10 Things I Learned During Our First “Real” PCS

10 Things I Learned During Our First Real PCS

After moving 10 times (Army brat life), I thought I pretty much had the whole PCSing thing down pat. (For non-military fam readers, PCS means Permanent Change of Station, and it’s the military term for moving from place to place). Then I made my first official move as an Army wife and learned that I didn’t actually have it all down pat. Big surprise. <–not really.

One important note: this is actually our second “move” but it’s still our first real PCS. It’s the first time that we were being sent somewhere, by the Army, during which they fully helped us with the move (giving us time, resources, etc). Our first move deserves a blog post of it’s own, but to put it simply: it was one of those scrappy throw-your-goods-in-a-Uhaul-and-drive kind of deals that happened in a 48-hour period. We had just gotten married and were moving in together, at our new assignment. This time around, we were given a whole month’s notice to move *gasp!* So this PCS was basically great. Kind of.

Anyway, despite the big “notice” we had ahead of the PCS, and the fact that it was to be my 11th move, I learned a lot.  Quite a bit more than I thought I would, and I plan to keep these things in mind for our next move. Which is scheduled to be in the next 6 months. We shall see if that actually happens or not!

1. Things happened fast.

I wasn’t anticipating such a great (read: TIMELY) moving team. They packed AND moved us in 1 day. That rarely happens. Ever. And their drop-off day was 3 business days after pick-up. That’s also a little (read: VERY) unusual. We literally sat in our apartment and within the same day, it was completely boxed up and emptied out. When we got to our next station, everything was unloaded and in our new house within a week of when it was taken from our apartment. I was utterly impressed. And grateful because I had horrible morning sickness. #9weekspregnant

2. Everything goes.

I knew the packers would pack everything besides perishables and liquids. But on our end of the process, I wasn’t expecting to take everything. We donated one trunkful of items, and threw away quite a bit of open food, but that was it. (Note: sorting through food is NOT a first-trimester-morning-sickness-friendly activity. I do not recommend it). I had totally planned to do a grand and rigorous pack-n-purge before the move. But it turns out I was in the early stages of my second pregnancy when we moved and morning sickness was way too much of an obstacle. We just ended up taking everything, and that was okay in the end. It was nobody’s fault but my own, but I realized that for next move, things aren’t going to throw themselves out! haha

3. Not everyone wants pizza 3 meals a day.

Crazy, right?  Jk.  I didn’t think about how often the packers/movers are offered pizza. It was too hard not to feed the crew because there they were, working in my house all day. But I wish I would have REALLY asked them what they wanted, because no family of three needs $40 worth of pizza. haha They were gracious but pretty much hardly partook of the meal. I learned from this, especially since some crews are understaffed (on purpose) and like to plow through the workday as fast as they can. In that case, maybe having grazable snacks and drinks on hand is more flexible for them, and for us.

4. The truth doesn’t always come out on the paperwork.

I learned this one the hard way.  The head packer told me straight to my face that he wouldn’t notate on paperwork that any of my furniture or belongings were damaged, unless they really were. He schmoozed us reassuringly, saying he didn’t want to just “cover” for his company and that they would accurately describe my items’ conditions. It was all talk. When I got my paperwork and all my belongings on the other side of the move, the paperwork was not accurate for many items. Almost every item that had even the slightest bit of value was marked as damaged and some items were severely misrepresented. To the point that I was like… “Wait, are we even talking about the same item? If my electric keyboard was this horrendously mangled, it wouldn’t even turn on.” It was frustrating to say the least.

5. The paperwork was more detailed than I thought.

While the “conditions” section of the paperwork was heavily inaccurate, I was shocked at how descriptive the paperwork was (in a good way). Any item not in a box, was listed (strollers, chairs, baskets, guitars, table legs, etc.) by name.  And the boxes were all vaguely described as well. I thought we would just have 45 identical boxes with “bedroom” or “living room” marked on them. But no! Each (numbered) box was also given a brief/vague description on paperwork. This made hunting for lost items infinitely easier during the unpacking phase!

6. Things I packed got repacked.

I had plastic storage tubs of winter clothes, college papers, Army equipment, etc. And some bins they left as-is. But others they dumped out and filled with other items that they wanted in tubs. They repacked some of my Christmas decor that we had already packed in cardboard boxes. (<–they didn’t want to be liable for any poor packing on my part).

I also heard a common moving trick is to cling wrap dressers and drawer units, with everything in them. It’s supposed to cut down on time and boxes. That Pinterest hack didn’t quite reach my moving team. But I suppose moving companies can’t take that kind of contents damage risk and so every. single. drawer. was emptied into a box (or 5 boxes). Basically, moral of the story is don’t spend a lot of time packing things yourself, because they will get repacked. And don’t bother organizing your drawers before the move because everything will be taken out of them.

7. It’s hard to lose a box.

I’m not trying to sound like a newbie. I know TONS of people have horror stories of losing important or special items during a move. One day, I will probably join their hallowed ranks. But I pictured our belongings being shoved on a big truck that had other people’s belongings on them.  I figured we would just have to keep our fingers crossed that, when they arrived at our new house, the majority of our boxes would still be on the truck. Our apartment was so small though that we had our own moving truck (not shared) and it was never opened once the packers closed the door for good. It stayed locked up and arrived at our new destination, untouched.

