Our first guest blogger is proud Air Force wife LC from Faith and Deployments.
Thank you so much for sharing what its like to be the heart of the Air Force!
I have been given the privilege, no the honor of marrying an Airman. But being a naive new bride, I didn’t realize just how much I mattered as a wife to an Airman until I attended Heartlink. For non-air force spouses, Heartlink is a spouse class for new and “seasoned” spouses to learn about the immediate base as well as everything you need to know about military life and traditions. Everything a spouse needs to know is crammed into an 8 hour day. 8 hours to learn everything you should know about being a spouse sounds daunting, and it was.
I have almost been a spouse for a year, but I didn’t attend this class until February 12, 2010. I remember the date because it was right before Valentine’s Day (our first together) and I had a three day weekend because I was attending the class. I was nervous to go into this class because I didn’t know what to expect or if I would be the newest spouse there. By this time we had been married for just over six months and I felt clueless in the world of “Air Force Life”. I had recently joined the enlisted spouses, and as I was learning simple things, such as the commissary closes at 7pm on week nights, and to have your ID card ready and not dig in your purse as you pull up to the guard, I knew I had a lot left to learn.
I am lucky to have a husband who tells me things and doesn’t lie about how much money he makes or what he does or where he goes, but in terms of introducing a former civilian into military living, he definitely flunked the test. Little did I know that the men are given a wealth of knowledge to pass on to their wives at home, but very few bring that information out of their squadrons. They throw out the fliers, delete the emails after reading, or don’t even read the emails (like my husband). So my perceptions of this class were probably something out of a TV show where I expected to be taught that we should still be wearing gloves and bonnets at tea times, be a part of a book club, perfect cooks, and we should all quit our jobs to be a housewife. Ridiculous right? Well did I mention I had never been introduced to anything military until my husband? The whole concept of “sewing on” where men “tact” on your new stripes and your husband walks home with giant bruises sounded juvenile to me; but this was my new life.
This class would have done me a world of good before deployment two which happened just three months of us being married, but better late than never. So I put on my pearls, straightened my hair to perfection, picked out a blue lace top and a white cardigan, dark jeans and black flats and headed to my class. I thought it would be rude to bring my coffee cup into the class, but did it anyway. I was early so I picked a spot in the middle of the room near a window. Not to upfront to seem “over eager” and not too far in the back to seem “disinterested”. Yes I think about all of these things when I am “out of my element”.
I was overjoyed to find not one, but three spouses from my spouses club there and two even sat with me. There was another spouse at my table that had only been married a month, I felt a little bit better. Our day started off with an “introduction” game where we interviewed someone at the table and told the entire group about each other. I didn’t have a “favorite” base, or “kids” so I already felt a little out of the loop, but it was nice to know that even the “seasoned spouses” (what they call almost retired spouses) are people too, and feel overwhelmed every time they move or like to do thinks such as hang out with friends.
Who knew that music was played at three different times on base and that on an Air Force base you had to stop driving or walking and stand and face the music. On other bases they may require you to get out of your car, but at Langley, they just require you to stop. Wives can request access to their husband’s LES statements and also file for separation pay and per diem once the first 30 days of a deployment is underway. Always wear nylons to a semi formal and formal event doesn’t matter how many people will be there. Protocol (yeah there is an office for that) is available for any questions, even how to set a dinner table for a formal event, what type of food is appropriate and how you should address invitations. Protocol is mainly used for Officer Wives, but occasional senior NCOs may need the resources too. There is a site on One Source that is called “plan my move” and they give you all of the information you need about your new duty station. Airman and Family Readiness should also be able to give you important numbers at your new duty station for you to call ahead. Families with children are given up to 30 hours of free childcare to help with packing/unpacking at current and new duty station due to PCS moves.
After attending Heartlink and receiving a ton of free stuff (always a bonus): bags, coffee mugs, emergency folders for deployment information, and resource books; I would recommend this class to anyone new and old. While I almost wish it was longer, I definitely didn’t walk away with everything I should know, but it was a great introduction.
One last piece of advice that I will send all of you off with that I learned is when your husband is returning from a deployment, to give him time to re-integrate. I had been doing it wrong making him jump right back into his old life. They said they best thing you can do is cook them a home cooked meal and wait for them to want to start helping around the house. The more you force it the more you fight.
My roll at home requires me to fend off bugs, take care of the dog, housework, fix broken faucets, AC units, take care of two cars, and all while managing to keep my husband happy and content that everything is okay at home. Think about it, without spouses, what would our men/women do? It’s right that we should have a class to remind us that we are the heart of the Air Force.