Tag Archives: military spouse

MilSpouse Weekly Roundup!

Howdy and welcome to the 43rd MilSpouse Weekly Roundup! My name is Sarah and I’ll be your host for today.

MilSpouse Weekly Roundup

For those of you new to Mowenackie, my blog gets it’s, uh, unique name from my three beloved animal companions. (They are insulted by the term “pets” – it’s just not PC anymore.)

Mow+en+ackie

Mowgli + Owen + Jackie = Mowenackie

My husband, T,  is Army National Guard. He returned from a year-long deployment (his second) to Afghanistan last December. We’ve pretty much got our feet under us again, but reintegration is always a bit of a challenge, no matter how smoothly it goes.

I blog about the military, my pets animal companions and anything else that comes to mind – which is usually hiking, healthy food or my husband. What can I say, I like H’s. (Not really.) You can learn more about me on my Howdy page.

But enough about me. Let’s hear something about you. So link up, yo!

Next week’s host will be the fabulous Mrs. Mike over at The Science of Missing You. Her young family is facing down yet another deployment very, very shortly, so after you link up, please go show her some MilSpouse Lovin’.

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The Mythology of the Weekend Warrior

In some circles, the National Guard has acquired the unfair stigma of producing “Weekend Warriors”. The common belief is that the Guard’s military commitment is limited to one weekend a month and two weeks out of the year.

Tee hee. It is to laugh.

In other words, Um, no.

That may or may not have been the case fifteen years ago. I wouldn’t know since I met my husband during wartime and virtually on the eve of his first deployment; a time when he was very active in the military. The fact of the matter is that these days, the commitment involves much, much more than that. And, quite frankly, that causes some problems.

Please allow me to elaborate.*

*Note that the following are from my own experiences and observations. I’m sure situations can differ widely, but you’ll at least get the drift of where I’ve gisted. (Ew).

1. Drill weekend is a sleepover.
The armory where my husband drills is a two and a half hour drive from where we live. This makes showing up for 0700 formation on Saturday morning rather difficult. T generally opts to go up Friday night in lieu of getting up at 0330 to make the long, sleepy, dark drive. It is also almost impossible for T to come home in the evenings once dismissed, so he needs to stay overnight.

2. A drill weekend is not just Saturday and Sunday.
My husband is an occifer, as I fondly refer to him, so drill weekend often starts, not with formation on Saturday at 0700, but with a leaders’ meeting at 1800 on Friday evening. T– like many members of the National Guard – holds a civilian job. He works in the world of finance, so most weekdays he sits behind a computer until 5:00 p.m.

Let’s review: T gets out of work at 5:00 p.m. It’s a two and a half hour drive to the armory. Leaders’ meeting starts at 1800.

If you do the math, you will find that it is logistically impossible for T to be at the armory in time for his meeting unless he gets out of work an hour and a half early.

Further, not all drill weekends are MUTA 4s (Saturday and Sunday). Some are MUTA 5s (starting Friday night, pushing the leaders meeting to Friday afternoon), some are MUTA 6s (starting Friday at 0700) and there is even the odd MUTA 8 thrown into the schedule (starting Thursday at 0700).

3. The armory is not equipped with barracks or housing.
T’s unit does not provide lodging for soldiers who travel great distances to drill (and there are some who come from further away than T). When they aren’t sleeping in the field, this leaves those soldiers two options: sleep on the concrete floor in the armory or get a hotel room.

EconoLodge logo

My husband, at the advanced age of thirty-nine, chooses to rest his creaky old bones in such luxurious accommodations such as the EconoLodge or the Super8. The cost of a hotel room in this area is approximately $70 per night, so T is essentially paying $140 to go to drill – about half of the salary he makes for being there. Factor in the price of the gas needed to get to and fro and the amount is even less.

4. Using civilian vacation time.
Civilian employers are required by law to give soldiers the time off needed to attend drills, Annual Training (AT), military schools or deployment. However, the manner in which they handle these leaves of absence is left largely up to the individual company or corporation. For example, while my husband has never been given any grief about being gone so often, his employer fully expects that T will use his vacation time towards these leaves until it is gone.