And at our new destination, I was given a sheet (the infamous aforementioned paperwork) and crossed off EVERY SINGLE ITEM (box or loose item) as they were carried into the new house. It was impossible to be missing something, because I literally approved of every item being brought inside, and had total awareness if something hadn’t been brought in yet.  Again, years (and moves) later I will probably be laughing at this after losing a good couple of boxes and items during a PCS.  But for now, I’m riding on the coattails of our previous success and am feeling really great that it was so easy to keep track of our goods.

8. Our hotel bills were reimbursed.

I didn’t quite realize this would happen.  After our first move, we got quite a bit of money reimbursement for “moving ourselves.” We were given a surplus of money that way covered our actual expenses. I thought that since this move was completely paid for by the military, that we wouldn’t get any compensation besides the requisite DLA (Dislocation Allowance Pay–it’s basically consolation money for having to pick up and move houses, which gets expensive because the little things add up). Turns out, the Army paid for our hotels AND our pet fees in retrospect. (Note: they reimburse you for up to 10 days, but we didn’t need all 10).  And that hotel money had nothing to do with the DLA, which we also got.  Yay!

9. I hate boxes.

I didn’t quite comprehend just how much of a pain it would be to get all those boxes broken down and out of our house. Remember my “to-do” list entry from last month? Yeah, that’s because we ended up storing all the empty boxes (full of packing paper) in our unused basement storage room, since bulk trash is on an every-two-weeks schedule. We needed somewhere to put them, but once they were out of sight, out of mind…they just lived there in our basement. Turns out we are just finally clearing the boxes out now. We moved in April. *sigh*

10. The movers rebuild your life and your house for you.

Kind of.  Basically, besides carrying everything back inside, the movers will also rebuild any furniture that was taken apart.  Maybe that’s not surprising to some, but I was in happy shock.  I knew they would put all the boxes and everything in the appropriate rooms. But our movers went above and beyond that.  They actually reassembled furniture.  I have a mini crib that is IMPOSSIBLE to build. I was dreading anything happening to it. But the packers/movers on one end took it apart, and the movers on the other end put it back together. A total relief!  Especially because I’m going to be needing that crib soon! <3

If you’ve already PCS’d quite a few times, maybe you already knew all these things. Or maybe you’re laughing because you know they will never, EVER happen again to me. I’m okay with that–I fully expect every move to be wildly different. And I know moving companies themselves have totally different procedures and policies. Hence why after 10 moves, I still was surprised by some things this time around. But if you haven’t PCS’d a million times, maybe some of these sound surprising to you too.  I’d love to know what experiences you’ve had with PCSing.  Please leave a comment below!  And thanks for stopping by!

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Military Wife Must-Haves

 

Military Wife Must-Haves

I’m sure everyone has their go-to’s when it comes to kitchenware, beauty, fashion, etc.  I definitely have a running list in each category!  Kitchenaid ANYTHING for starters.  But then there are those things that don’t necessarily fit under the same category (or any) but tend to share one common theme: they are must-haves if you’re a military spouse.  Some of these have been gifted to me, some I have bought for other, and some I have bought for myself!  They are either “necessities” for getting through the military lifestyle we live, or they are the perfect way to embrace and celebrate it.  Do you have any of these?

 

1. Address Book

It’s no secret I’m a firm believer in stationary, especially as an Army wife.  But this one isn’t actually meant for all those Basic Training love letters you write.  I have found that the frequent moves (both of our family and our military friends) has created a great need for change-of-address organization.  I think the Kate Spade address book is a cute and classy way to do it.  However, there is a pretty cheeky address book that leaves room for nicknames and shoe sizes.  And then of course there is a classic and more tame little pink book version.  Take your pick and fill it up!

 

2. Push-pin Travel Map

Speaking of moving around, you will probably fill up one of these too!  A push-pin map of the USA not only gives you a visual reality-check on just how many times you’ve set up a home somewhere, but it also is a great way to document your lifetime of travel.  If you want to go all-out (or if you are lucky enough to live overseas) a push-pin map of the world is also a beautiful career display.

 

3.  American Flag

I feel like this is the initiation gift that every military wife should receive, or gift to her husband!  It’s the perfect salute and symbol of what your family stands for.  Fly it proudly outside your home!  And if you have an apartment and no balcony (like my first 2 years of our marriage), then hang it as a wall tapestry behind your couch or in your dining room.  It’s still a beautiful way to celebrate your lifestyle and the country we are all so proud of.  A final option, though it’s a little less visible, is to invest in a glass flag case and keep your folded flag displayed in it.  A very classic, very respectful display of the flag!  If you want the whole flagpole kit, and not just the flag, this is all you need.

