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JAG Life: The Military Lifestyle

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Friday, September 19, 2014

JAG Life: The Military Lifestyle

Okay, I'm back discussing the JAG life. Last time, there was that snooze fest where I talked about what my husband does all day long. Now I'm diving into my extensive 10 months experience with the military lifestyle. Hold onto those socks and prepare yourself for acronyms. 

Getting Orders. I talked about the agonizing wait to get our orders here, which seems to be pretty normal for those first orders. Your orders is a little piece of paper that tells you when and where to report when you are entering active duty. You and your loved ones need this piece of paper for everything: getting military housing, a military ID, health insurance, in order to cancel your existing lease, etc. etc. etc. 

Ours took forever to get because Congress couldn't pass a budget and there was a government shutdown, but that will never happen again, right? . . . RIGHT?!

"I think we're in the right place."

PCSing aka Permanent Change of Station. The military lifestyle is most famous for making its peoples move every 2 to 3 years. I think in the Navy you get 4, no? Anyway, moving can be a real chore, especially when you do it all yourself. I blogged a bit about that here and here. To be honest, though, it was financially a great deal because we got paid to move ourselves. And since our orders took forever we were in a dire financial situation and that basically helped us pay off some debt we acquired during that lovely time period!

Next time, we will be having the movers come. Basically, the military sends people to pack up your belongings while you awkwardly sit around supervising, and then they send another set of people to move all the boxes out of your house. At your new place, more people will come and unpack everything for you! I've heard a lot of stuff gets damaged, but stuff will always get damaged, even if you move it yourself. Rest in pieces, old big screen TV and coffee table . . . . 

Our next door neighbors are currently in the process of PCSing to Italy! This means that there are constantly movers and big trucks sitting in front of our house. Those movers can be interesting looking folks, I won't lie. But they seem friendly enough! I don't care what you look like, just handle my belongings gently . . . . !

For our next duty station (which probably won't be for another two years), we have our fingers crossed for either somewhere super close to family, orrrrrr . . . Europe. Go big or go home.

This is our house. Easily double the living space of our last apartment. Five times the size of our first apartment.

Living on Base. This obviously depends on the base, but we really enjoy living on base here at Scott. While we don't have a gourmet kitchen or anything, it is very comfortable and, to us at least, HUGE. There is an entire room on our first floor housing only a bookcase and a pack n play. Gone are the days of our cramped one-bedroom studio apartment.

When we moved here I assumed there would be, like, awesome military team-building block parties, but it's pretty quiet. I stalk my neighbors pretty hard and have been trying to do a better job of making real life friends. I sound pathetic, but whatever - it's working! And we do go to parties about once every other month with people from Will's office.

The biggest perk of living on base is Will's non-commute. He gets to come home for lunch pretty much every day. And his commute is approximately 8 minutes if there's no line at the gate.

In this area, it was really the best bang for our buck. Will's BAH is taken out to cover rent and utilities (gas, electric, water, and waste are all covered!). It's just money and a bill that we never see, which I like because I handle the finances. We are given an allotment for gas and electric, and if you use less than your allotment you get that money back. We are set to receive about $180 back right now, hence, the A/C is off right now because I'm all about getting a payday when we move out. Huzzah. Word on the street is that the military rental people like to hit you up with charges (just like any rental company - I hope you are enjoying that brand new carpet I paid for current resident of Citation Club!!!), so it will probably definitely go toward that.

Sure, there are also loud planes and trains that goes by, the occasional EOD or firing squad perhaps (not joking), but these aren't really that noticeable to us. In Miami, we lived directly on highway US-1. I guess it's all relative. Baby Will's sound machine is always set to full blast. 

Shopping at the Commissary. It's a real experience.

First of all, it's always packed.


It's no wonder. Everything is sold at cost and tax-free, with a small charge for overhead. Stuff is cheap! But I think I've found my sweet spot, which is the Wednesday BEFORE pay day. I've found that this is generally when things are well-stocked and the prices are the lowest. It was pretty crowded, the checkout line was really long, but I just threw some Puffs at Will and it was all good. Totally worth it.

I've also had pretty good luck with finding good organics. They have a separate organics section for produce and everything else, BUT there's no organic meat. You can find Perdue cage-free "natural" chicken, but no certified organic meat, which is a bummer.

