I just received an email from a young lady about to get married to a soldier. You know…. there aren’t a lot of resources out there on what to do next. What paperwork needs to be done? How do I go about moving in with my hubby? Where do I go? What do I do when I get there? Being an Army brat and being in the military myself, I honestly never thought about these lingering questions…and lingering questions cause stress…a state of mind we would all rather not be in. Let’s go over some of the things you should be thinking about.
You’ve got your marriage certificate in hand and are wondering what to do next? If you haven’t gotten that far yet, read here about military weddings and the steps you need to take beforehand. The first step after tying the knot, should be for your new soldier husband to get MANY copies of that certified marriage certificate. He is going to bring it to his personnel office on post and do the required paperwork. Until that is done, frankly, the military unfortunately views you as a nobody. I don’t like it either, but that’s the honest truth, and I’m all for being honest here. Your husband is going to enroll you in something called DEERS (basically a computer database) and get you an ID card, which becomes your magic ticket. This will give you access to all military programs and benefits, not to mention access getting on post.
If you are in another location, your soldier hubby is going to have to pay for your move out of pocket. If you get married BEFORE he is due to move to his next duty station, the military will pay to move you there too.
This New Military Spouse Checklist does a good job of detailing the paperwork steps you need to take to integrate yourself into military life. The article does say to update your will and power of attorney. I know at a young age, I didn’t have either of those. So, don’t fret. When you get on post, you’ll be able to make an appointment at the post legal office and get all that done for free.
Here are some of the links mentioned in the article:
SGLI Insurance (every soldier is required to sign up or decline in writing this life insurance; cheap insurance and highly recommended as peace of mind); also read my article on more insurance options
Tricare (the military healthcare system; your husband will take you to the Tricare office on post, but you can read more about the benefits and how the system works at this site)
United Concordia (your dental care provider; again your husband will sign you up for this when he signs you up for your health insurance)
Read the quick blurb, A New Military Spouse’s Orientation Guide to the Military Way of Life. One of the first things you’ll notice, is that this not civilian life! There is a certain sense of order, tradition and way of doing things in the military…not to mention all the acronyms! It is possible to speak a whole sentence without using a single word out of the English dictionary. Honestly, you may be overwhelmed at first, but it helps to know that every General or Colonel’s wife started out right where you are…clueless to how things are done in the military. They didn’t just wake up one morning knowing all this stuff! So keep that in mind as you go along.
With that being said, when you first get to your military post, visit your Army Community Service (ACS) office. Not only will they have newcomer classes, they even have resources for working spouses, classes on everything from being a new mom to learning about military lingo and procedures through their Army Family Team Building (AFTB) classes…see, I told you about the acronyms.
The National Army Community Service website, has TONS of information for family members and spouses. It also has links to all the other important resource websites you should become familiar with. Military One Source is one you should visit and also Family Readiness Group.
Okay, your are probably thoroughly overwhelmed at this point! Since I was a company commander’s wife back in the day, I knew a lot of new Army wives. The best way to get a feel of Army life, to understand what your husband goes through every day and to meet others just like you, you have to have faith and just jump in! Visit your local Army Community Service. Go to the monthly meetings of your husband’s family readiness group. Being a single soldier, he probably didn’t have much contact with that organization. This group is just a way for your husband’s boss to keep you, the spouse informed, plus it’s a great way to meet the other wives and children of your husband’s coworkers. Some of the meetings will be informative, others will be fun with potlucks, classes, crafts and outings. It’s important to make connections with others in your shoes, as well as with the seasoned veteran wives who are mostly happy to help.
Sign up for the latest round of Army Family Team Building (AFTB) classes at your Army Community Service (ACS). You’ll feel more comfortable knowing what all those acronyms are, plus the classes can be fun finding out why the Army does things the way it does. Again, another chance to connect with others.
If you have kids, go by Child Youth Services (CYS). Not only do they have low-cost after school programs and services, but they have tons of activities, sports and other events for kids! I have fond memories of taking my little ones to play soccer there and to do the annual Easter Egg Hunt.
In talking with other wives, there is one book that always comes recommended. It’s called The Homefront Club by Jacey Eckhardt. She talks about living the “happy military life”. It’s not so much a “how to” book, and it does give the viewpoint of an officer’s wife rather than an enlisted wife, but it’s more of a “what to expect as a spouse” type of read. Good reading and worth a look.
Oh, the young lady who wrote me the nice email did ask about her medical and dental records and mentioned she had just had all her check-ups done. Just bring those records with you. You won’t need to have exams right away that I know of, but I would hang onto your civilian records for future reference. Don’t turn them into the military healthcare system or they will become property of the military, and you’ll have a hassle getting them back if you should need them somewhere down the road. Or, you can always make copies for your records if they’re not too thick and you still want to hand them over. Again, as far as I know, there is no requirement to get any health check ups before or after getting married to a soldier.
In the military healthcare system, you schedule a yearly PAP and if you are over a certain age (I believe 40 or if you are high risk), a mammogram. Eye exams are yearly. You also get a physical every five years, where they do bloodwork and a general “once over”. I know I get reminders in the mail when I am due to make an appointment. As for dentalwork, you are authorized cleanings and check ups every six months. You track that on your own. I have never gotten a reminder, and I unfortunately do have Army wife friends who only go to the dentist if there is a problem. Hey, if it’s not costing you anything and preventative medicine is the way to go, then just go and get it done. You’ll be a happier person for it!
If you have any tips you could pass on to new Army or military wives, please do share them! I know I mentioned mostly Army resources above, but each service has similar resources. I believe the Navy calls their family readiness office the Fleet and Family Support Center (here’s an office in Hampton Roads, VA). The Air Force calls theirs Airman and Family Readiness Flight (Randolph AFB in Texas). The Force Health Protection and Readiness site has grouped all the websites together for all the services, so take a look there if you are not finding what you are looking for.
Added 3/7/2008, thanks Spousebuzz: Be sure to register for Military One Source. Once on the site, do a search for “army spouse guide”, click on the guide. It is a wonderful resource for ALL new military wives, not just Army. It also comes in a handy PDF file for you to download and print. The guide goes over many of the things I mentioned here in this post, just in more detail and with pretty pictures!