Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Do I work? Is the JAG pay 'enough'?

To answer the first question, no, I don't work. We had 3 kids when J joined the AF and I have never felt like we didn't make 'enough' money. To start, Texas was a very cheap area to live. Coming from California EVERYTHING was cheaper in Texas! Out of seven JAG wives in Texas only one worked. She was a school teacher and they didn't have kids so it made perfect sense for her to get a job. I remember her saying once that the money she made allowed her to buy more things she wanted not just the things they needed. Most of the JAG wives here in Germany don't work either, but we are in a foreign country which may make job hunting a little difficult :)

However, 2 factors come into play for us. First, we don't currently pay any law school loan payments each month. The University J went to offers a loan repayment program for those graduates who take government jobs and make under a certain $$ amount each year. Well, we fit that category. Otherwise we would have to pay $700 a month toward student loans. Which we save at least that much a month anyways but if we had to pay it then our savings wouldn't be as high and we wouldn't feel comfortable like we do.

Second factor, I am frugal by nature. I don't buy whatever I want but at the same time I don't feel deprived. If we want to go out to eat, we do, just not multiple times a week. If I want a new dress, I buy it. Our home has nice things, (admittedly I'm on the vain side a little) I like nice clothes for me and my family but somehow we have enough money.

I'll also note that once J became a JAG we have NEVER received such huge tax returns before. Last year we received nearly $11,000 and the year before that (where we were AF for only half a year) we got $8,000 back! BAH is not taxed so you actually make more money than the IRS docks you for.

Lauren, I remember thinking the same thing you did before J started working as a JAG. J went to a top 10 law school and his peers we're coming out making double, nearly triple with bonuses than what he started off earning. With that said, for our family, money hasn't been a worry at all. Obviously, we're not rolling in the dough like his peers are but my girls get to be with their Dad each day so it's worth the pay off :)

If there are other JAG wives reading this and you have good input please speak up and I will post your comments because this is a good question. It was definitely one of my main concerns before J accepted the position.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Q & A: Support System & Childcare

Question: My husband and I are considering JAG too and I am currently pregnant with our third child ( our other two are two and one years old). My concern is feeling overwhelmed with no support system in an unfamiliar place. How have you managed with your three? What type of support system do you find on base? Are their daycares on base and what's the pricing generally for them?

To start off, I am extremely lucky and grateful that I belong to a world wide church. With that said, wherever I move I instantly have a Bishop to call and a church family who is there to help me with my move, adjustments, really anything I need. So I am not the most qualified to answer your question. BUT, the JAG Core is a great resource to start from.

Both bases I've been at have had a great support system among the JAG wives. They do regular get togethers, playdates, park groups, etc. When someone has a baby we offer help with meals, watching siblings, etc. At a larger base you will have more JAG spouses, at a smaller base there may only be a few of you so support will vary. Your concern is valid but if you are the least bit outgoing you will find your own support system because EVERYONE around you is in the same boat and you become each other's temporary family.

I don't use the CDC (on base childcare) so I'm not much help there either. In Texas, drop in was difficult and it was $5 an hour per kid, if you could actually get in. That was the rate for drop in only. Also, I'm pretty sure there is priority to children whose parents are both serving in the military. That sums up what I know about CDC...sorry!! But you can look up any base on the web, search for the CDC and ask them for more information.

I'm still here!

I'm still here, we've just been travelling a ton!! I wanted to post the comment from a reader for all to see (in case you don't actually go to the comments and read them yourselves.) Here is what an anonymous fellow JAG wife has to say.

