I’ve been awfully quiet on this blog for quite some time now, and I do apologize for that. But I just didn’t know what to write about, or have much time to write.
My last few months were consumed with preparing for us to leave our duty station and return to our home state to resume life, as civilians…kind of.
My husband’s active duty contract came up, so we were busy getting all of our loose ends tied up on Post, completing his Clearing (I’ll include some tips and tricks that hopefully will help you if you need the info in the future), looking for a place to live when we came back to our home state, figuring out WHEN we could come back, and I also started the process of looking for work.
ETS’ing…It’s bitter-sweet. There are things about being enlisted that my husband and I did enjoy, and even though it hasn’t been that long, we do miss. But on the other hand, we know that for us, putting in the full 20 years under active duty just wasn’t what was going to make or keep us happy together. Military families, the good ones, the ones who still love each other through deployments, the forever-supporting spouses, are strong families. The one deployment was hard enough for both of us. Looking back, I do think we could get through another one, hopefully easier, but in truth, I know that deployments are NEVER easy, and they’re even harder when they are deployed for a year (I am and was envious of the spouses of military men and women who only have to endure deployments than can be counted in single-digit months). Throw into that a deployment to a FOB or even province that has active militant activity, direct or indirect…and you’re worrying every minute of every day because you just have no idea, and your imagination is your worst friend. So, while I’ll miss being an Army Wife, being active in the FRG (even if spouse turnout wasn’t that high), and as much as I didn’t care for the area we were stationed in (we had started finding some nicer areas and things to do in the area, but the locals are overall terrible, especially when I’m used to the hospitality of my home state (not to be confused with Southern hospitality, I am from New England). But it was a lifestyle that I have spent the last three years adjusting to and living… Now I’m thrown into adjusting back to life essentially without the military. Change is change, and it’s an adjustment.
The Clearing Process is something else. Half of the things they discuss with the soldier is put in such a context that if “you haven’t started this yet, you’re already behind,” even though they might be hearing about it for the first time. I guess it’s great if your soldier is a procrastinator. But for my husband, everything that they made him feel like he was already behind on, when he tried to complete it, he couldn’t because it was too soon in the process, or it was a signature he needed to get at the very end. Unless your soldier is a procrastinator, he or she needs to take this with a grain of salt. But some things that should be sought out immediately are the medical exams parts 1 and 2, especially if your soldier intends to file for any kind of medical disability claim. And especially if you want these processes completed before you intend to take terminal leave prior to ETS’ing, or at least prior to your ETS date. Pay attention to the month, holidays, and if there are any block leaves coming up. We almost ran into a problem of trying to get Part 2 scheduled, a lack of appointments because block leave had started, and our terminal leave date was fast approaching. You do have to fast for your Part 1, so plan accordingly.
Make sure that your addresses and locations of all of the stations you need to clear with are accurate, especially for the areas of Post/Base you may have never traveled to before. One of the buildings on my husband’s list was listed with an incorrect building location. His clearing list became a kind of extreme scavenger hunt, where it’s not just “find this building you’ve never been to, never had any business with, but you need a signature from”, to “we’ll give you an incorrect building number, you drive around and figure out which building we meant to send you to.”
If your shop/unit is making you come to work instead of clearing (you’ll only be able to get the signatures you need during normal operating hours on post/base), try to work it out with them that you’ll spend either your mornings or afternoons at work if they demand your presence, and the other half of the day completing your Clearing. You will also be required to attend classes before you will be able to get signed off on some of your items…be prepared to plan for those. These will get scheduled when you walk in to clear the first time, you’ll get told you need to attend a class/seminar, and it will be scheduled at that point. Your Sergeants and people you report to should understand the importance of getting your clearing completed, and hopefully will be able to work with you on it instead of preventing you from doing it.
ETS’ing for my husband went relatively well…aside from finding mystery buildings, having to work around block leave and other events that left offices closed on a couple of the days that my husband planned to go around for signatures, and coming down to the wire to get his medical part 2 scheduled. IF you do talk to someone about getting your part 2 scheduled, and they say they will call you back by the end of the week with an appointment, don’t take their word for it. These places are busy, and not everyone gets on the same page, so the soldier may end up falling through the cracks. Your best bet is to go in often until you’re able to get put in the book for an appointment, if you have any problems scheduling to begin with. Your time is not important to them, and they will not care if your ETS date or terminal leave date are fast approaching. Your soldier may need to vouch for him or herself in order to get what he/she wants or needs.
Hopefully, your ETS’ing will go smoothly. I with you and your soldier the best when it is your time to ETS.
Along with our ETS’ing, and moving back to our home state, we also chose to perform a full DITY move (Do-It-Yourself), as opposed to doing a Military Move (where the Army pays a contractor to come in and package and relocate our household goods). The negative things I have heard about these moves out-weighs the positive things I have heard about military moves, and we felt better about packing and moving our belongings ourselves. Although, at the time, we hated boxing everything, packing a UHAUL and our vehicles, and driving the UHAUL for 12 hours was not my husband’s favorite thing to do. But we knew where our stuff was, and in what condition, and if anything was damaged or lost, it was our fault, and not because of someone else’s negligence. All too often I’ve heard of people who had the military move their things, have their things get lost, or delayed for unknown amounts of time before it was delivered. We just didn’t have the patience or the time for that. Some people swear by military moves, I don’t dare find out for myself. Maybe if we had had to move over seas?
All that being said about ETS’ing, now that I am no longer the wife of an active duty soldier, I’m debating my next move for continuing this blog. I hope that what I have posted helps other spouses in similar situations, reading and knowing you are not alone in any of your struggles, so I don’t want to take everything down. I will post a blog in the hopefully near future as a guide to getting around the area in which we were stationed, and things to do. After that, I may keep writing as more of an op-ed/commentary style, related to the military or not. I hope it’ll be something you enjoy, or at the very least, something to make you think; without discourse and difference of opinion, a society can get nowhere but stay where they are.