Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Summer 2011

EUROPE HERE WE COME!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weight Limits for Moving/ AM's Q's

Am, I am SOOO happy for you and that you are headed to the UK!! Be patient with me as I try to get you more information and to answer your questions. There is an attorney that was in our office who moved to Mildenhall over the summer.

In regards to your moving questions. As a 1st LT, you will be allotted 12,500lbs w/out Dependants and 13,500lbs with Dependants. Which means the Air Force will pay up to that number of poundage to be moved. If your total house goods way more than that then you would need to ship them abroad on your own dime or store it at a friends house for 3 years ;) As a family of 4 we didn't even come close to 13,000lbs!! Because you are moving abroad you cannot do a DITY move, the AF has to move you.
When moving overseas the AF will pay to ship ONE vehicle, which is not included in your pound allotment.


I have heard several people say they leave a lot of their electronics and kitchen items that plug in, behind in storage when they move overseas because they use a different plug system, wattage or something to that effect over there. Like if you try to plug in your hair dryer it will explode unless you buy special adapters for every single item you plug in. U.S. stuff isn't compatible over there. I wish I had more knowledge on this but I don't. I do know my friend when she headed over there was able to buy a toaster, hair dryer, blender, etc for dirt cheap b/c everyone that goes there needs it and then at the base thrift store people leave it there when they're ready to come back to the States.

I would suggest that as soon as you get orders to have your stuff shipped overseas. It will take roughly 3 months for your goods to be shipped overseas. The AF can load your stuff up from a storage unit, but you will have to be present and they will unbox EVERYTHING and then re pack it. Silly I know, but they are reliable for the items so that is their protocol.

Monday, November 8, 2010

November is THE month

It has been too long and I am sorry. November is here and that means this is THE month we find out where we will be stationed next. Let me back up a little.

There is a new T JAG and he decides how things are ran. Well for the past, recent years it has been fairly standard that new JAG's stay at their first base for 2 years (if they are state side). All JAG's after their first assignment move in the summer months. So obviously if you come in October to your first base, you'll leave in the summer months and not quite be at your first base for 2 full years, same if you get to your new base in say, March, you'll be there for a little more than 2 years, get it?

Well the new TJAG is moving toward keeping new JAG's at their first assignment for 3 years. Years ago it use to be like that but new TJAG's can change protocols if they please. We've been under the impression since we first arrived here that summer 2011 would be our move date to our second assignment. Not anymore. Now there is word that we may be staying an entire year more. They did ask us if we cared and we said we didn't have a preference. BUT November is THE month. We should find out in a matter of days, weeks, where we'll be heading this summer or if we will be here another year. We are still keeping our fingers crossed for overseas...cross them with us!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Living on base

Marylese,

When you read information about your base I would take it for what it is, someones opinion or point of view of their experience at that particular base. Our base and I believe most bases have different housing for Officer's compared to Enlisted. You may be reading enlisted members experiences of their homes when it comes to critter's etc. Although, some bases do have really old base housing. I know the Air Force on a general spectrum is in the process of building new homes on bases throughout the world. The Officer housing where we are stationed is brand new, but the enlisted homes are very old and have all kinds of critters roaming in them!! Check out your base website. You should be able to access base housing photos.

Some con's to living on base:
-The military member can feel like they don't escape work. We haven't found it to be a big problem but that can be a valid argument for some.
-Restrictions on what you can do to the home you live in, although you potentially face that problem if you lived off base and rented too.
-Only military members are your neighbors. Sometimes, I miss having a little more diversity and stability. We just lost 4 of our neighbors over the summer.

Pilot Select doing JAG instead comments

To answer your question of whether Top Gun has heard of anyone set to do pilot training but then going to JAG instead is No. This is his advice though. Call the Chief Recruiting Attorney, Captain Laura DeSio at 1-800-JAG-USAF (800-524-8723) or email her any questions at laura.desio@pentagon.af.mil

Pilots who begin pilot training but then decide that they don't want to be pilots could be discharged from the Air Force. Top Gun says if you want to do JAG and just came out of ROTC then he'd suggest getting out of the Air Force for an education delay, go to law school, then apply for JAG. Another route could be FLEP, Funding Legal Education Program which you could ask the recruiting JAG officer about.