 

4. The Army Wife Handbook: A Complete Social Guide

For all my Army girls out there!  There is a complete set of “social rules” and expectations that come with the territory of being an Army wife.  And navigating through those can be tough!  This guide is geared towards etiquette and social obligations, which I find to be one of the least “discussed” topics among Army wife literature.  It’s not really a crash-course about acronyms and what to expect on deployments, which is what this book covers.  But the social rules can be really tough to “pick up” naturally, and having a guidebook is extremely helpful.

 

5. The 5 Love Languages ~ Military Edition

I’m not saying this because I’m a love-book junkie (thought I am), I’m saying this because every military relationship deserves a book celebrating and coaching the tumultuously beautiful journey of a military romance.  I have great respect for Gary Chapman’s interpretation of love languages and how they are spoken.  Even if you’re not a military couple, a firm understanding of how to identify your preferred language, and how to speak your spouses’s is extremely important.  The love languages are a true eye-opener in any relationship, but most significantly in a romantic one.  Curious what your love language is?  Take the test here.  (Then buy the book and learn about how you give and receive love based on it!)

6. His and Hers Silicone Wedding Bands

These are often more necessary for the military member than the spouse.  But for those of us that like having matching wedding bands, or who want to feel a special connection, getting a his and hers set is the way to go!  Wearing a metal wedding ring during training can sometimes be dangerous for your soldier (if he is paratrooper jumping out of an airplane, etc) and other times it can just be painful (pull-ups during PT).  Having a silicone option can be useful for your soldier to slip on before a training exercise, or before he leaves for an Army school if he worries about losing his real ring.  During those times, it can sometimes be nice to switch rings with him, not because you have to, but because he does.

7. Military Wife Jewelry

This one is pretty basic.  It’s like having a tee that supports your favorite sports team.  Everyone should have at least one.  Even if you’re not the kind of jewelry-wearer who wants a black and gold charm bracelet that says “Army” in capital letters, you can still have military-themed jewelry that supports your lifestyle.  (Like this Morse Code bracelet).  One of my favorite ways to connect with my soldier when he is gone is to wear a meaningful necklace or ring that reminds me of him.  When he went to Basic/OSUT in Ft. Benning, I wore a Georgia shaped ring every day.  Other times, even when he is home, I often wear sapphires, as their “Infantry Blue” color celebrates the lifestyle we have chosen together.  Get creative with the meanings and treat yourself to some bling!

8. Amazon Home Services

Not a traditional must-have, but I put on because WHO hasn’t had their fridge break an hour or two after their soldier leaves for a few weeks? *raises hands*  My internet goes out when he is gone, computers crash, and of course some kind natural disaster occurs (Hurricane striking the NIGHT that he leaves).  #myreallife.  Anyway, Amazon can’t control the weather, but they CAN and DO offer home services.  Meaning no matter where you live in the US, you can have someone come over and fix your problem when your soldier isn’t home to do so.  Seriously, they have tons of services: from mounting TVs to painting the baby nursery to ASSEMBLING FURNITURE.  Basically, they’re the magic fairies we always hoped would exist.  Now they do.  Click here to browse their services!

I feel like there are a million military wife must-haves…haha…but that’s really not true.  The only thing I must have is my soldier by my side!  And of course my babies.  And my faith.  Okay, so there are a few biggies.  But the small things can be really fun too, and can make the military wife life a lot easier!  What is a must-have for you?  Leave a comment below, sharing your faves!  Thanks for stopping by, and come back soon.

*Note: the links I provided are affiliate links*

Read next: My Favorite Stationary Supplies for Writing to My Soldier

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Troubleshooting: My Soldier Hasn’t Gotten My Letters At Basic

Troubleshooting: My Soldier Hasn't Gotten My Letters At Basic

 

It’s one of the most frequently-asked questions of any Army loved-one when their soldier is at Basic Training.  Everyone wants to know if their letters ever made it to their soldier.  Or why they haven’t.  Or if they will.  And while nobody can know exactly what goes on behind the closed doors of Basic Training camp, here are a few answers to help you through the fog that we have all been through.

 

Problem: He is Sending Me Letters, But Says He Hasn’t Received Mine

Solution:  If it’s still within 10 days of his departure from you, then he is still in a pre-Basic Training “phase” known as Reception.  It’s the soldiers’ first stage of being stripped down to the very core, where their personal backgrounds and circumstances fade, and they become a single unit of men training for the same objective.  It’s the stage where they are issued clothing, receive haircuts, and learn how to get into formation, etc.   Since this phase is so strict, there is no way that the soldiers can receive letters, in fact, you won’t even have their Reception address!  Note: they can send a few letters from Reception, which is why you are getting some, but they won’t include a return address.

If he has been gone for more than 10 days, but hasn’t been gone longer than 5 weeks, then he is in Red Phase.  It’s the first phase of Basic Training and supposedly the “hardest.”  I’m sure it varies from soldier to soldier.  But it’s the strictest phase during which they are introduced to the Army lifestyle.  It’s the phase that sets the tone for the soldier’s Basic Training experience.  Normally, letters and phone calls aren’t allowed during this phase, because the Drill Sergents are still in “breaking” mode.  Again, you might be receiving letters from your soldier, but he won’t be getting mail call until about two weeks into this phase.

