (DoD) U.S. Military has four branches: Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, or Navy. The Coast Guard is a part of Homeland Security. There are Enlisted ranks and Officer ranks within the military. Enlisted ranks are E-1 to E-9. Officers’ ranks are O-1 to O-10.
- Self-care: This is really #1!!! Take care of YOU! If you aren’t willing or able to make sure that you are as healthy as possible, it’s difficult to create a healthy/happy environment for anyone else. Read, exercise, meet new people, eat well, mediate and/or pray…STAY BUSY! I once heard that “a bored mind is one that doesn’t stimulate itself.” After over a decade of being a Navy wife, I don’t recall being bored very often. Lonely? Yes. Bored? Not really! Stay busy–even if you’re keeping yourself company–treat yourself to an occasional movie or a nice meal, when your spouse is away. You will find that you have an amazing amount of resilience and commitment that many couples will never experience. You will be tested, but you can pass with flying colors!
***Join the Facebook group “Black Military Wives” (B.M.W.) to get recommendations for local hair stylists, an uplifting church to attend, or to simply get emotional support through the journey of being a B.M.W.!