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

Tricare region South

Tricare Region West

Tricare Dental Program
United Concordia Companies

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-- 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!!