 

Problem: I’m Not Sure If I Have the Right Address

Solution:  You have 3 options.

  • Wait to receive the Commander’s Letter.  It arrives at some time during Red Phase.  It will have the address EXACTLY as you need to write it (but make sure you get your soldier’s roster number, or platoon/class information if that is required instead of his roster number).
  • Copy your soldier’s return address EXACTLY as he writes it.   He won’t be able to write a return address until he is physically in Basic Training, (not Reception) so some waiting might ensue.  Your soldier’s way of writing his address might differ slightly from the Commander’s way, but both are accurate.  Just make sure you have the roster number/platoon or class information.
  • Get on the Facebook page of your soldier’s unit to see if the Commander’s Letter has been published there.  Make sure you have the right unit though, as they have very similar numeration.  If you don’t know the unit Facebook page, you can look up their training website where an address is often posted under FAQ’s.  Just remember, you will still need the roster number or platoon/class number!!

 

Problem:  I Never Got the Commander’s Letter

Solution:  The Commander sends out a letter but sometimes it gets sent to someone besides you (if you aren’t his primary point of contact).  Your soldier fills out a few different forms of contact during his in-processing at Reception.  If he put his parents or a sibling down as his primary kin, then they will more than likely receive any of the letters sent out by the unit.  You can of course get a copy of the Commander’s Letter by contacting that family member.  But that’s not always possible.

So, another solution is to find your soldier’s unit Facebook page and look for the memo posted there.  If you can’t find it the memo, consider connecting with a fellow family member on the Facebook page and ask for a copy of the Commander’s Letter.  Just remember that social media is not always a safe place for discussing military topics.  There are rules posted on the Facebook  pages about what can and can’t be said.  Always be careful and err on the side of caution…since it’s your soldier’s safety we are talking about here!

 

Problem: My Letters are Addressed Correctly, But He Isn’t Getting Them

Solution: If you’ve ruled out the possibility that he is still in either Reception or Red Phase, then there could be another very good reason.  There are portions of the training during which your soldier will be sleeping and training “in the field” (outdoors).  During that time, there is no mail call, and your soldier doesn’t get a chance to send letters out either.  Not to worry!  They build-up and are all eventually delivered in one big bundle.  But remember that the build-ups are company-wide, and so it could cause a delay in the sorting/delivery process.  Again, he WILL get them eventually, but that doesn’t mean he will always get them in a timely manner.  🙁

If your soldier doesn’t seem to be getting your letters, more than likely there has just been a significant delay in the mail sorting.  Unfortunately, this is a very common occurrence at least once or twice during Basic Training.  It’s not done on purpose.  It’s a simple logistical issue of having mass quantities of letters arrive in the same distribution room.  There is no “delivery” process from the mail carrier to the individual soldiers–that’s the job of the Drill Sergeants.  And they have so many other tasks that sometimes mail call gets left behind.  Rest assured, the letters WILL arrive (as long as you have the right address and roster number!)

 

Problem:  I Think My Letters are Being Confiscated

Solution:  Your letters will never be confiscated, unless they contain something that is contraband: gum sticks, explicit photos, etc.  Your letters are US Mail and cannot be confiscated or discarded simply because the Drill Sergeant is trying to teach the soldiers a lesson.  To be honest, the letters MOTIVATE the soldiers much more than withholding them ever could.  The letters are the property of the soldiers, and the Drill Sergeants cannot just hold onto them for their own reasons.

When it does happen that your soldier isn’t getting his letters, it’s never that he is being singled out.  Sometimes, the soldiers (as a group) will get assigned a task at night in punishment for something they did or didn’t do during the day.  This task could get in the way of mail call.  But it’s not that mail call was restricted.  It’s just that training got in the way.    That’s pretty much the only kind of situation during which your mail will be “withheld” from your soldier (or if he is training in the field).   So out of all your concerns, assuming his letters are being confiscated is the least likely issue!

 

Problem:  I Think My Letters are Getting Him in Trouble

Solution:  You can’t get him in trouble for writing too frequently.  Don’t worry that you are “annoying” the Drill Sergeants.  They are well aware that the soldiers will be getting frequent letters.  It’s part of their job to relay the letters to them.  The only way your letters could be getting him in trouble is if you are breaking the rules.  You can read the guidelines about envelope restrictions here and material restrictions here.  It’s pretty hard to break the rules though…you have to be intentionally sending naughty things or  going out of your way to make your letters stand out in an alarming way.

 

Problem: I Just Can’t Figure Out WHY My Letters Aren’t Getting to Him

If you’re still in doubt about what could possibly be going wrong, do a quick troubleshooting exercise:

  1. Check the current date– Is he in Red Phase?
  2. Check the known training schedule (if he has been updating you on upcoming events)– Is he in the field?
  3. Check the address– Is it the right one, including his roster number or platoon or class information?
  4. Check the rules– Am I violating any obvious rules, like sending padded envelopes?