"I'm an Air Force JAG wife too! I agree with most of what you said. I was so scared of what it would mean for my husband to join the military, but fortunately it has been a great blessing to our family. I, too, had a lot of civilians telling me that being an officers wife would mean entertaining, going to important functions and so forth. I have not experienced that one bit. As far as my husband liking the work: he likes the legal work. Unfortunately, he gets stuck with a lot of non-legal work as well. I'm not sure if that is the case with your husband, but it is something that my husband is tiring of. Anyway, things might change with our new assignment. He will be in 2 years in January, and next summer we will go to our 2nd assignment. Perhaps he will start to be able to specialize and enjoy the work more."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Options for JAG's exiting the military

JAGs leave the military and go onto work in a wide range of areas. There are good numbers of prosecutors, state and federal, that are former JAGs. JAGs can obtain a wide range of experience. Every JAG does not become experienced in the same areas of law. There are JAGs that get a lot of experience in government contracts, labor, environmental, and information privacy law. Others just focus on military justice, aka criminal law. That experience can determine what marketable skills they will have once they leave the service. There are also a lot of JAGs that leave the military and go into the reserves. One advantage people have said is that being in the reserves can help when transitioning between jobs.
After the first couple of assignments JAGs are typically not doing the criminal trial work unless they want. Instead they are going into positions where they might be able to specialize, act more in an advisory role at a higher headquarters legal office, or serve in a leadership role. There are so many different jobs in the JAG Corps. You can express your desire for the area of law that you want to gain experience in and bosses will typically try to help you achieve your desires. Of course your preferences only go so far.

A reminder of the Pro's

Before J joined the AF I had a few people try to tell me what my life as an Officer's wife would be like. They said things like, "You'll have to get all fancy and go to functions regularly. That's where you'll have to impress the higher ranked Officer's." Or, "You will join the military as much as your husband does." Oh, how I wish I had talked to an actual Officer's wife and not only mere Civilians :)

It's somewhat of a blur now what I first envisioned my life to be like when we were contemplating joining the military. J came home and said he had interviewed with the Army. Gulp! To sum it up, I thought, MY LIFE would be engulfed by The Military, 24/7. Socially, we'd HAVE to do ceremonies, promotions, meetings and the like. Emotionally, it would consume me because the fear of deployment would constantly hang over me. Our lives would become so regime and dictated by my husband's profession. I FEARED my husband becoming a JAG. I said, "No way!" J dropped the idea. Then a couple months later the Air Force was on campus and J brought up the prospect of becoming a JAG again. Sigh.

Then I prayed. You see, I believe in personal revelation. When you have the stamp of approval from God, peace is bound to follow. Then, when you pray more and you learn that this is exactly the path God wants you to take, more peace arrives.

I HAD to know that before I could embrace my future. At first, each day seemed like an act of faith. But now, I can honestly say, I would NOT want to be living any other kind of life. And thus far, most my fears were so off!!

I will try to stay away from what J would answer and stick to why as a JAG WIFE I feel this way. Maybe I'll do his list another time! To date, these are the main Pro's (in no particular order)

Reason 1: Job Stability. At least at this point in the "game" I don't fear layoffs, no pay check or cut backs. In fact, I expect a raise every 1-2 years, each new calendar year, (as Congress sees fit) and bonuses at his 4th and 6th year.

Reason 2: I like a good adventure! Moving around, seeing literally the world, is a dream come true for me. Meeting new people and creating amazing memories is my kind of gig!

Reason 3: It strengthens our family relationships, if you let it. My children are close, my relationship with my husband is tight and I believe it has a great deal to do with us moving and having to lean on each other. Knowing that my core, little family is the ONE constant, makes me work a little harder to keep it strong. I say, if you let it, because divorce rates in the world are high and I heard somewhere it's even higher in the military. This makes sense because of deployments, stress levels etc but as far as the JAG core, I don't think it's the same. An Officer's life is different than an Enlisted...I could go on but I won't...

Reason 4: My husband comes home happy. As a wife, this definitely adds to my happiness!! Now, not ALL JAG's enjoy what they are doing and this obviously doesn't mean J will always enjoy what he is doing. If I could claim that, then I'd be physic and unfortunately I am not :). Another JAG in J's office makes it very clear that he is getting out after his commitment at 4 years. He doesn't like how the military runs things, he feels micromanaged, and frankly has not had a good experience. The cons outweigh the pros heavily for him and his wife. I am working on getting some other JAG wives to write a brief entry on their overall experience. I'm a newbie remember, others have a greater perspective than me, simply due to the mere number of years their husbands have been serving.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How many times do potential JAG's apply before getting accepted?