Good Luck with your decision. We are surrounded by Pilots in training at our base!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Top Gun is TDY

Top Gun has been TDY for 2 weeks and gets home late, late tonight. He went to a 2 week trial course. It's suppose to help him be better in the court room. It's great training. He was able to participate in a few moot courts. But we miss him here!

I'm about to head to his office for a potluck lunch. I ask myself why am I going if he won't even be there, especially when I am so busy lately?? It's just a sign of how much I love the people he works with and I have a good time hanging out with them too. They do these kind of lunches fairly regularly and I think they are great!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Homeschooling!!

A reader asked if there are a lot of families homeschooling. I will not use the word 'a lot' but I will say I was surprised when I found out how many families homeschooling there children that are military. Five of my friends at this base alone home school there children. Two of those families are JAG's. I am sure there are several more that I don't know. There are a lot of great reasons but one that seems to be consistent is just that, the consistency of their children's schooling. Moving a lot can be difficult for kids and if they're homeschooling it can be the one thing that stays constant. That is the favorable argument at least.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Once we interview how long til we find out??

There is a board that meets once every 2 months or so. Depending on when you interview during those 2 months will determine how long you have to wait to find out if you've been accepted into the JAG (contingent on you passing a bar exam). Unfortunately we don't know any more specifics on when the board meets. So say you interview a week after the board met you won't find out until 2 months later. But say you interview and the board meets the following week, well then you're a lucky one and could find out within a matter of weeks.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When can you move, # of days AF gives you to move

Stacey,

Technically, you could move to your base as soon as your husband leaves for COT, however most don't move to the base until after COT or during JASCO (at least that is what our recruiter said). Because you'll have a few months between COT obviously you'll get to your base before JASCO but for those like Top Gun who did COT and JASCO back to back moving during/after JASCO is more precedent. I moved to our base while Top Gun was at JASCO b/c school for my kids was starting up. There is a down side to not moving together all at once though.

When you move you get up to 10 days to find and move into your new housing. But once you sign the lease you're expected to start working. Which means after not seeing Top Gun for 9 weeks, he met up with us at our new base on a Friday night and was at work on Monday morning. If we had all moved here together, we would of had up to 10 days to find a home. Some work the system. They'll find a house but ask the renter to not have them sign the lease until the 10th day so they can have all the days off. But say you get a house on base and there's one available immediately, then you'll sign a lease and have to start reporting to work even if you only used 2 days. The key phrase is you get "up to" 10 days.

As far as how many days you get to actually move to your new location, well that is determined on how far you live currently from your new base and if you move yourself. You get something like 350 miles a day to travel (don't quote me on the 350. I will find a definite answer for you) We had the Air Force fly us out but if we would have driven ourselves from California to Texas then we would of been given something like 6 days to get here. Then the 10 days would have started from our arrival date.

As far as base housing wait lists, just call up the base housing office and ask them. I was given what number down on the list we were and the odds of us getting a home weeks before I arrived to the base. You'll have to fax them a copy of your orders and what date you'll be there and they'll place you on the waiting list.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tiffany's Q's...food allowance, preschool, base services

The food allowance each month is for the military member only. Ours is about $250 so no it doesn't cover our family's food needs for a month. When moving you receive per diem for food each day of travel and that amount of money exceeds what you'll actually spend on food for your family unless you eat at Cheesecake Factory for all 3 meals! (Mmmm, I love Cheesecake!)

As far as restaurants on base, there are only fast food type places to eat on base. Some bases don't have any restaurants or places to eat at all. We are located at a training base with thousands of airmen so they need to have eating facilities on base for them. There are cafeteria's for the trainee's but we are not allowed to eat there, too bad b/c it would be cheap. ;)

As far as preschool goes there isn't anything at our base that is free. They have organized playgroups and day care options but at our base there is no preschool program. However, the elementary on base offers free Pre-K 4 but that is ran through the state. I hope this info helps!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Colonel's Wife

The head boss of the JAG office on base is the SJA (Staff Judge Advocate). Ours is a Colonel and his wife is, well, unique. Some people don't know how to read her because she's a self proclaimed anti-social lady. I happen to go to the same church as her too. We share a passion though and that is we both love to be active. We even did an adventure race together a couple months ago. We biked, canoed, and ran together. It was a blast!! We're doing a bike race this Saturday morning too. Anyways, she doesn't throw parties or do get togethers like apparently quite a few SJA wives do but she is GREAT. Why you may ask? Because she watched my kids for a night while Top Gun and I escaped for 24 hours. It was just what we needed! See, I told you she is the best. Who needs monthly socials when she'll watch my kids for an overnighter?!?! Generous lady indeed.

