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Hi, friends! Thanks for joining us for the first-ever Military Minute blog linkup, hosted by Missy from Loving Life Moore and yours truly. Each month, we’ll share a writing prompt. Weigh in your thoughts, link up your blog post, and then check out the other blog posts to make new connections. Today’s prompt is: Where was your first duty station, and what are your best tips for adjusting to a new place?
The first duty station I lived at was Fort Knox, Kentucky. Let’s rewind to how I ended up there: My then-long-distance-boyfriend (whom I met online) accepted PCS orders in my home state as we tried to figure out where our relationship was headed. After we married in June 2016, I moved 2 hours from my hometown to be with him. We lived at Fort Knox together for exactly 12 months before we PCSed a year and a half earlier than expected. If I could sum up my experience at Fort Knox in a simple sentence, it’s this: I loved it… and not just because I was a newlywed, finally married and living in the same town as my love. We were stationed in my home state, making the adjustment from my previous life to Army wife life a little bit easier (and because I’m a bit biased, Kentucky is terrific in general.) My husband’s job was as close to a civilian 9-to-5 as he will ever experience while being active-duty Army. The post itself is tiny, quiet, and has more civilians than active-duty members; there was more open housing than military members interested in living on post, which meant as newlyweds with no kids, we were able to live in a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom single family house. I could sing Fort Knox’s praises all day long.
This duty station? Well, let’s say it’s been a real test. This was our first duty station outside of my home state; moving somewhere with 7 months of winter and feet of snow per year has been quite an adjustment for this Southerner. Additionally, my husband’s job is very different than his “real” Army job. (He’s on a career-broadening assignment as a Recruiter, but his “real” career is in Army Engineering.) Being an active-duty family without all of the resources and community that on-post living provides has been incredibly difficult, and adjusting to this duty station has been quite a challenge for me. I’ve had to find a strength in myself that I didn’t know existed before, and although I still stumble at times and secretly look forward to that glorious day when hard PCS orders are in hand, I hope by the end of this assignment to come out the other side improved.
Tips for adjusting to a new duty station:
-Join on and off base clubs/organizations. At Fort Knox, I enjoyed PWOC and the women’s mentorship group that met on post; I also volunteered with the FRG. Sadly, at this duty station, volunteer opportunities and clubs to join are few and far between; I debated starting a book club but with a newborn on the way, the time isn’t right for me to lead one.
-Join a local church. If you’re a person of faith, I highly recommend finding a new faith community. Ours has been integral in making friends and learning more about the area, but also in nourishing our faith; we’ve especially needed to rely on our faith in this grueling assignment. It can be a little overwhelming to find a church that meets your worship/doctrinal preferences as well as your personal needs, so make a list of what you’re looking for before you visit!
-Make a travel bucket list. I love to travel and have a goal of visiting all 50 states, so it’s no surprise that with every place we live, I make a bucket list of places to visit, combining locations that are within driving distance with a big “dream” trip (like our vacation last summer in the Dominican Republic.) I’ll admit, I had an advantage when we were at Fort Knox having grown up in the Bluegrass state, but there were some locations that I had never visited before (Cumberland Falls) or wanted to see again (Mammoth Cave.) While stationed in Iowa, we’ve visited South Dakota, Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder museums in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
-Make a local restaurant + activities bucket list. Some of the best treasures may be in your own backyard! Being stationed in rural Mason City, Iowa specifically, some of our local places to visit were the Music Man Square and the Frank Lloyd Wright house (Stockman House) and hotel (Park Inn.) For restaurants, we’ve tried both local and chain restaurants that are new-to-us, such as the Boulder Tap House, The Other Place, and Rib Crib, among others. Some were hits (Northwestern Steakhouse), some were misses (Taco Tico), and some were just “blah” (Perkins), but they all left us with a memory for the “Remember when we lived in Iowa…” days.
-Make a personal goals list. Going into this assignment, my husband and I knew that since his workload/hours would increase dramatically, I would need to find new hobbies and ways to fill my time. I went back to work full-time and started working on my second Bachelor’s degree, which were my top two long-term personal development goals. Other goals that I have for this assignment include catching up on our family scrapbooks, reading a set number of books per year, and working on this here space on the web.
My last piece of advice: there are just some duty stations you won’t love. It’s okay to accept that and to look forward to those sweet PCS orders. Having a countdown going of how far you’ve come and how close you are to making it through has helped me on some of the hardest days. You may need to seek professional help through a chaplain, counselor, or therapist, and there’s no shame in that.
I’m far from an expert at military life and always have room to improve, so tell me– what are your tips for adjusting to a new duty station/community?