Iverson Family,

I will ask around tomorrow at our office Halloween Party but I would say nowadays that unless you are an exceptional, top law school graduate "impressee", then you may have to interview/apply more than once. I say that simple because the AF let go of JAG's last summer because the retention rate is high due to the economy. Their usual rate of JAG's that get out on their own isn't happening. More and more are staying in because their options on the outside aren't too good. The AF has also cut back on the number of new JAG's they hire each year. When you interview your application goes into a pool along side others applying. A board then ranks each candidate and the top our accepted. You can ask to have your application forwarded to the next board if you are passed over the first time. The AF cut back on the number of boards that meet each year, thus accepting less attorney's. This combination does not make me surprised that 5 out of the 6 had to interview more than once. But atlas, I will update this post after I ask around!!!

Length of each assignment


To answer your question, we were stationed in Texas for 2 years, technically a couple months short of 2 years. There is a new TJAG, whom word is that he is looking into extending SOME first assignment JAG's to 3 years instead of 2. Each new TJAG (The head TJAG in Washington) has the right to change the standard. The past TJAG had first assignment JAG's pcsing roughly at 2 years. Depending on what month you joined the AF and considering all JAG's generally PSC in the summer months, this will determine how long you are at your first base.

UNLESS you are overseas and with dependents, your assignment will be 3 years. If you are a single JAG then it can be a 2 year assignment overseas. Most JAG's I have met have moved every 2 years, even the JAG's that are Major's and above. With the exception of those that became an Area Defense Council, ADC after serving 2 years at one base and then serving another 1-2 years as ADC at the same base. This is considered 2 assignments however, even though they stay at the same base.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Two Years Ago

As I look at the date I am reminded that just two years ago we started this journey. September was when J finally met up with us in Texas and he began his career as a JAG in the legal office. I had a new little baby and two other children. There were many new adjustments. New to the military, new to Texas, new Mom of 3, new friends, new career. It feels like it was longer than two years ago and I can't decide if that is good or bad!

Today is one of those days that I am so GRATEFUL to be living here in Germany. It's fall, the leaves are turning, the weather is a cool high 60's, and the sun is shining. Life is exactly where it is meant to be.

J is working hard at work, enjoying what he does. He really enjoys military justice but this has back fired a little. My 8 yr. old asked how old you have to be to go to court. I asked if she meant as the one in trouble. Then I realized that she thinks her Dad just works with "people who are in trouble" all day!! This led to a semi-lengthy discussion on all the work Daddy does for those "people who are good" too. Kids are funny!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shipping Your Car Overseas

I finally posted about shipping your car overseas. But since I started that post in May it's located under the May 2011 posts. Sorry about that!

Friday, September 23, 2011


J and I went to Paris for one blissful day without children. Paris is everything I dreamt of. On this day I kept thinking how J has made 2 very important dreams of mine come true. I've always wanted to be married and have a happy family, plus see the world. I kept thinking how if it wasn't for the military, it's very unlikely that I would even be in Germany now or ever! This pondering made me very grateful to be an Air Force family. I can't believe I was so against J joining the military at one point, when now, I am exactly where I want to be. Funny how that happens.

Vacation...mostly Free...Thanks Air Force!

Last week we went to Garmisch. There is a great Army Resort, Edelweiss there. No matter what military branch you serve for, you can still take advantage of what all the branches offer. J had a conference that was held at Edelweiss for the entire week. Which means, the AF paid for his gas, lodging and food. Reminder these are called TDY's. What I LOVE about TDY's are that as a family we can totally tag along and is costs us nearly nothing. J gets so much allotted for food each day, so he ate cheaply and we used some of the money for our food. Plus at this resort kids under 5 ate free. Needless to say we had a FANTASTIC week. The girls and I went to the lake one day, visited 2 different castles, went swimming, hiking, bobsledding and more. J got out no later than 4:30 each day and then we would go explore the area even more.