What this means for T (and for me) is that in a typical year, he uses his two weeks of vacation time during AT. (In a non-typical year it’s burned up in other ways.) The advantage is that during this time, T is “double-dipping”, as he calls it. In other words, he gets vacation pay and he gets paid by the military. The downside (which far outweighs the advantage, in my all-important opinion) is that AT is not summer camp. We’re not out sunning ourselves on the beach or rowing blissfully on a lake. It’s my husband’s second job. He works hard and he’s away from home.

Once his vacation time is gone, it’s gone, and we don’t get to spend any time off of work together.

And that just stinks.

5. Taking time to train.
I mentioned that the idea of “one weekend a month and two weeks a year” may have been a schedule conceived during peacetime. These days, National Guard units deploy regularly. Since 2006 my husband’s unit has served a 15-month stint in Iraq and a 12-month in Afghanistan. Those 27-months right there should be enough to debunk the myth of the weekend warrior. Should anyone need more convincing, let me make them aware that in the six months before my husband deployed in December of 2009, he was gone for nine of the 27 weeks. Nine. That’s about two additional months of missed work and missed wife.

6. Attending military schools.
Most soldiers in the Guard take their commitment very seriously. They strive for excellence and, in fact, some of them work twice as hard in order to prove their competence when stacked against active duty personnel. They fight hard to dispel the weekend warrior stereotype and to be taken seriously. They want to do well.

Doing well and advancing in the military often requires that the soldier attend different schools. These schools can last anywhere from a week to eight weeks or longer, tacking on even more time to the “one weekend a month” commitment.

So, what do you think? Have I dispelled the myth yet?

Maybe, but I’m just getting warmed up! Watch for numbers 7 -12 over the next few days.

How about you? Are you or is anyone you know in the Guard? What has your or their experience been?

Happy Memorial Day?

patriotic nail colors

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

While it’s important to remember why we celebrate this holiday, it’s equally important that we do celebrate it.

I’ve found it so easy to feel sad or guilty with all the reminders out there to “remember the fallen”. Yes, we must not forget that freedom has not been free. Yes, we should never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, nor their families.

But the sacrifice must not have been made in vain. Those of us who remain behind should respectfully say a silent thank you. And then we should find joy in a long weekend, in being with family and friends, in firing up the grill and cracking a cold one and even shopping the sales.

I think they’d want it that way.

How about you? What are you doing to celebrate this weekend?

SMURF-P

Smurf-P is not a small blue hip-hop artist who wears baggy footy pants. Nor is it a urine sample from a tiny person who lives in a mushroom house.

Smurf-P is the nickname given by my husband to a specific military team he recently joined. The proper acronym is CERFP (pronounced “surf-pee”), which stands for (and no, I’m not kidding): Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear, and Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package.

See? CERFP. It’s easy. And Smurfy.Brainy Smurf

Or Smurf-P, as the case may be.

Smurf-P and I are already at odds. The training that comes with my husband’s new role generally occurs on weekends that are not drill weekends. That means T is now gone two weekends a month instead of one. Since we both work fulltime, it’s not like we just sit around during the week soaking each other in. We’re working, commuting, running errands and doing housework. Weekends are when we’re supposed to relax, see friends or plan a fun activity together – in between laundry, taking the trash to the dump, grocery shopping and vacuuming up the dog hair and cat litter that threatens to bury the house on a daily basis.

What I wouldn’t give just to go see a movie with my husband.

As if that wasn’t irritating enough, this week is a full week of training for the Smurf-P. The training takes place near the armory where T drills – the one that is two and a half hours away from where we live. It doesn’t make sense for T to drive five hours a day for a full schedule of classes, so he’s staying in the area.

From wikipedia; originally uploaded to wikiped...

Image via Wikipedia

In case anyone is new to this blog, I’ll also mention here that my husband got home from a year in Afghanistan last December. Oh, and he’s also National Guard, which means all this is in addition to his civilian job. That’s right. He’s not fulltime military, which means we don’t get housing pay, he doesn’t get health insurance through the military and he doesn’t get comp days for a drill weekend. The only thing we regularly get from the military is the shaft.

