The Air Force life is not an easy one. The constant moves, deployments, North Dakota. But there are some key perks your civilian friends are simply missing out on.
10. Immunity from Hoarding
Traditionally, in America, you get married. You buy a house. You fill it with crap. The Air Force variant is you get married, you buy a house thinking you’ll be stationed in the area for several years and then it gets suggested to your AF spouse that he/she apply for a job 1,500 miles away as it will really, really be for the best. So you sell the house, move, and then repeat the cycle, except next time, you rent. The ability to collect crap is exponentially diminished by the Air Force’s need to show you the world beginning with Yikes, Nev., and followed by WTH, Okla.
You get tired of packing and TMO has weight limits anyway, so you don’t collect junk. You are streamlined and would never think of hoarding. Oh, I know, some have tried (I see those timeless and classic Longaberger baskets there, ladies) but PCSing every couple of years keeps the clutter at bay. And really, life’s better for it. Stuff is just stuff. Better to pack on the memories and leave the tchotchkes behind for those civilians who know they will be in the same house for 40 years.
9. Geographic Know-How
You get to see the world. Mostly the desolate parts of it where the Air Force can park its airplanes, but still, you get to travel and enjoy new cultures even within our own country. With all that travel comes uncanny abilities, like being able to pack up your car with exactly what the kids and pets will need at any given moment, or the ability to use an atlas(!) should the GPS short out after somehow finding its way into an open coffee travel mug. You will know how to make the best of a 3,400-mile PCS move driving across the frozen Alaskan wilderness to the desert-dom of Las Vegas.
(Hint: if you see a functioning road stop along the road, just pull over and use the bathroom, even if you only kinda have to go. If you don’t, a sightseeing plane may crash land on the road 10 miles later and you’ll be stuck in traffic on the two-lane-through-nothing part of the Alaska-Canada Highway for HOURS. You may have to pretend you’re pregnant to garner sympathy from the tour bus of seniors stopped in front of you, just to use their on-board toilet.) But you will develop a sense of humor and flexibility about life that others don’t have.
8. Family Relationships
Your family has always lived on the same tree-lined, lemonade-stand-in-the-summer cul-de-sac and you love them for it, but let’s be blunt — sometimes family is better enjoyed half a continent or more away! Of course it’s hard to be separated from everyone at the holidays. And there are times when only a mom or a sister will understand and it would be nice if they could just drop by. But then there are times when you need advance warning of visitations. You’re glad no one can simply pop in because the baby’s perpetually covered in blueberry juice, you’re wearing some ridiculous IF YOU’RE NOT AMMO YOU’RE CRAP T-shirt with a degenerate dragon on it. And you can’t find the quilt that your husband’s mom’s great-aunt made just for you with tiny arthritic fingers and should be displayed at all times but is accidentally in an unpacked pro gear box.
Thanks to the PCS Move dream sheet, you’ll always be sent far away from any and all family. When you do see the relatives, you’ll be on your best behavior because you’ll never be living ten minutes away. Well, unless you’re my husband’s cousin, Vic. Vic is from Orlando and couldn’t wait to join the Air Force after high school to see the world.
His luck would have it that his first and second assignments were in Florida, close enough that his mom could drop off cookies. Vic accepted his Floridian lot in life and now has a corporate job with Universal Studios. As long as you’re not Vic, you’ll move away in the Air Force, and see your family only when you want. The time spent with the relatives will definitely be more special that way.
They’re just cool. While your spouse may tire of you always asking which plane has the two tail wings again (it’s the F15 not the F16, even though it seems like it should be the other way around) you don’t have to be a flight line veteran to appreciate the power of a B-52 rumbling overhead. And the Thunderbirds can’t be beat!
6. BX Fabulous
This Top Thing may just be my personal quirk, but I always find something at every Base Exchange to get excited about, like the elusive Cadbury Crème Egg. The Cadbury Crème Egg (and all its chocolate deliciousness) is only available for a short, sweet time before Easter. EXCEPT at the Exchange. They always have them for weeks longer than anywhere else and I love the Exchange for that.