Obviously, you can't go to all TDY's with your spouse because kids have school, it may be too far for your family to drive too and the JAG has to fly, etc. But either way it is a way to make a little extra cash. J went TDY a few times when we were in Texas. If he chose to drive we would make money on gas and rarely could he ever use the full amount of money allotted for food each day.

Plus TDY's are a great time for the JAG's to meet other JAG throughout the military and discuss what's happening in their specific offices. At this particular conference there were JAG from Army and Air Force. I met a gal and her 3 children whose husband was an Army JAG that was doing the conference too. Our kids ended up playing together whenever we went to the pool and I got to chat with her.

Which reminded me why I am grateful J chose the Air Force. It is only for one reason and that is the deployment. Her husband has been in 9 years, part of that was as a Reservist but he has already been deployed twice and for roughly 1 year each time. It has been hard on her kids, more so when they were older than younger because they understand more. I never thought about that! I thought it would be easier if your kids were older. Which brought me to this conclusion about deployment:

Easier on kids if they are young, harder on Mom when they are young

Harder on kids when they are older, easier on Mom when they are older

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pit stop in Baltimore...then Germany here we come!

We have been on vacation here in California for the last week and a half. Tomorrow we fly out to Baltimore where we will stay for a couple days before we take our final flight to Germany!! We wanted to break up our long flight from CA to Baltimore to Germany so we planned to arrive a couple days early in Baltimore to rest up and do some sight seeing in D.C. When PCSing overseas the military will reimburse one hotel nights stay at the port you are flying out of. Meaning you could fly in a day early, get a hotel and catch the final flight the next day. Good info to know.

Also, as long as your flight from wherever you are taking vacation from before you PCS is cheaper than what it would cost the military to fly you from your losing base to your new base, they will reimburse you. Let me explain better.

It would have cost the government roughly $600 to fly one of us from Texas to Baltimore. We purchased with our own money one way tickets to California which will not be reimbursed. But then we found tickets from Cali to Baltimore for only $250. Because it was less than $600 the government will reimburse for those tickets that will get us to Baltimore.

How to find out what kind of law is practice at specific bases

Lauren J,

Unfortunately, there is no specific place to go research what each base's legal office practices. Top Gun's advice is to contact your point of contact at the base you interviewed at for information on what type of law is practice at which specific bases you are interested in.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reimbursement of expenses

When does the military pay you for your moving expenses related to the timing of COT and JASCO?

I had a reader ask me this. You can ask the military for some money up front to cover cost of moving if you are doing a DITY move (Do it yourself). Contact your local base TMO office to ask specific questions. If the military is moving you then you will coordinate through your local base to have movers come and for them to order your plane tickets.

As far as receiving your per diems and travel expenses you'll incur, like taxi rides, etc. once you arrive to your permanent base the military member can file the claim to receive that money. This will vary from base to base but it took us about a month to see some reimbursements come in. It took nearly 3 months to receive our reimbursement for our DITY move...that was a pain. Again I could see smaller bases getting your money back to you sooner. Be prepared to potentially make a few trips to the finance office to get your money all sorted it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shipping your car overseas

There are only a handful of locations in the U.S. that you can take your car to be shipped on the military's dime. The military will pay to have only one car shipped overseas. Luckily, the closes one for us is only 2.5 hours away. During PCS season, which are the months of April-August, they say to plan on it taking 60 days from drop off date to arrival in the new country. Thus we are dropping our car off next week to ensure we have our car waiting for us in Germany mid July.

Renting a car overseas is extremely expensive and they say it is far more worth it to have a rental car stateside than once you get overseas. Luckily we have another car we will use but then hurry and try to sell before we move...that will be fun! I hate that we have to sell our second car b/c it has been such a good car to us. Apparantly though older BMW's are a dime a dozen in Germany and you can get them for a few grand. Top Gun is very excited about this!

To rent a car overseas you have to have a temporary International Driver's License and you can obtain one through AAA for $15. This is different than the actual country's driver's license you will need to get once there.