Speaking of the need for our escape, Top Gun has been working crazy hours lately. Whenever they are set to go to trial or have a court martial be prepared for your spouse to work big firm hours. He would come home for dinner and then leave around 9:00p.m. and not get home til the wee hours of the morning. One night he got home at 6:45a.m. the following day and left for work at 7:25 a.m. He has lost weight b/c he hasn't even stopped to take his lunch break and as mentioned isn't getting enough sleep. In the past year this is the first time it has been this bad. Normally when he has courts it doesn't take so much out of him for so long. The late hours normally only last a week at most. But this case kept dragging. A lot of it has to do with his perfectionist attitude too if you ask me. But we got away and it was what both of us needed. At our hotel while we were swimming a stranger asked us if we were on our honeymoon...hah....we've been married for 8 years. It was a compliment b/c we felt like we were on our honeymoon!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

www.ahrn.com / Military only housing search website

Congrats to Amy and Tiffany for getting their assignments this week! I remember looking on the Internet for days trying to find out all the information I could on our current city. Each base has their own official military website. Essentially it's the name of the base followed by .af.mil/

Tiffany here is Kirtland's

Amy here is Offutt's

Also, if you are contemplating living off base there is a GREAT website only available to military families to search for housing. You have to register but then you'll be able to search homes for rent/sale in your new area. The website is www.ahrn.com Remember all homes listed are also owned by military members.

****Another website from a reader is http://MilitaryForSalebyOwner.net

Thursday, July 29, 2010

To answer Lauren's question (deployment, JAG as career decision)

Dear Lauren,

I was scared to death and sometimes still am of the looming possibility of deployment. I hold onto 2 facts regarding JAG's deploying. #1. Not all JAG's deploy. #2. No JAG has ever been killed while deployed.

I have 2 really good friends whose husband's are JAG's and have been deployed. A deployment can either weaken a marriage or strengthen a marriage. For one of my friends she had her 3rd child while her husband was deployed. It was devastating and when he got back it took her some time to not be angry with him. She had an array of emotions she had to work through. BUT they will both quickly say the deployment experience brought them closer together and strengthened their relationship in an indescribable way. All hardships and trials are for our own good and benefit us if we allow it.

My other friend would say nothing good has come from the deployment. He has been home for 3 months now. First off, they were married for about a year before he was deployed so that alone was bad timing for him to leave. They fought a lot while he was gone, whereas my other friends didn't nearly as much. So time will only tell...

How do I rationalize this is my mind?? Good question, easy for me to answer but an answer you or some of my other readers may find as an unsuitable response. Here it goes.

I KNOW that my husband is doing a great thing by serving in the military. I was never a die hard military person and even looked down on it (shamefully I admit that now). But I believe Top Gun is a very intelligent guy. I like to brag (he did go to a top 10 law school ;). He has a lot to offer the Air Force and vice verse. He is practicing law in a way he couldn't ANYWHERE else.

PRAYER is my answer. My heart was changed when I knew that God wanted Top Gun on this path. Once I felt that, through personal prayer, our will became His will. Can I say the Air Force is the career path Top Gun has permanently chosen? When we came in, it was 4 years and out! Yet, everyday we are in, it feels more and more like YES! Let's keep riding this out! Which btw almost all JAG families we have communicated with respond the same way when asked if they plan on staying in or making a career out of this..."We ask ourselves that question everyday." Everyone is always thinking about whether to stay in or get out. Well I can't say everyone but the people we've been stationed with all seem to have that same response. But there lies my advice. Take it one day at a time.

Tricare Contact Information

Tricare is who controls, activates, approves, etc you and your families health benefits.

Tricare is controlled by various regions. Don't call the Tricare office where you are currently located. You want to sign up with the tricare office that is in the same region as your base you'll be stationed at. Unless your spouse is attending COT before you move to your base and you will be needing medical services where you are currently located, then obviously sign up for tricare right away in the region you are currently live in. Once you move to your base you'll have to complete registration again with the new tricare regional office if you are in fact located in a different region.