Out of all the possibilities of what’s happening (or NOT happening in the mail room) the very most common problem with sending letters to your soldier is a simple issue of overflow.  With one mail room and hundreds of soldiers, it’s inevitable that keeping up with the mail is going to be tough.  Unfortunately.  The good news is, your letter will eventually get to him!  The bad news is, he might not be getting a “daily” letter–more likely a weekly windfall.

In the meantime, just keep writing him.  One day, he will get your letters!  And I guarantee, the mountain of mail will be a day he won’t forget. 🙂  If you are having a concern that wasn’t addressed above, feel free to leave a comment below.  I  will answer your comment as best I can!!  And if you have a suggestion for another Army-family concern that needs troubleshooting, I would love to know.

Thanks so much for reading.  I hope your period of waiting goes by as quickly and painlessly as possible!  Basic Training is long and waiting is such a challenge.  But one day it is over and your soldier is yours to keep. 🙂  Homecomings really are perfect.  I wish you and your soldier all the best!  Come back soon.

 

**Read Next: 5 (Emotional) Letter Writing Myths**

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An April Absence Backstory

April Absence Backstory - post about why I have been gone (hint, I MOVED)

Hopefully someone has noticed out there in the great big blogosphere that I haven’t been here in a while.  I have some pretty good reasons for that, which I will get into for a second.  But first, I just wanted to thank you for showing up here today!  It makes the writing more worth it and the editing actually necessary. 🙂  It feels good to be back.  And while sometimes these kinds of posts are written as a point-of-accountability, I’m actually just writing it as an explanation.  Because you deserve it and so does my blog.  Plus, I have some news to share!

I have two main reasons for my month of absence (the longest I think I’ve ever taken!)  It’s not that blogging was far from my mind, it’s simply that my life was crowded with some very real occurrences and obstacles.  First, I’ll get into the big occurrence and then I’ll get into the obstacle.  Because this occurrence is my favorite reason for my absence:

April Absence Backstory- why I have been absent (hint: I am pregnant!!)

We are so overwhelmed with joy and excitement about the life of our second baby!  This week I began my second trimester, which means that the majority of my morning sickness is over (I hope!).  That was a very, very, very, influential part of my absence, but I’m not referring to it as an obstacle because there is such a big reward at the end of this pregnancy!  We will be finding out the gender (and revealing it) in June.  So stay tuned!

The other very significant cause of my absence was a three-acronym that I’m sure will all-too-well resonate with my Army ladies out there: PCS.  Yes, we finally did it!  Remember back in August 2016 when I thought we were moving in October?  And then we weren’t.  And then we weren’t supposed to be moving til June of 2017.  But with less than a month’s notice we moved the first week of April this year.  So things have been unexpectedly hectic and delightful all at the same time.  And putting morning sickness into the mix just made my day very full and left no room for creativity of blogging time.

But again, that has changed!  I am in the second trimester and we are settling well into our house.  I am hoping to do a bit of a housing series down the road, as I love reading from other military wives (and renters) how they make someone else’s space their own.  And in our case, making it our own for just the remainder of the year.  As of now, we are planning to move yet again in the winter.  I will keep you updated, as we all know this could easily change. *too soon to laugh*

Anyway, I have a few posts to catch up on, namely my April Round-Up, May to-d0 list, and April 2017 ipsy Glam Bag unboxing, which I will provide links for as I publish them.  A quick admin note: I will date those according to where they should fall on my calendar (since I am OCD like that).  But for the sake of transparency, I’m telling you right now that those are post-dated! Because no blog is perfect.  At least, mine isn’t! haha

Thanks for stopping by.  Like I said at the beginning of this, your readership is so important to me.  I appreciate you sticking by my absence.  Since a lot has been going on the last month, I have had some time to step away from my blog and think about it for a while, in a “constructive criticism” kind of way.  I’ve been able to evaluate it’s direction and consider/reconsider if I’m accomplishing the purposes I have set out here.  I always have my own list of ideas going, but I also want to cover what you’re here to see.  Are there any series you would like to see added?  Something to take away?  How did you stumble upon this blog, and do you ever plan on coming back to read more?  Leave a comment below if you have any opinions, as I am always open to suggestions.

 See you soon!

A little edit:  Click here to find out the baby’s gender!

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5 Online Sources for Spouses During Basic Training

5 Online Sources for Spouses During Basic Training

I hope the day that your soldier left for Basic Training, you were not a hot mess.  Hopefully, you were surrounded by supportive friends and family, or at least that you loved your job and knew how to make yourself happy on that tough day.  I hope you were able to stay strong during the entire block of training, and felt like time flew by.  I think a lot of military wives would say they wished they were you.
If you didn’t come from an Army family already, a lot of what you’re experiencing is going to be very new. Unfortunately, friends and family don’t always support your and your husband’s decision to join the military.  They might be just as scared and confused as you are, or much more so. There are a lot of things you can do to ease the burden, and there are also places you can turn to.  Unfortuately, at this stage in your soldier’s career, you won’t have an FRG group to rely on (Family Readiness Group).  In the future, they can be very helpful in situations like this one.  For now, here are the sources you can go for support: (hint: they aren’t negative chat forums filled with lies and opinion and zero fact).

