By Scott Prater
FORT CARSON, Colo. — While service members who have recently entered the military can face a daunting and unsettling time, their spouses and family members must endure a striking adjustment as well. Even established service members must begin anew when changing duty stations.
During this adjustment period, as service members deploy and spend countless hours training or away from home, their spouses must adapt to new timetables and learn new ways of managing many of the unique challenges of the military lifestyle. Thus, it’s helpful to learn about support resources.
Most, if not all, military installations host a family support center or community service organization, which can provide spouses with a variety of solutions to many of life’s most impactful challenges.
“For a Family that may be new to an installation, I highly recommend they take advantage of the installation newcomers or right start orientation during the first month of their arrival,” said Christina Grooms, community support coordinator for the 460th Space Wing at Buckley Air Force Base. “They can sign up at their Army Community Service (ACS) center or Airman and Family Readiness Center. During orientation, various agencies come together in one location to provide essential information to members and spouses about available services and programs.”
These helping agencies continue to offer support for spouses and families throughout the year.
“The ACS, for example, has experts that can help spouses and transitioning members with career counseling, job searching and résumé critiques,” said Grooms. “They also have certified financial counselors that can assist with budgeting, building credit, and homebuying.”
There are school liaison officers that can help advocate for military children working with various school districts and the transferability of credits. There are military family life counselors “MFLC’s” that provide short-term, situational problem-solving counseling to members and families. Family Advocacy departments offer parenting classes and new-parent support programs as well.
“You name it, there are a number of available resources to address a wide range of needs.” Grooms said.
While these supporting agencies can help Family members navigate through administrative and logistical issues, spouses new to the military or new to an installation are often separated from family and friends, which can lead to strong feelings of isolation and loneliness.
“I think Army systems have changed so much over the years,” said Nicole Williams, a 17-year Army spouse and president of the Mountain Post Spouses Club. “When we first entered the Army, my husband and I knew hardly anyone. The unit Family Readiness Groups (FRGs) were very active then and people plugged in that way. But, in today’s day and age, since social media is so prevalent, I feel like the FRGs have taken a step back. They still send information out, but they post it up on social media, or in email messages, so there is nowhere near as many phone calls happening.” Williams explained that it’s simple relevance.
If someone can push information faster through social media, why would they need to call a family member and waste their time?
“That works for some people who don’t like to be bothered, but on the other side, I think we lose that personal touch with people,” she said. “Fort Carson, for example, is a wonderful post. There is a lot of training and a lot of deployments, and the guys are often not home. So, having someone or somewhere else to connect with is important. If it’s not with one of the FRGs, it could be with a spouse’s club or by volunteering with another agency on post. There are many ways that a spouse can feel plugged in and connected to an area that makes it feel like home.”
While seeking out opportunities to connect with other spouses and family members may be important, those with introverted personalities may have a more difficult time taking the initiative.
“Some people laugh at me, but I check out and join all of those military-wives social media pages,” Williams said. “Some may include a bit of gossip and what not, but when I see a spouse posting things, like ‘I’ve been in Colorado for three months now, my husband is away, I’m all alone and have two kids,’ my heart breaks.”
Williams typically responds to those types of messages by encouraging the poster to join their local spouses club, and sends along a link to that organization’s website.
“The idea is to get out and meet people,” she said. “That’s always easier when you’re doing something, like attending an event or an activity. The spouses clubs and some FRGs often contain smaller clubs within the bigger organization that focus on specific activities as well, like hiking or reading, for example. It’s easier to find others who share your interests that way.”
While adjusting to new surroundings may be uncomfortable, especially at first, spouses and family members can integrate into their new home by seeking knowledge and opportunities for interaction even prior to departing from their current home.
“The best military relocation website available is https://installations.militaryonesource.mil/, said Grooms. “This website is maintained and updated quarterly to reflect current installation information.
Every installation in the world is found on this website and everything you need to know from in-processing procedures to installation history, from directions to transportation and more can be found there. Most importantly, flexibility is the key with any move, as much as you plan and prepare for adjusting to a new location, something unexpected always seems to happen. Know that you are not alone. The majority of military families have been through at least one move, and they understand the stress that can come with it. Colorado is an amazing place to work and an even better place to live; make the most every minute.”