Ah, you found your prince charming. You may have had a saber arch and a battalion of uniformed groomsmen or you may have said a quick I do at the courthouse so that you can have good insurance. However you did it, you married a man in the military. Welcome to the Family. There are a few things you should know, a few misconceptions to clear up and a whole support system waiting to help you.
FIRST, THE ESSENTIALS…
Your Military ID – The very first thing you need to do is make sure you have your military ID. You and your husband will need to go to the ID office on the nearest Military base. Bring your marriage certificate and two forms of ID. This will allow you to go on base, shop at the commissary and exchange and it will serve as your medical insurance card among many other things as well.
Tricare – Ah, socialized medicine, military style. You’ll hear plenty of complaints about the Military health insurance program, but if you are informed and stay proactive, it is one of the best programs out there. You will need to be signed up on DEERS. Then it is best to go down to your local tricare office. You have some options, Standard or Prime, for example. You will need to read your information and ask lots of questions.
NEXT, LETS TALK ABOUT SHOPPING….
Commissary – This is a grocery store specifically for military families. It is usually located on a Military Base, you will need your military ID card to either get into the gate or shop at the store. They usually have lower prices than your local grocery stores, which can be a godsend in places like Hawaii, where the cost of living is high.
Exchange / Post Exchange – A department store, think walmart or Target, especially for military families. You will not pay sales tax and you usually get a significant savings from other stores. Most Exchanges also have catalogs and online stores. Other services, like the uniform store and mini marts on base and in base housing are run by the Exchanges. Navy – Navy Exchange (NEX), Army and Air Force – Army / Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES), Marine Corps – Marine Corps Exchange (MCX)
NOW FOR THE MONEY…
It is important for you to understand his paycheck. When he gets deployed you will have to be in charge of the household finances, wether you want to or not. Here are the basics.
LES – Leave and Earnings statement. This is a rundown of his monthly pay. You can find copies at mypay.com
His pay will usually be direct deposited on the 15th and the 30th of the month, or earlier if it falls on a weekend.
BAH – Basic Allowance for Housing. You will become well aquatinted with this term as you move from place to place as a military family. This amount is a large chunk of your husband’s paycheck and is supposed to reflect housing costs in your area. BAH in Georgia is much lover than in Hawaii, for example. If you are living in military housing, this amount is automatically deducted from your pay.
On the LES you will see many other items. It is good to go through this with your husband before he leaves so that if you help fix something while he is gone you know where to look.
MILITARY HOUSING & MOVING…
One of the perks of being married in the military is that you are eligible for military housing. You are not required to live on base housing, but in some areas is it a cost effective way to live in a well maintained house in a neighborhood of your peers. Most bases nowadays have privatized the running of their housing departments. Before you move to a new area, contact the housing office for details. In some cases you may need to get on a waiting list to receive a house.
Your first military move can be daunting. But, don’t worry, you can do it. All you really need is a phone and a copy of your husband’s orders. As soon as you have orders you will need to contact the Personal Property office, or you can fill out the forms on line at smartmove.com and they will contact you. The movers WILL pack all of your belongings. They will also unpack, but you have to ask.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING…
Get involved, get educated and bloom where you are planted. Even if you never learn a single acronym or get lost every time you drive on base, the most important thing about being a military spouse is to embrace your new life. Complaining and resenting your situation will only make it worse. Support your husband, seek out other wives in your situation, become an expert on all that this new life can offer, and be a source of inspiration and support for other spouses, girlfriends and military family members.