What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Smurf-P. Sorry, got a little off-track.

Last week we were discussing T’s military plans and I got on a roll then, too. I commented on how often he’s been gone and will be gone in the coming months. I listed off this training and that inventory and this drill and that whatever. T ignored me as best he could, but when I didn’t get the reaction I was looking for, I kept going.

With as much distain as I could muster – using diminutives to minimalize its importance – I scoffed, “And what about your little Smurf-P-ness?”

Which sounded completely different out loud than it did in my head.

Good thing T doesn’t have a fragile ego.

What We Do in Bed

This is a view of my husband’s nightstand:

Amazon Kindle

When we first snuggle into bed, we both read.

What did you think I was going to say, gutterheads?

I read good old-fashioned paperback books. T reads from his Kindle, usually. We each have a small light on our nightstand.

It generally takes about five minutes before I’m dropping off to sleep. I shut my light and pull the covers over my head. This is in part to block out T’s light and in part to keep the vampires from biting my neck.

Residual childhood issues. The ear must be covered.

T used to read on for a few more minutes, then shut his light. Lately, and despite multiple polite requests from me, he has taken to reading for a half-hour to an hour longer, or more. Invariably, after about twenty minutes, the still-blazing light wakes me up.

I am not pleasant when I get woken up.

Actually, I’m almost never pleaseant. But especially not when I get woken up.

The other night I was so angry that I couldn’t fall back to sleep for what seemed like ages and when I finally did, I tossed and turned and slept as if I had not just a pea, but an entire vegetable crop under my mattress. A rotting, bumpy, lumpy, smelly, slimy vegetable crop.

Because I’m such a rational person, I decided that I would approach this conflict in a mature manner.

No, I did not take his Kindle outside and run it over with my car. That would in no way be satisfying.

If I were going to do something like that, I would first smash the shit out of it with a ball peen hammer, then tie it to my rear bumper with fishing line so that it could bounce and drag along behind me on my way to work. And I would make darn sure I was driving in front of my husband.

But, no. Instead I left him a little note inside of his Kindle.

Kindle Love Note 

If you want to read this book,

At the clock you must look.

A full five minutes is the max

Before you have to put me back.

Any longer, you must leave

And take the light where you will read.

Your wife is tired, so please be nice,

And in five minutes SHUT THE LIGHTS!!!

I briefly contemplated making the last two lines:

If more than five you read in bed,

You effing wife will kill you dead.

But, I didn’t.

I’m nice that way.

Does your spouse read in bed? Do you read, too? Or does it drive you crazy?

Speaking of spouses driving you crazy, time is running out to vote in the latest “Tell Me” poll. So far all 11 of my readers have voted (thank you, peeps!), but if you know anyone else who might like to vote, please pass the word!

Walk With Me: Our Story, Part XI

Many moons ago, I began writing “Our Story” and what started out to be a brief synopsis stretched itself into a serial. After Part X, I stopped writing for a few more moons. Part of that was because I was getting ready for T to come home from Afghanistan and was very busy. Then part of that was because T was home and I was even busier. And then I was just plain out of the routine.

So please pardon my long silence in this department and join me once again on Sundays as I pick up where I left off…

In early May of 2006, two soldiers from T’s unit were killed in action and a third was wounded. We were less than three months into a year-long deployment. I didn’t see how we were going to get through the next ten months with this heightened fear. But what choice did we have?

Read Our Story from the beginning.

The heightened fear began to increase tension and the increased tension began to spur drama back home. Rumors started to circulate: this person is having that problem with her soldier; that soldier is having this problem with his spouse. The FRG started to crumble and a promising group split and drifted, then reformed into smaller groups.
 
I will say that the drama was a good crash-course in all things military. Before all this happened, for instance, didn’t know an NCO from an ACU or whether I should salute the flag at dawn or fold my jammies at reveille. I had no idea that officers and enlisted weren’t supposed to fraternize or that some wives resented this. The day I found this out, I was horrified. I remember wondering if I was behaving inappropriately or in a way that would hurt T somehow. I longed to ask him.