For example, Top Gun will go to the education office on base before we move to Germany and set up everything so that when we get to Germany he just has to go on base there, watch an hour video, and then he'll get his German license. As the spouse though we have to go through the country to obtain one and can't do anything util we get there.

Oh and to actually pick up your car that you had shipped you will have to already have the German license and car insurance.


There are so many posts I could do about moving/PCSing (permanent change of station). We are currently getting ready for our PCS to Germany this July. There is so much information I would like to share but I may not get to it until after our move is completed. Mainly because I don't have a lot of time (that seems to be a reoccurring theme!)

The good thing is when you PCS you are assigned a Sponsor from the base you are moving to. Usually it is another JAG. Some sponsors are better than others. As the spouse, I spoke with Top Gun's sponsor before we arrived here to Texas. I wanted to know about housing and schools. I mention this because don't be afraid to ask your spouse for their sponsors contact info so you can contact them with your questions. Top Gun was a sponsor last summer for a new JAG and his wife and I emailed back and forth a few times before she arrived. This will make you feel like you have a friend right when you arrive too.

Still offering Loan Repayment Program despite cutbacks?

To answer your question "Elder Heims", YES, the Air Force is still giving the $65,000 toward loan repayments for new JAG's.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Malea--Officer age cutoff

Hey Malea! I am glad you found my blog. We have been so busy I feel like I am slacking in my updates. Thanks for your comment. Because there are only 3 boards meeting a year I would definitely say the selection process will be even more competitive. Due to military cuts they have been limiting the number of JAG's. The one thing I wanted to say was that there is an age cutoff as to when someone can join the Air Force as an Officer. Once you pass the age of 35 you are no longer eligible to become an Officer in the Air Force. I am not saying that your husband is over 35 but if he did go on a mission for 2 years and has been out of law school for 5 something tells me he may be close to 35???? Anyway, I thought if you've been toying with the idea for 2 years it may be time to decide if it is something you really want to do or not before the option eliminates itself due to his age.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

JAG recruiting

As you may or may not know the Air Force is drastically reducing the number of JAGs they are accepting. --"DAP Accessions Board Schedule Changes In February 2011, AFPC announced a reduction of the total number of accessions entering active duty for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. The full extent of this drawdown and how it would impact the JAG Corps did not become clear until February. Based on these lower accession numbers, we were unable to make any selections at the February 2011 DAP Board. In addition, TJAG directed that the number of annual DAP boards be reduced from six to three, meeting in October, December and April. This amended schedule should streamline the DAP board process, while still attracting quality candidates. Therefore, the June and August 2011 DAP Boards are cancelled and the next DAP board will meet in October 2011. The ROTC boards will continue to be held in February and the FLEP/ELP boards in March. Updates regarding the DAP boards will be advertised on the USAF JAGC Recruiting Facebook site, www.facebook.com/USAFJAG. Recruits may also call 1-800-JAG-USAF for more information." Keep this information in mind as you wait to hear back from board reviews as the timeline from here on out will be different than what WE experienced. Hope this helps if you are in the beginning stages of the interview process.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happiest Place on Earth

We took a much needed family vacation to DisneyWorld. What's even better is that we saved a lot of money and received great benefits. Military members get discounts on Disney tickets. Each year Disney offers different promotions. Last year they offered a 3 day park hopper pass for $99. This year the deal was a 4 day park hopper pass for $138. You can purchase up to 6 tickets at that price. Your friends or family can use them as long as the military member or spouse is there on the first day to register the tickets. Awesome huh?? We saved hundreds. My brother and his family came along with us. To top it off we stayed at this FABULOUS military only Disney Resort..........