Like Harry Potter’s Room of Requirement, the Exchange will have what you need even before you need it, tax-free! The perfect card for your stepmom-in-law, the random pistachio nut blend that your husband loves or the über-organic milk brand that even the commissary isn’t aware of. (The inverse applies, I know. When you just need stupid AAA batteries, the Exchange will be out. But nowhere is perfect! And where there’s an Air Force base, there’s usually a Walmart nearby as back up.)
I know. Nobody wants to be separated from his/her loved one, but deployments do give you a chance to accomplish something you didn’t have time for when daily life was grinding away. You can’t fill the void of a deployed spouse, but you can fill up some of the deployment time with a project that you’ve been neglecting.
Train for a marathon, learn to can tomatoes, learn to can tomatoes in Italian. At the very least, pay off your credit card with the extra deployment money or beef up your savings account. Overall, deployments are a unique opportunity to pick a project and finish it. I realize I may have gone overboard this deployment by enrolling myself and my two-year-old in a mommy/toddler Mandarin Chinese class, but it is a fun way to use the time until my husband returns. Xie xie, Air Force.
4. The America You Love
The Air Force offers a quality of people that is truly special. They are always there to lend a hand if you need it, even if you’ve just met. Wherever you are stationed, you have a ready-made family you know you can count on to give you a ride, fix a dishwasher, or enjoy a weekend BBQ. Every new PCS, when I encounter the kind community and kinship of Air Force families, I see them as a reflection of what is great about this country and what I love about America.
3. Cool Spouse
Your Air Force spouse is amazing and talented and can do most anything (except for sometimes when it’s 2100 and the kitchen sink is leaking beyond hope, and really, a professional plumber should be called, but your AF spouse is saying in squadron commander tone: “No one sleeps until this is fixed.”
You: “Well, can you fix it?”
AF spouse: “Can I fix it? I can fix an F15! Of course I can fix it.”
You: “Is that the one with the one tail wing or two?” And then you and the dog slink into the bedroom to sleep while AF spouse grumbles under the sink. You’ll call the plumber in the morning.) Sink struggles aside, I know my Air Force friends and I are blessed with spouses who truly value us. I have a husband that daily makes me feel that I’m the most important person in his world. His commitment to our relationship makes the crazy work schedules or long separations tolerable because I know he is worth the wait.
2. Air Force Friends
When your spouse deploys it will be your Air Force friends who get it. They will be the ones to help you switch out your dryer when the old one screeches like a banshee, spews out your clothes, and keeps running even with the door open before dying a smoky death (OK, maybe dryers are the one thing not to buy at the BX).
But your AF friends will be there for it. They know how it is and they will remind you that it will all be OK. The deployment will end. On a practical level your friends will help when you need to know where to get your hair cut at your new station or which PEDS doctor to get. You’ll be glad you’ve got such empathetic and loyal friends. (Note: That loyalty does not extend to babysitters. Quality sitters’ names will not be revealed until your BFFs have their PCS orders and will no longer be needing the precious, precious sitters anymore. Boundaries are boundaries.)
The Air Force is a job that means something. When you think about the life that you and your spouse have chosen, it’s a flurry of emotion. Pride, excitement and splashes of frustration coalesce at once to sum up your day-to-day life as well as your long-term future. Your spouse is making our country and our world a better place, and you are right at his/her side.
Without our support and encouragement, the difficult aspects of active duty airmen would be much harder to bear. You are a daily reminder of why your spouse does the tough, the boring, and the sometimes dangerous jobs. It’s your service as much as your spouse’s that make the Air Force strong. When your loved one is overseas without you or when his job is requiring him to be on base working so late he might as well be off in the wild blue yonder, remember that it is your service too. You make the Air Force strong. Please know that and be proud that you and your family are part of something bigger than a 9-to-5 job. Thank YOU for your service!
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