But, of course, I had to wait for the next time he called me.

When I did finally get to talk to him, he patiently explained that at one time the fraternization rule did spill over to spouses, but that it was no longer applicable. I was so green that I asked whether he was uncomfortable with me talking to the wives of enlisted men.

“Baby,” he said, “talk to whoever you want to.”

Eventually, I stopped attending FRG meetings and gatherings altogether because I ended up feeling stressed, confused and left out. It certainly wasn’t worth driving five hours round-trip for a one-hour meeting that was more uncomfortable than sand in your skivvies.

Still, I had my friend K to fraternize with. K and I had grown up in the same neighborhood. We’d played kickball and flashlight tag with the other kids and listened on her front steps for the magical melodies of the ice cream man. In Junior High we’d alternated between best-friendship and fighting with astonishing regularity. We’d been together through everything from broken window panes to growing pains, but if you’d ever told me we’d be going through a deployment together I would’ve laughed in your face. The military was never an option for a pacifist like me.

Yet here we were, clinging to each other, almost as tightly as we clung to our cell phones each day. We listened to each other as intently as we listened for the instant chat buzzer to go off. And we were free to fraternize with each other.

And fraternize we did.

Alcohol

not my photo

In fact, we started fraternizing almost every weekend, starting on Thursdays some weeks. We sat around a campfire and fraternized. We fraternized after a run. We fraternized once her kids had gone to bed. We frat-, frat-, fraternized.

I don’t mean to imply that we became alcoholics. We didn’t. We weren’t secret drinkers and it didn’t interfere with our daily lives. Thankfully, it never got to that point for either of us. What we did do was take to using alcohol as a means to relieve stress and become happy for a while. It was not an ideal way to cope, but it sure was an easy one.

One night, shortly before the funeral of one of the soldiers who had been killed, I got drunk and angry. I was angry that I was thirty years old and had a boyfriend who wasn’t around – a boyfriend with whom I wasn’t sure things would work out. I was angry that I was forced to wait to find out. I was angry about the stress and the loneliness. Looking back now, though, I think mostly I was just plain terrified.

So, I sat down at K’s computer and started to type an email. I had no intention of sending it, but I needed to type it. The subject line was: BREAKING UP WITH YOU

I knew that was a cowardly thing to do to a soldier overseas, but, like I said, I had no intension of sending it. I don’t know that I even had any intention of writing it, but K looked over my shoulder and said, “You aren’t going to send that!”

That did it. A challenge! I was going to bluff her into thinking I was serious. I put T’s email address in the “To:” field and started typing out the poison of my hurt feelings, anger and fear. K’s sister Laurie Loo came over. She called my bluff, too. We started arguing, then we started laughing. I flailed my arms about. The keyboard jostled…

…and the screen went to a blank Hotmail page.

“Oh shit.” I said, stricken.

An Exciting Announcement

We interrupt your (ir)regularly scheduled programming to bring you this exciting announcement:

I’m guest blogging over at The Annoyed Army Wife today!

The Annoyed Army Wife

I was so thrilled – not to mention flattered – that Michelle asked me to write a post for her. I admire the stark honesty and down-to-Earth realism of her blog, not to mention the way she engages her readers.

Her husband, OccDoc, recently returned from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, so while the two of them are making up for lost time, Michelle asked me to write about my own reintegration experiences and offer up some advice for the newly reunited.

I did it the way I do everything: with a bit of sarcasm. Here’s a preview of :

A Cynic’s Guide to Reintegration

Buh-Bye Abs

Remember all that work you did over the past six, three or even just one month to look and feel fantastic when you greeted your soldier? We all do it. It’s as good an excuse as any other – better even – to lose some weight and get in shape.

Well, say buh-bye to your new body, because it only takes about two weeks of celebrating, eating out and vacationing before your pants start to get tight again. Not to mention the other people (I’m looking at you, Mom) who want to feed your returning hero as a way of welcoming him back.

Because clearly everyone needs three desserts at one sitting.

I love Italians.

Now get on over to The Annoyed Army Wife and check out the rest. Go on!