The Shades of Green is one of four military resorts. The other three are located in Hawaii, Germany and Korea. The Shades of Green is located right across the street from the Polynesian Disney Resort which has monorail service directly to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. It took about 10 minutes to walk there and made it VERY convenient to get to and from the theme parks. For a rank of O-3 (Captain) it cost us $133 a night for a huge pool side room. The rooms are the largest of all Disney Resorts. I am so glad we stayed here. Such a great vacation. The only problem now is that I don't have anything else to look forward to but our move to Germany. So now I feel a lot of pressure to start preparing and getting things in order for our move.
I hope to do a good job keeping you all informed on all the tasks that go into PCSing (moving permanently) overseas. If I do a good job at updating this blog on all that goes into moving overseas I feel like it could really benefit those of you who will be doing so someday. There are passports to get, 3 different packing dates to coordinate, medical paperwork to get cleared for myself and children and soooooo much more. I better get started!!!!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Promotion to Captain

I stressed about Top Gun's promotion ceremony more than I should have. I will tell you what we did and then what others have done.

We provided heavy appetizers after his pinning ceremony. We had a large fruit salad, chips and dip, spinach dip in a bread bowl with extra bread along side it, veggie trays and a large cake with punch. Plus I had some pretzles I dipped in chocolate in cute jars just to spruce up the table a little. The ceremony was around 2:00 so I knew most would have just barely eaten lunch. We had tons of food leftover. We did hold it on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so people were out of the office which had something to do with it.

Another Captain who was single took the other Captains to a restaurant after her ceremony and bought appetizers and drinks for everyone. Another served lunch at their house, subway sandwiches and salad on a completely different day than his pinning ceremony. Another served lunch there at the courthouse afterwards, meatballs, side salads, sandwiches, etc. I think Top Gun said someone bought pizza for everyone once too.

Generally, (which I have yet to see it happen on the Captain level) they say you spend one months increase in pay from one rank to the next when promoting. Top Gun has been to a Lt.Colonel pinning ceremony of a friend of ours from church and he had a full on catered BBQ lunch afterwards. This is not uncommon once you get up in rank like that. Amy, I hope this information helps.

Friday, January 28, 2011

It won't be easy...

...to leave all my friends here in Texas. As a JAG family we will move alot. This could be a good thing if we are in a place we hate (which I don't see ever happening for us b/c we always try to make the best of everything) but it could happen I suppose. I LOVE my friends here and Germany is sooooo far away! I am having one of those days where I am trying to enjoy every second a little more because I won't have these wonderful people to be with much longer. I know when I move I will make new friends and new bonds will develop but it is sad to think that the people I am surrounded by now will just become memories. Do you ever wonder how you can be so close to people and then in a matter of a few years hardly talk to them? I know life moves on, new friendships, new priorities arise. Distance plays a big role too. There will be those few that stay life long friends but overall these thoughts are making me sad today. Tomorrow is my birthday! Tonight we are going to dinner with 5 other couples and then playing charades at a friends house! It will be bitter sweet.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What is Dining Out?

Dining out is a traditional, formal event after completion/graduation of COT and there's another one after JASCO. I did not attend. I had zero interest in flying to Alabama on my own dime. Top Gun said there were some spouses there and all he remembers of the events was that there was a luncheon for spouses one day. Not very helpful huh? He didn't really pay attention to what the events were. Sorry, I can't be of more help. I remember receiving emails and letters in the mail inviting me to COT graduation so look out for those and it should give you more information as to what will happen the week leading up to graduation. I do remember Top Gun giving them my email address right when he arrived at COT so they could contact me with information about graduation weeks' festivities.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dining Out at the end of COT and JASCO

Hi Eileen!

Do you mean what is the dress for you or for your husband? Your husband (if he's not going to the May COT class) will wear Servicemen Dress. It is soooooo stinking expensive and they don't wear it much. You could say it is equivalent to a tuxedo. They will wear it to any formal military event, including Dining Out.

Top Gun went to COT in the summer (May's COT) with all the "gonna be" doctors. That COT class didn't have to purchase the Servicemen Dress because they figure after medical school all the doctors would not fit in it by the time they actually started working in the Air Force. Which only meant Top Gun got to wait a few more weeks before he had to purchase it while he was at JASCO.

As to what you should wear, well it is a formal event. Usually that means a long dress but if you have an elegant short dress I would say that would be fine too. Good luck and HAPPY SHOPPING!