Tricare Region North
1-877-874-2273
www.healthnetfederalservices.com

Tricare region South
1-800-444-5445
www.humana_military.com

Tricare Region West
1-888-874-9378
www.triwest.com

Tricare Dental Program
United Concordia Companies
1-800-866-8499

Dental coverage is not free to military families only those that are active duty (so our attorney spouse would get dental coverage free)

However, tricare offers dental coverage for cheap through United Concordia

ACRONYMS

Acronyms-- Bookmark this post!!!! I wish I would of had this list for me available when we were first getting started!!!!!! I can't get over how much the military uses acronyms for everything! The ones posted aren't nearly all of them. I will highlight the ones I mostly cared to know about when I was first getting acclimated to the Air Force but all are useful to know.

AAFES- Army and Air Force Exchange Services. They supple and operate the base exchange (BX) and the commissary.

AFB- Air Force Base...duh

BAH- Basic Allowance for Housing, tax free money paid to you to go toward housing cost. If you live on base you forfeit this amount and live rent free on base.

BAS- Basic Allowance for Subsistence, this is an amount of money the service member gets each paycheck as their food allowance.

Basic pay- Main component of military pay

ABU- Airman Battle Uniform, their camouflage uniform

BX- Base Exchange, it is a mini walmart essentially but you don't pay tax only a surcharge fee. It's located on base and there you can purchase diapers to clothes to lawn care items. Some bases have nicer BX's than others

CDS- Child Development Services, daycare on base

CO- Commanding Officer, the head person of each individual unit.

COLA- Cost of Living Adjustment, this refers to a pay increase or decrease depending where you are stationed. If overseas for example your COLA is significantly higher than state side.

COT- Commissioned Officer Training, 4-5 weeks of officer training for medical officers i.e. doctors, dentists etc, attorneys and chaplins

DeCa- Defense Commissary Agency, the commissary, where you grocery shop without paying tax and items are generally cheaper as well

DEERS- Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting Service, the department that determines what benefits you and your family are entitles to. You'll have to register each family member with DEERS right away for health benefits to take affect.

DFAS- Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the ones responsible for paying us!

DITY Move- Do-It-Yourself move, if you move your own household goods this is what it would be called

DLA- Dislocation Allowance, money you receive to cover relocating costs

Duty Station- Where the service member is assigned to work

Exhange- Same as BX

JASOC- Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course, 9 week military law training

LES- Leave and Earnings Statement, this is your monthly pay stub that gives you all kinds of information like how many days of leave you have accrued.

MRE- Meals Ready to Eat, freeze dried meals that deployed members eat

MTF- Military Treatment Facility, a military hospital or clinic

NCO- Noncommissioned Officer, higher ranked enlisted members

O Club- The Officer's Club, the official bar/restaurant for the officer's

Orders- a physical piece of paper that is crucial for military member's to have so they can leave their duty station to go to a new job.

PCM- Primary Care Manager, your doctor who is assigned to you by Tricare

PCS- Permanent Change of Station, essentially means to relocate. You would be PCSing when you receive your orders to move to a new base.

POV- Personally Owned Vehicle, if you do a DITY move you'll see this acronym

PT- Physical Training, exercise required that is usually done as a group. Top Gun goes early in the morning 3 times a week with the JAG office to do PT together.

SJA- Staff Judge Advocate, the head attorney at an Air Force base (The Boss ;)

SGLI- Service Member's Group Life Insurance, inexpensive term life insurance plan

TDY- Temporary Duty, a temp assignment where the military member would be sent to, usually for a training course.

Tricare- The military's HMO

TSP- Thrift Savings Plan, a retirement savings plan

Hindsight is glorious!

When the last reader left a comment saying she had practically just read my entire blog, I went back and read some of my earlier post...MAN WAS I NEGATIVE at times.
I guess when you are in the thick of it all and when you first get started (as in any new job, new home, new everything essentially) you can be so overwhelmed that in retrospect I think I came on too negative.
On the contrary, I believe I can share the truth, sometimes the ugly truth, be frustrated with the process of how the military works, and still be happy and properly portray my current experience...which is POSITIVE. I hope from here on out to be more positive because after all I was 100% against Top Gun joining the military at one point. But my heart was changed and I LOVE my husband's job and our life right now!!
I keep thinking of my new friend whose husband started as a JAG a few months ago but she finished up her job back home before just recently relocating here. She feels like she has almost given up her identity. She has moved here to be with her husband but has no job, hardly any friends yet, finally received her household goods, that took way too long, and is feeling a little lost. That will be the process for some of you wives, every time you move with your spouse to a new base. It takes time but you will make friends, you just have to put yourself out there.

