Mostly, I love the military life I live. Exciting duty stations are possible every 3 years. The military community is strong and supportive. Plus, this life has given me the change to pursue a passion for writing and education advocacy.
Need I even mention the chance to play Cinderella at least once a year? Those dress blues still make my heart flutter after almost a decade.
Still, though, there are things I wish I could change. I believe that these changes would, largely, benefit the entire military community.
What I Wish I Could Change About Military Life
In some places, it just seems too short. In others, too long. I understand that there will never be a happy medium that fits every location or situation, but something needs to give. Generally, I think that longer tours at most CONUS posts would benefit the troops and their dependents.
When military families are required to move, on average, every 2.5 years, it creates ripple effects for the whole family. Personally, I’ve changed my career in major ways due to our PCS tempo.
By the time I arrive at a duty station, get licensed to teach and find a position, it’s practically time to move again!
I have not ever taught anywhere for longer than 2 consecutive school years. Even the one time I made that happen, it was broken up due to pregnancy and maternity leave.
For children, moving so often can cause stress and distress at school. Military children are perpetually the “new kid” at school. By the time they make friends and settle into a routine, it’s time to pack their things and hit the road. Every 3 years or so, everything starts from scratch at the new school. Education plans, athletic pursuits and extracurricular activities are interrupted, changed or dropped due to frequent moves.
For troops, becoming an expert in one job in one location doesn’t seem like a bad thing either. Especially for positions that interact with the public or those carrying out sensitive operations, tenure might be a great thing. I understand the military wants troops to experience their career field from different angles and deploy with different units. However, it seems like service members are PCSed just as they are gaining total expertise in a field or becoming the go-to person in a shop. Just when you need the expert the most, you swap that person out for someone just learning the ropes. This isn’t helpful to anyone!
It seems to me that extending tour times would benefit troops and their families with additional stability at work and home. Military spouses could build solid careers or employment history. Children could at least attend one school level in just a single place. Troops could become develop their expertise and level up their position.
Hurry Up and Wait
I understand the need for secrecy and security. After all, this is our nation’s defense system we are talking about. But some things are just plain silly.
For example, board results and orders.
Troops submit their packages, which are reviewed and recommended (or not) to whatever board(s) that individual is eligible for. That board meets, discusses the service members presented to them, and makes decisions: promote or not; career field school or not; PCS or PCA or not.
And then everyone waits for weeks or months on end.
I can understand the issues perhaps a decade or more ago. Communicating all of these selections and coordinating placements took time. Today we probably have an app for that or at least a very large spreadsheet. There surely must be a more timely and efficient way to coordinate board result announcements.
The wait is stressful. It’s filled with anxiety about “what if’s.” Or a service member is fully confident in positive news, only to have a devastating blow delivered.
Then there are the PCS orders. I get that the needs of the military come first. But could they arrive in a more timely fashion? There are only so many individuals in a service in each career field, and there are only so many open positions available. Why is there such a song and dance routine about where people will go to next?
Am I the Only One?
Which brings me to my last beef: OCONUS PCSing in general.
I need this question answered: Am I the very first person to move OCONUS with a small child and a dog?
No really. I’m not joking.
Based on how my last PCS was handled, it would appear that my family was the very first ever to attempt such a move. Nothing happened in a timely fashion, every little thing was an issue and there was so much miscommunication that I still can’t tell what was actually true.
Additionally, from the chatter on military spouse Facebook pages, it seems as if we are not, in fact, the first to attempt this move. However, it would seem that the folks in charge of PCSing forget how to do these things or communicate the SOP to troops or dependents.
Everyone is confused, upset and anxious because no one knows what is going on. Ever. We can’t get straight answers or seek advice from others because every single service and duty station operates differently.
Get. It. Together.
Create one streamlined way for everyone to move to a given destination, especially for OCONUS PCS moves. Make a fun and informative manual and distribute it widely. Then be done.
Maybe if the folks in charge of facilitating the moving process weren’t moving every few years, everything would run smoother.