1. Army One Source

I honestly can’t give them a worthy enough shout-out. They were singularly the most helpful of all sources.  In fact, within an hour of dropping my soldier off for Basic Training, they called me to “check” on me.  They have a 24/hr hotline that you can call for anything–ANYTHING.  You can call them for advice, for information, or even for sympathy. They will try their best to answer any question, and will spend as long as you need addressing your concerns.  Even if they can’t give you an answer (like if you ask how your soldier is doing at Basic…they won’t know that)…they can still give you their most educated assessment (for instance, they will ask when he left and then deduct what phase of training he is on and tell you what it focuses on).  Click here to visit their website.

2. Your Soldier’s Unit Facebook Page

I’m actually not a big social media person.  But finding the Facebook page for my husband’s training unit was so helpful.  Every two weeks or so, (sometimes longer) they would post some pictures of the soldiers training.  I was almost always able to spot my husband in at least one picture.  It helped so much!  Seeing his training put visuals to the letters I was receiving, and really helped me feel connected.  Bonus: pay attention to who else is visiting the page, because you might be able to make friends with a  few spouses whose soldiers are battle buddies with yours.  Unfortunately, the soldiers cannot contact you through the page, and there are guidelines as to what kind of questions you can ask on it.  Don’t worry, the guidelines will be posted!

3. Your Soldier’s Training Website

All the bases where Basic Training is located have websites. And on these websites are not only FAQ’s, but often training videos.  I reccomend watching them, because even though they won’t be a film of your soldier, they will still be an accurate depiction of what your soldier’s training is like.  While this source won’t necessarily swoop in to save you (the way Army One Source can), it may have some helpful information for you.  And if nothing else, it’s another way to feel connected.

Here are a list of the training websites:

4. Army Family Information Center

Once your husband fills out all the required paperwork for registering you as a dependent, your information will be used to welcome you into the Army.  The day my husband left for Basic Training, I got an invitation via email from the Army Family Information Center.  The welcoming was perfectly timed!  I really appreciated the outstretched hand, and they sent me a link to join a Army spouse’s support group.  The support group was comprised of new Army wives going through exactly what I was, and it was managed by seasoned Army wives.  They occasionally did a live chat session, inviting us to all ask our many questions (though by that point I didn’t have many to ask).   Army families are great at helping each other out, and this was a really nice experience for me.

5. Blogs

I’m not just saying that because I’m a blogger.  I found that sometimes reading a blog was better (ALWAYS) than the comment section of military-themed social media posts.  The tricky thing about military lifestyle blogs is that the various parts of the Army can be so different that it’s hard to get all your answers from one blogger’s experience.  Shop around and find a few you trust, and follow them.  You’ll probably get answers to questions you didn’t even know you had!

If you’re already alone while your spouse trains hard at Basic Training, consider checking out one of these links.  And if your man hasn’t left, it’s not too early to begin setting up a little support system for yourself.  Remember, the Army Family Information Center will only contact spouses, so be sure that your soldier has all the paperwork necessary to register you as his dependent (for many, MANY reasons beyond that).  Army One Source is also designed for military families.  But the Facebook unit pages, training websites, and blogs are all open to the public, so even if you’re not married yet, take a look at those in your time of need!

Best of luck to you during this important time in your life and your soldier’s career!  Basic Training isn’t easy for them or for us, but the reward is greater than the pain.  I really believe that.  If you have any other online sources to recommend, leave a comment below!  And if you have a question, feel free to post that there too.  I will be sure to answer it.  Thanks for stopping by!!

Read next about Army Life: Why it’s Different for Everyone

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What to Expect on Family Day at Army Basic Training

What to Expect at a Basic Training Family Day

I remember the day like it was yesterday.

My husband and I had been married for less than a month when the day came for him to leave for Basic Training.  It was heartbreaking.  I was pining away for Family Day–we both were.  Those 9 weeks of training were the longest we had ever been apart (we lived 8 miles apart before we were married).  When our Basic Training Family Day rolled around, I flew across four states just for the occasion.  And it was TOTALLY worth it!  (Side note: 4 modes of transportation was a lot though–I recommend simplifying if you can. haha)

Let me start out with a quick disclaimer about Family Day: most Basic Training camps dub the day before graduation as “Family Day.”  But if your soldier is attending Ft. Benning, GA for OSUT (meaning he is at Basic to be an infantry or armor soldier), then Family Day is a separate weekend from graduation weekend.  It occurs in the middle of your soldier’s training cycle to give them a much-deserved break.  (They roll straight from Basic into their AIT).  Other Basic camps unfortunately don’t get this mid-way break because they have a natural weekend break between their Basic Graduation and their AIT Graduation.  One more quick note: each battalion may vary in their Family Day procedures a little bit.  The following information is all based on my personal experience.  While it might not be identical to the Family Day of your soldier’s battalion, you can expect something similar!