Monday, July 19, 2010

ADC (Area Defense Counsel)

Amy's comment made me think of a new post.

JAG's move every 2-3 years. Generally it is closer to the 2-2.5 year mark. If you are stationed overseas, which is HIGHLY desirable amongst JAG's (that was another readers question), you will stay at that station for 3 years. It's expensive to move overseas so it's more cost effective for the AF to keep you over there longer.

BUT.....there are times when you may stay at a base for 3 or even 4 years. This is how it would play out. When JAG's start out they are Prosecutors. Some bases have an ADC, Area Defense Counselors. JAG's that were once on the Prosecutors side can transition over to the ADC at their same base. ADC is considered new orders, new assignment etc, so therefore when moved over to the ADC you will be assigned that for 2 additional years. So say you serve 2 years at one base as a Prosecutor and an ADC position opened up on your base, you may be offered the ADC spot and receive that as your next assignment. Obviously that would mean you don't have to move b/c you'll be there for an additional 2 year assignment.

What mostly happens is either that previous scenario, or you serve your first 2 years at one base and the next base you move to you're immediately assigned to the ADC position, or after 1 year at your 2nd base you're moved over to the ADC position. It's ALL about timing and generally seniority receives the option to accept the ADC position.

KEY NOTE: When you are an ADC you are NOT DEPLOYABLE!!!!! Some people like that, (me for example!), other's want to be deployed and won't accept the ADC for that very reason. It can be a toss up. You may travel more often as an ADC however, to cover bases that don't have an ADC that are near your base.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Moving Season

The summer, particularly July is full of military families moving. It's referred to as the PCS season. PCS stands for Permanent Change of Station. Since this is our first summer experiencing this, it is quite sad. I'm not easily attached to people so it's not like I'm crying over it but I have a lot of good friends here. Meaning, I'm not a best friends kind of gal, I like to have several friends to hang out with. Some are or have already moved this summer. Luckily already new families have moved in and quickly I've been reaching out to them and making new friends. But I can't help but think what it will be like when I move next summer. I'll be the one leaving ALL my friends and forced to make ALL new ones at our new base. This past year has flown by and I know that this upcoming year will as well. My point is that as JAG families we will move roughly every 2 years, (oversea stations you stay for 3 years). Exploring new places is exciting, meeting new people is exciting, but what about the people I leave behind, over and over again. It makes me sad. All I have to say is thank heaven for blogging and facebook!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summary of Loan Repayment Web Cast

Ok folks, there is ALOT of information in the web cast but most of it is legal gibberish I don't really understand so I will point out the 'stuff'' you likely care about. It's the information I find most valuable!!

Background information-there is what they call the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Basically after 10 years of service, military members are given up to $60,000 to use for college. It can be used by the spouse, military member, or children. It can be divided between them as well.

Now to move forward with the summary of the Loan Repayment Program.

1. Every year you decide to take the JAG loan repayment amount "that year of service will not apply towards the qualifying active duty service required for the Post 9/11 GI Bill Program." So if you choose to accept all 3 years of the loan payments, you will not qualify for the GI Bill until your 4th year as a JAG.

2. JAG's will not receive more than $65,000. Each annual payment will not exceed $21,666.67. (65 grand divided over 3 years). Nor will you receive the entire $65,000 if you only owe say $50,000 in educational loans.

3. To answer Jennifer's question, The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will pay the annual payment DIRECTLY to the JAG's educational loan lender.

4. DFAS will withold 28% of each loan payment for federal income taxes, reducing the amount the lender will receive. The JAG will also receive a w-2 or 1099 for the withholding. Thus the annual payment is taxed as income.

5. 28% of the annual payment of $21,666.67 is 6,066.67. Thus the amount paid to the lender will be $15,600 a year, if you choose to accept it each year.

