So you’re new to the Army life and wondering where to begin? Check out our top ten tips for getting off to a successful start as a new Army spouse!
1. Memorize That Social
As an Army spouse, your social security number is no longer valid as far as the Army is concerned.
If they ask you for your social or your last four, they want your soldier’s social security number, not yours. So memorize it now!
My husband is medically retired now and I still have to remind myself they are asking for his social when I deal with anything related to Tricare.
2. Get a Military ID
Get your military ID as soon as possible. You can go to the closest military base (it does not have to be the same branch as your soldier) to have it made.
Your soldier will send you the necessary paperwork to have this done. You will either need to have the paperwork or a POA.
Be sure to call ahead to find out the hours. Some require an appointment, and not all are open every day during the week for ID cards.
3. GET ENROLLED IN DEERS & TRICARE
You need medical insurance coverage, right?
Time to get familiar with Tricare and how it all works. In addition to enrolling as a new spouse, in all likelihood, you will have to register yourself with Tricare each time you move to a new post.
Getting your military ID should cover enrolling in DEERS. Be sure to ask about opting into a specific Tricare plan. Once your soldier is retired, you must opt into Prime if you want to keep it (the default is Standard).
4. Draft a POA
Be sure to get a Power of Attorney to handle your soldier’s affairs whenever he is gone.
You’ll be surprised how often it comes in handy. JAG can assist with doing this for free.
Be aware there are different types and options available, so do some research before you go in.
If you know you’ll be moving into on-post housing on your own, let the JAG officer know, as it requires a special POA.
5. Know the Bills and the Budget
Know about all of your bills – how much, when they’re due, who they’re payable to, etc.
When your soldier is gone, whether it’s for training or deployment, all of the financial duties fall to you. Be sure to sit down and discuss everything that’s paid each month so you’re in the know.
This is a great time to set a budget too! And get familiar with the bank accounts and ensure that any account you may need to use has your name on it.
That includes any accounts tied to your bills (cell phone, electricity, car loan, etc.). If your name isn’t on the account and you don’t have a POA, they can’t speak to you about it.
Last, take some time to familiarize yourself with your soldier’s LES. If he’s gone for training or deployed, you’ll be the one who is most likely to catch any mistakes.
6. Start an Emergency Savings
There will always be extra expenses (or government shutdowns!) that interfere with your normal budget routines.
Start squirreling away money now. Your ultimate goal should be to have 3-6 months of expenses saved so that you can still pay the bills and survive for that timeframe if no income is coming in.
When he is deployed, it is a great time to save money. Not only is he earning extra pay that, in most cases, is tax-free up to a certain amount, but there is also one less mouth to feed at home.
Break down your ultimate goal into more manageable chunks. When you put your budget together, it should be easy to see how much you can funnel into savings with each paycheck, whether it’s $25 or 10%.
7. Practice OPSEC
Do not talk about your soldier’s deployments or training exercises publicly. Or to anyone who otherwise shouldn’t know about them, even if you know them.
You never know who may overhear you. You should also try to prevent others from knowing when he is gone for your safety.
This means driving both vehicles during his absence and not plastering your car with stickers and magnets that declare he’s deployed.
Be especially careful about what you post online and on social media. You never know who is watching and listening.
8. Join Support Groups
When you’re knee-deep in Army life, and especially a deployment, you need people who understand all that you’re going through.
Try out the FRG (family readiness group) or spouses club on post. Even if you don’t like the FRG itself, you’ll likely find some other spouses who you click with, and you can get together outside of the FRG.
If that’s not your thing, check into other military-related volunteer opportunities or groups through your church of choice.
If all else fails, there’s always social media! But remember, OPSEC.
9. Learn the Lingo
The Army has a language all its own. If you ever hope to understand your soldier again when he’s with his coworkers, you need to learn the lingo.
Once you know the Army alphabet and before your kids figure it out, it is also a great way to talk in code around them.
10. Embrace the Suck
Haha! This one is my favorite!
Nothing in life will ever go perfectly, and the Army is no exception. He’ll get deployed or called out of town for training when you’ve planned a big event (like giving birth!).
Or, just as you’re getting comfortable in one location, the Army decides it’s time for PCS.
The fact is there’s not much you can do about it, so just put on a big smile and deal with it.
Try to find the positives of whatever situation has occurred and move on.
This is an evolving list…..do you have other tips? Sound off in the comments!