What Basic Training Family Day Is:

Basic Training Family Day is essentially a weekend break for your soldier.  (See above paragraph for explanation on why they get this!)  It is designed for family (and friends) to get the opportunity to spend time with their soldier-in-training.  It’s gives your soldier a breath of fresh air and some quality time outside of the platoon.

What Basic Training Family Day is Not:

It is not a two-day pass of freedom for your soldier.  (Unfortunately!)  He will have many, many, many rules to follow while he is spending time away from his training area.  While he won’t have to physically train at all during the Family Day weekend, he will absolutely have to adhere to a (large) set of rules.  It’s also not an overnight pass.  That was a hard one to swallow.

When Basic Training Family Day Occurs:

It occurs over a weekend– meaning Saturday and Sunday.  Usually it takes place about half-way through the training cycle.  But not always.  The Basic Training Family Day for my husband’s company was in the ninth week of his fourteen weeks of training.  If you are your soldier’s first point of contact, then you will receive a letter from the commander (that all-important letter I have referenced before) stating when Family Day occurs.  If you are a girlfriend or friend and aren’t receiving communications from your soldier’s commander, you might be able to access the information via your soldier’s Company Facebook page.

Who can Attend Basic Training Family Day:

Basic Training Family Day is completely open to all family, fiancees, significant others, relatives, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, frenemies, and neighbors of the soldiers in training.  There are no tickets or reservations required.  And if no one comes to spend time with a soldier, he or she can still enjoy some time away from the training area.

The Basic Training Family Day Schedule:

This is a brief synopsis of what mine was like:

  • 7:30am arrive at the Basic Training area
  • 8:00am an “introduction to the Army” briefing
  • 9:00am soldiers and families reunite
  • free time all day off-post and on-post
  • 7:00pm drop-off time

There are no activities planned for the family and soldier to participate in together.  The solider will have a special formation beforehand (early on the first morning of the Family Day weekend).  During his formation, the Drill Sergeants will go over the Family Day rules.

Meanwhile, the families will gather in a classroom and receive a brief “introduction to the Army Family” as well as learn the rules that the soldiers will be under during Family Day.  You will learn a little bit about what your soldier has been doing the past few weeks, and then A LOT about the rules.  During the introduction, you might get addressed by one or two of your soldier’s Drill Sergeants, but most likely the Company Commander.   At my Basic Training Family Day, we were also given a chance to ask questions that are related to Family Day.  It wasn’t a question-and-answer session about how to deal with the Army or ask about your soldier’s future assignments– but if we were confused about the rules, that was the time to ask.

After the families are released from their briefing, the soldiers will be finished with theirs.  At the Family Day I attended, the soldiers were all outside finishing up their briefing when we walked out of the classroom.  We reunited right there outdoors once they were dismissed.  Some Family Day procedures may include having the soldiers come to meet their families indoors in the classroom.  I think it just depends on which briefing is finished first.

Once you pick your soldier up, HE IS YOURS UNTIL drop-off time.  Yes, there is a drop-off time.  And since it will vary from Family Day to Family Day, I won’t state an exact time here.  But just know, that time means EVERYTHING.  If you drop your soldier off even two minutes late, it is highly probable he will be recycled and have to begin training all over again.  Do not, under any circumstances, drop him off late.  Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way for you to “take the blame” for him.  Even if you are 100% at fault for why he is late.  That is the Army life.  It’s the soldier’s responsibility, completely, to be back at the appropriate time.  He cannot be shielded by wives or parents or even his children’s excuses.  So, no matter what you do on Family Day, DROP HIM OFF ON TIME.

The second day, Sunday, is similar to the first day of Family Day.  The only difference is that there is no family briefing.  Your solider will have to report to his morning formation, just like the day before.  Though he probably won’t be told all the rules again, he will definitely be told what time he needs to return by.  Once he is released from formation, you may pick him up and take him off just like yesterday.  His drop-off time MIGHT be earlier, since it is the day before training.  ASK your soldier.  Do not drive off until you know what time he needs to return by.  Once you know, drive away and enjoy your day together!

**Special note to those whose Basic Training Family Day falls on a Federal Holiday weekend:  You lucky duck!  It is extremely likely that your soldier will get a 3-day weekend with you!  Obviously, you need to double-check the commander’s memo (the invitation either mailed to you or posted on Facebook).  It will confirm or deny this phenomenon.

Basic Training Family Day Rules for the Family:

The Army can’t really issue out rules to the family or friends of the soldier, but there are still a few that exist:

  1. Do not go anywhere on the training grounds except where the signs and aides tell you to go.  You are NOT allowed to go into your soldier’s barracks.  There will be a sign or two directing you to the parking lot, as well as aides (soldiers) who will be directing you from the parking lot to the gathering area (our gathering area was a classroom).  Don’t go anywhere except where you are designated to go.
  2.  You can’t let (or make) your soldier drive.  Anyone except the soldier is allowed to be the driver, because they aren’t permitted to get behind the wheel.
  3. You can’t go very far away with your soldier.  He will have mile restrictions that, as his visiting family, you must stay within.  The mileage restriction is usually a 25-mile radius, but you will be given the exact rule during the briefing.  Don’t worry though, there will still be plenty to do within the restriction!  Your soldier will just be thrilled to be leaving the training area footprint with you.  This rule obviously only applies when you are with your soldier.  There is no restriction on the visiting family outside of Family Day hours.  It’s a rule simply to keep families from taking the soldiers too far away, risking no return for evening formation.