I hope this answered your questions and gives you a better idea of how the loan repayment program will work. The JAG will be responsible for filling out paperwork each year and providing the necessary documents (unpaid loan amount etc.) to qualify for the money.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Back from family vacation

Today we got back from our first vacation since Top Gun has joined the Air Force. Yup, that's right, he joined 13 months ago!! This was the first time he has taken any leave and it was well used! (not counting the 10 days leave he was forced to take in between COT and JASCO to help us move). Anyway, we headed to San Antonio, Texas. Military members get into Sea World or Bush Gardens once a year for up to 4 people for FREE. So we took the kids to Sea World and then headed to Canyon Lake. The Army has a recreation site down there where only military can stay. We rented a 3 bedroom cabin for $75 a night!! A ski boat rental was $75 plus gas a day! The marina's near the military site were $155 for half a day to rent a boat!! The point is I love getting military discounts. It makes it so we can afford great vacations!! All over the world there are deals to be had for lodging if you're a military member. Hawaii has a military only resort hotel, for example.
Anyway, back to reality. But we love our reality lately so it's all good.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pets

This is in response to a reader regarding whether you can have dogs and live on base. Well, I live on base and I swear every one has a dog, or two, or three!! I haven't heard of any state side base housing restricting dogs. There are certain breeds they don't allow in base housing, at least where I'm located. I can't remember them all but Pitt Bulls are one of them.

As far as over sea bases, it is more complicated. You have to pay to have your dogs flown over seas. The military will not pay for them. Some overseas' bases have restrictions on pets you can bring among other things. I do know that it is quite a process if you bring dogs with you overseas. It's not the military restrictions you need to worry about, it's other countries policies. For example our friends are about to go to England and their dogs had to be checked and approved as healthy. From that point on they had to be quarantine for a month so as not to contract any rabies, etc. There is loads of paperwork in conjunction with 'clearing' your dogs. England seems to be very strict on their laws for bringing dogs over there. I know these are all general answers but we are not dog owners so it's not a subject I have looked really deep into.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sigh......No Loan Repayment for Us :(

I am somewhat bitter about this to be honest. The loan repayment program is great for all of you that do get to benefit. It will make life a lot easier when it comes to paying those monthly loan payments. Those JAG's that started JASCO in October 2009 will be the first JAG's to receive the $65,000 over a 3 year period. That's the FANTASTIC news for ALL NEW JAG's.

This is where I get a little bitter. Top Gun was scheduled to start in October 2009 but then an opening came up in the May 2009 class last minute (literally with 4 weeks notice) and he was offered that spot since he'd been in the works to start for months. Even though I was about to have our third baby we jumped on the opportunity to start earlier b/c Top Gun had already been out of law school for a year and was eager to begin his career. That decision just cost us $65,000!!!! Wouldn't you be bitter for a day or two also?? I mean I am happy and we love where we are at and I know we are suppose to be here at this very moment but..........it's still hard to swallow. I will be over it tomorrow, I promise ;)

Oh and HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY tomorrow!!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Loan Repayment program for New JAG's

Finally the Air Force is catching up with the Army in their loan repayment program. The Air Force is talking about helping the new attorney's with their law school loans. Top Gun said that there is suppose to be a Web Cast coming in the next couple weeks regarding this issue with all the details on the rules and regulations surrounding it. However, this is what it basically looks like what will be offered.

Over the first 3 years a new JAG can expect to get $65,000 paid to them to go toward paying off school loans. A third of $65,000 will be distributed each of those 3 years. But let's say you only had $40,000 in loans, well then you're only going to get $40,000 from the Air Force. It's my guess that you'll have to show that you paid the amount toward your loan as well. They'll likely want proof that you actually are putting the money toward school loans. I'll keep you all updated as the matter continues to develop and unfold. This is GREAT news though!!!!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Deployment

We have been told, and it has been what we have witnessed, that most JAG's should expect to be deployed after their first 2 years. Deployments can be to Afganistan, Iraq, Germany, D.C., I'm sure even other places, but most are to Afganistan and Iraq. Plan on a 6 month deployment plus a few weeks of training before they officially head off for deployment. You do recieve a family seperation allowance during this time so you're pay will go up. Dependents can stay at the base or can go live with family/friends but the government will not pay to relocate you at that time. I know people that have left to go live with their parents to save money or to have help with their kids but I personally don't plan on moving when/if Top Gun gets deployed. I'll likely visit family but I have children in school and they move around enough as is being in the JAG.