Some other random commissary deets:

  • You can't check out without your military ID, even if you have a visitor pass that gets you on base. This was a real bummer when my parents were in town visiting to help me take care of baby Will right after he was born. I was NOT in any position to leave the house, but we would need something, so my parents would have to drive further away to Walmart to pick up anything we needed.
  • You have to tip the baggers. That's the only money they make! They bag your stuff and take it out to your car. If I was a single lady this would bother me a lot because I wouldn't really want or need their services, but now that I have a little person with me every time, it's a huge help. I usually tip 5%. 
  • Everyone uses paper bags. It was like twilight zone when I realized this. Everyone was asking for paper bags and I felt like the odd man out requesting plastic. What is it about paper that I wasn't realizing?! And then I noticed the GIANT sign behind the cashiers stating, "Please help keep costs down by requesting paper!" Got it.
  • They accept all manufacturers' coupons. I am not a big couponer, but I see people with their double carts and their big coupon binders going all crazy with the coupons. More power to ya. 
  • Alcohol is sold separately at the Exchange (where the gas station is). The alcohol at the Exchange is also a great deal! But you will pay buttloads for a stinkin' gallon of ice cream. Priorities, I guess. 
TDYs aka Temporary Duty Assignments. One word, JAGGYs: ALABAMA. TDYs are basically trainings you get sent to. Lots of sexual assault trainings, trial advocacy courses, etc. I think Will went to an environmental one and he has an operations one coming up. I think in my last post, he is basically gone, on average, for one week every 1.5 months. Give or take.

Will has been to Maxwell AFB three times for a total of 12 weeks in the 10 months since commissioning and going active duty. JAG School was 9 weeks, then another was one week, and this past one was two weeks. That doesn't even include officer training, which is more time spent in the beautiful Alabama sun. A few months ago Will went to Seattle, which was pretty cool, a bit of a change of pace. 

Deployments. You can't talk military without talking deployments. Obviously, Will hasn't been deployed yet. He has been given a 6-month timeframe of when he could leave for a deployment. I will just say, this makes for tricky family planning as we would like to add to our family. However, we'd also prefer Will to be present for the birth of our second child and for him not to leave me with a 2-week-old again. The whole bit about him actually being gone for 6 months is just something I haven't even wrapped my mind around yet!

Anyway, JAGs can be deployed anywhere in the world, including in the continental United States. While at Miami, we met a woman who was technically deployed in Miami. Fingers are crossed for a Miami deployment, but it's much more likely it would be to a hostile foreign area.

Air Force Balls. This is when you leave the house and get all fancy schmancy and schmooze. I am going to my first ball tomorrow tonight. I will be sure to report back.

7 things!!! Linking up with Jen.

And I hear Will pulling into the driveway now! Hooray!

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At September 19, 2014 at 9:45 PM , Blogger Anne B. said...

Your facebook link and Uhaul pic had me thinking ya'll were moving away from Scott, and I was all "Nooooo! What about Thanksgiving???" Taking deep breaths now.

At September 20, 2014 at 10:05 AM , Blogger Marisa said...

One quick piece of advice: when you guys move again, I would tell the movers NOT to unpack everything for you. We made the mistake of letting them do that in Shreveport, and unfortunately it does not mean, "unpacking and putting away." It simply meant that the movers took everything out of the boxes and throw it everywhere. I found an open bag of flour on my sofa. Tony's bedding in our master bathroom. Kitchen gadgets in the guest room. It was a disaster, and it took me three times as long to put everything away. When we PCSed to Fort Benning, I just requested that the movers put the boxes in the corresponding rooms. It was much simpler to unpack each box one by one in the right room, and gradually chip away at everything.

At September 20, 2014 at 10:19 AM , Blogger Theresa Breslin said...

Great advice. Thank you!!! I probably would have come to this conclusion on my own (our dogs get INTO stuff. Exhibit A being the mysteriously half-eaten loaf of pumpkin bread in on our kitchen counter... our belongings would NOT be safe), but with moving chaos, you never know.

At September 20, 2014 at 10:56 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the AF wife who emailed you and this had me cracking up. At our last base, we turned in the keys to our house and were driving around for hours (with a newborn and a 2 year old) waiting for amendments to orders so we could get the heck out of town! It was ridiculous, but the military life is good!

At September 20, 2014 at 11:34 AM , Blogger Theresa Breslin said...

OH NO!! I was hoping that horribleness would be a one-time shebang. But we were literally waiting around for two months while I was greatly pregnant and we had no health insurance in the interim. At least I will be prepared to expect it next time :)

At September 20, 2014 at 12:33 PM , Blogger Amanda Marie said...

Girl, we still need to plan to meet sometime.
Have fun at the ball tonight!

At September 20, 2014 at 7:51 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm hoping it was a fluke since it was tech school and nobody knew how to handle a married guy with kids!

At September 21, 2014 at 10:06 PM , Blogger Jenny @ Creatively Blooming said...

Gosh, I wish we could get those 4 year orders. We're on our longest orders to date - 3 years. But then again, I'd probably get antsy and ready to move if we had to stay in one place for 4 years. I can't wait to hear more about the ball! You looked gorgeous in the IG pic!


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