Basic Training Family Day Rules for the Soldier:

There are many.  So many.  🙁  Unfortunately, this is not a complete list.  Don’t worry, because you will be told (and possibly be given a pamphlet on) all the rules.  It might vary from battalion to battalion, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind:

  • The soldier cannot drink, nor can he smoke.
  • He can not wear anything besides his uniform in public (no going swimming or changing into comfy clothes).
  • As stated above, he is not allowed to drive AT ALL.  Nor is he allowed to travel outside a certain mile radius.  Though it’s a strange rule, he may not sit on the ground (don’t ask…).
  • He cannot bring snacks, or any other prohibited items, back to his barracks at the end of the night.
  • Until he is dismissed from formation (in the morning), he cannot leave the training area.
  •  He can’t return late (missing the return formation).

There are more, but those are the basics.  <–haha see what we did there?

Basic Training Family Day Warnings:

During our family briefing, we were given some heavily suggested “guidelines” that technically weren’t rules, but were basically warnings.  While the soldier is allowed to make purchases, and often families like to go shopping during this time, we were warned to be wary of making big purchases.  Unfortunately there are quite a few shops surrounding Army posts that target brand new soldiers.  They sell boots (an expensive item) and other pieces of equipment that your soldier might want.  After so many weeks of training, he be tempted to buy because “he needs a better or newer thing that he has worn out during training.”  It’s totally a reasonable thought from your soldier-in-training.  But BE VERY CAREFUL.

The Army only allows certain items to be used.  There are regulations on any piece of clothing or piece of equipment.  Many surplus stores sell dupes and “similar” items that are not Army standard.  If he buys an expensive pair of boots but they don’t qualify according to Army standards, he won’t be allowed to wear them.  To be on the safe side, don’t shop for anything Army-related off-post.  He has already been issued the amount of equipment and uniforms that he will need to complete Basic Training.  (And there is a mini store [the PX] nearby bootcamp where he is occasionally allowed to restock on small items: soap, pens, paper, etc.)

There are also a lot of “deals” that air on Family Day weekends.  Car dealerships will prey on new soldiers who have a pile of cash and haven’t been able to spend it.  Just be careful and remember your soldier can’t have much at all in his barracks.  Even if he makes many, many purchases, it is likely he won’t be able to bring most of it back with him to the barracks.  (Especially not a car!)  You don’t want the Drill Sergeants to confiscate his new purchases!

Basic Training Family Day Suggestions:

Your soldier will probably have a lot to tell you!  Try to go somewhere you can talk and catch up.  Drive around town and find a place to walk.  It has been a while since he has enjoyed a leisure meal, so you could treat him to one.  Often this will be your soldier’s first chance to receive military discounts at restaurants and stores!  The day will go by quickly, so don’t try to do too many activities at once.  Just focus on being in the present moment, and giving your soldier a well-deserved break from his daily training.

If there is something he has been running low on, like letter-writing supplies or calling-cards, it is a good time to go shopping for some! (But don’t stress–the PX remains a good backup resource for his needs, if you don’t have time to go shopping together).  Whatever you do, don’t worry about trying to meet his Drill Sergeants or “see your soldier in action.”  You will see his leadership at the graduation ceremony, and there may be a ceremonial display of training during the graduation weekend.  Family Day is all about spending the day away from the training grounds with your soldier!  I also recommend that you spend the final half-hour of the day just chatting in the parking lot.  That way you can squeeze out every last minute of the day without risking him missing formation.

Purchasing Souvenirs of the Day:

If you’re anything like me, then you’ll want to purchase a little token to remember the trip by.  It is very likely that there will be a table of gift items available for purchase before and after the “introduction to the Army” briefing at the start of the Basic Training Family Day.  Many military units sell gift items on days such as Family Day, as fundraisers for future unit events.  However, if those aren’t being sold, you can also purchase military-themed gifts at the local Post Exchange located on post.  Another option is to visit one of the local military museums.  They always have a gift shop with plenty of merchandise.

Final Thoughts about Basic Training Family Day:

Our Basic Training Family Day was two of the best days we had during our first year of Army life.  It’s such a welcome break from being apart, and really helps alleviate the burdens of separation.  Even though it’s not an overnight pass, consider visiting your soldier for Family Day!  While travel is expensive, and it makes sense to place a priority on Graduation Day, Family Day is still a great opportunity for families to reconnect.  If you can make it work, I would definitely recommend visiting for Family Day.

If you have any further questions about the Basic Training Family Day that I didn’t cover here, leave a comment below!  Thanks for stopping by.  If you want any further information on dealing with having a soldier in Basic Training, consider reading my posts about writing Basic Training letters, favorite supplies for doing so, and how to address them.

**Read next: What to Expect at an Army Basic Training Turning Blue Day**

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