Once the JAG arrives at his new base he is put in what they call a bucket. This is a 6 month time period where their name is put in a bucket. It essentially means that during that time period they are eligibale for deployment. So Top Gun was placed in the January-June bucket. Technically he could be told on the very last day of May that he is going to deploy and then he would be gone for 6 months. But once June comes we know he's "safe" until the next time he's placed in a bucket.

UPDATE: There are not just 2 buckets Jan-June and June-Dec. It can be any 6 months at a time. Top Gun just informed me that roughly JAG's are placed in a bucket once every 2 years.

Living On base verse Off base

You will receive a BAH, basic housing allowance. That dollar figure will be determined by base location, rank, year's of service, and whether the JAG has any dependents. With this allowance you can live off base and rent a house for less than your BAH and pocket the difference. Where as if you live on base the BAH goes directly to the housing office. So even though I live in roughly the same kind of home on base as the Major and Colonels do, whose BAH is likely $3000+ and our BAH is $1500+, the entire BAH is given to the housing people. Essentially if you live on base no matter rank, year's of service, etc. ALL of your BAH is forfeited.
As a JAG, Top Gun and I have never heard of you having to live on base when first starting out. If you stay in and you become a SJA (usually they're Colonels) then you are required to live on base.
The decision to live on or off base is completely up to you when first starting out. It'll depend on where you are stationed. We have chosen to live on base to start off so we could better get acclimated to the military lifestyle. I wouldn't have changed that decision. With that said, wherever we head next I plan on living off base b.c our BAH will be higher and we'll likely be able to afford a nice home and have some extra BAH left over.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Leave aka Vacation days

Leave can be a complicated thing. Mainly because you want to maximize your time off and so you really need to think wisely how and when you want to use it.

You have what they call 'Leave' aka vacation days and you have what they call 'Pass' days. Pass days or Comp days are given to you occasionally. They are days you get to take off that you don't have to use any of your leave for. For example, Top Gun's commander was pleased with his office for doing really well on an inspection so he gave them all a Comp day.

You are the property of the Air Force. Therefore, weekends are not "off" like any other normal job. However, each weekend your are essentially given 'pass' days and don't have to go to work. You may be asking why I am mentioning this. Well it's because I'm hoping it will help you better understand the following.

If you want to take a vacation from say Thursday to a Tuesday. You would think you would only need to take 4 days of leave, Thursday, Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. Wrong. You would have to take 6 days leave and count the weekend. If you are away from your base X amount of miles you must take leave. I think this is stupid, for a lack of a better word. Because you can however
go out of town X amount of miles away from base on a Saturday morning and as long as you return by Monday morning at 7:30 to report to work then you don't need to take leave.

This works for holiday's as well. If you leave the 23rd of December and say it's on a Friday and come back the 26th, a Monday. You'd think cool, I only need to take 1 day leave, the 23rd. Wrong, you'd have to count the whole weekend as leave if you went X amount of miles away from your base. The point is why use your leave for holidays you get off anyways. You might as well stay around base for the holidays and then fly somewhere later so you get more days off in the end with less leave used. Does this make since???? I told you it was complicated.

*****AGAIN EACH BASE HANDLES LEAVE DIFFERENTLY. Larger bases will generally be more strict and smaller bases vice verse. This post is just to give you a general idea about leave. Mainly that weekend's count!***********

Tax Season

Attorney's can do taxes and let's just say Top Gun could become an accountant with all the tax knowledge he's learned. The Air Force offers a great service to it's military members and retirees. If they qualify, people can take their taxes to the legal office to be completed and filed. You have to stay there while they do it but nonetheless this means that the legal office sets up a temporary tax center for the months of January-April. Top Gun was the attorney assigned this year to run and be in charge of the tax center. The base asks for volunteers, some are civilians and others are military members who choose to help and take a break from their normal duties during these months. Top Gun also uses paralegals from the legal office to complete the taxes.

I gave Top Gun an ultimatum. I said if you don't complete our taxes by the first of March, I'm going to embarrass you and show up at work with our w-2's and wait in the line like everyone else. So last night he did them. ALL, and I do mean ALL my friends have kept saying to me, "We are getting more back in taxes this year than we ever have." I was just crossing my fingers hoping that Top Gun and I wouldn't have to owe any money. Well this year we are getting twice as much as we ever have back. YAY!!!! I guess all the hard work of Top Gun preparing the law center has paid off for us too ;)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can family move before JASOC graduation?

Short answer YES.

Mon, you are in the same time table as we were. Top Gun started COT at the end of May, had a 2 week break and then went back to Alabama for JASOC until September 11th. During that 2 week break Top Gun first went to his base here in TX. Where your hubby is stationed that is the place where the AF will pay for him to return to after COT, not wherever it is you currently live. Top Gun then flew from TX to CA on our own dime and helped load up our moving truck, hung out for 10 days and then went to JASOC. The girls and I then moved during the second week he was at JASOC. We did so for the exact same reasons you are contemplating...school for our kids. I just didn't want to enroll my girls in one school for literally 2 weeks and then up and move and throw them right into another school. I moved in late July so we had a few weeks to get settled before even starting school in our new town. I am SO happy I did that. Remember the school year starts at different times throughout the country. Schools here started a few weeks earlier than in California so if we had waited til after JASOC, my daughter would have missed a month of school here.

As an additional note, if your spouse does decide to come home to wherever you currently are (assuming that it's not at the base he'll be permanently stationed at) those weeks/days in between that he is not at his base he must count as leave aka vacation days. We didn't know this but I wanted Top Gun there to help us move so we took the leave anyhow. Which means when he got here in September he was already in the hole 10 days of leave. Which meant he didn't take any leave at Christmas or Thanksgiving because he only had by that time 1 or 2 vacation days accrued. It's a bummer but good thing there are a lot of holidays quickly following September that he got off anyhow. Oh and weekends are counted as leave if you are so many miles away from your base...which really stinks!! How leave works deserves a post all in it's own!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Moving

Did you have the military move you or did you do it yourself?

You can do what they call a DITY move, Do it Yourself, which is what we did. We chose this route for a few reasons. Most our stuff was already boxed up b/c we were temporarily living with family. If the military moves you they come in and box everything up for you. They are liable so they will come 'un' box anything and everything you currently have boxed and redo it themselves. Crazy, I know. But the main reason we did it ourselves is because you can generally make money by doing it yourself. The military will pay you depending on rank and dependent status, per pound you move and by the mile. We used ABF, a upack, they move truck service. We loaded up the truck and they came and picked it up and delivered it to our new home, and then we unloaded it. They take it to a weigh station before and after and print out a ticket. That is what we gave to the military to determine how many pounds we moved. It cost us a total of $2200 to move our belongings from California to Texas. With 1st LT rank and with dependent status (married constitutes dependent status) and for the number of miles we moved we were given roughly $8000. They do take taxes out of the difference from what you actually spent and from what they give you. Thus, they taxed us on roughly $6000. We pocketed around $5000. As a side note, the military does not pay to move your vehicle unless you drive it yourself. We had family drive our car for us and I flew with my 3 girls since Top Gun wasn't around to move with us. They did pay for the gas to move my car though b/c I put some belonging in there and they do pay to move all belongings. So does that make since? You keep receipts so you can give them the total amount it cost you to move yourself so they know how to tax you. They don't actually reimburse you the exact amounts you spent. There is a set amount they give you, once again dependent on rank and distance traveled. So if you're moving just a state away you may not make any money moving yourself at all. You can find out what the rate would be that you would get paid before you decide for sure to move yourself or not. Oh and if we would have driven our car we would have pocketed a little over $1000 more. But it wasn't worth it to me to drive 26 hours with 3 little children alone :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

He loves what he's doing

One thing that makes me happy is that Top Gun loves what he is doing. He enjoys going to work, he enjoys the variety of work that is placed in front of him, and he enjoys the people he works with. The thing with JAG's is that every 2 years they are moving stations and so are the other people in the office. Which means every summer half of the attorney's in the office are leaving. Which also means that you move up in Seniority and are given more responsibilities, more difficult cases etc, very quickly, relatively speaking. It can take years to be in a court room with big firm jobs when it was literally a matter of weeks when Top Gun was presenting closing arguments in front of a judge. (Something that was and still is completely out of his comfort zone. He is an introvert by nature.) This summer he'll have been a JAG for only one year yet he will be in charge of so much more come then b/c he will be the third in Seniority out of like 10 JAG's in the office. The experience he is/will be getting is priceless. Whether we are in the military for the long haul or short term what he is being exposed to is obviously benefiting him professionally but very much so on a personal level as well.