Thursday, June 30, 2005

Modern military realities

After some thought, I decided to, ah rant? No, maybe just explain. The Department of Defense (acronym, DoD) assigns military personnel, regardless of gender or rank, new duty stations according to DoD needs. The servicemember's spouse's or children's needs are rarely, if ever taken into account unless said spouse or child have extreme medical needs or other dire circumstance whereby the servicemember can ask for a duty station that accomodates the family member's needs. The DoD is not obligated to acquiesce in any way.

What this means in reality is that the future spouse needs to realize that if he/she marries the servicemember (sounds raunchy I know, but that's the word the DoD uses) the military's needs ALWAYS comes first. Therefore, you may move every three years. Every eighteen months. Your loved one may be deployed for months or years away. The spouse's career or personal needs, unless extreme, do not EVER enter into the DoD decision making. Many military spouses therefore often have careers that are easily transferable from location to location: nursing, teaching, civilian careers attached to the DoD, policing, EMT/paramedic, mechanic, etc.

The reason I bring this up is the Romancing the Blog column Margaret Meet Barbara by Laurie Gold and the Smart Bitches column each dated June 28th. The RTB columnist says she laments the heroines 'passivity' in becoming a teacher & the SBTB ladies continue in the same vein. Let me say, clearly & unequivocally- I AGREE. I dislike passive heroines intensely.

However, in this instance, the heroine could simply have decided to change her path to make it easier for her to be with the hero. Another choice would have been to have a commuter marriage. Rare is the servicemember who gives up his/her career to be with the wife/husband. Note, I said career. Career military personnel often deeply believe in the lifestyle & love the military. I have seen many, many couples struggle with DoD assignments because of the spouse's needs, but DoD always wins in the end.

No matter what the DoD claims, the actual reality for miliary families is 'our way or the highway'. Among the many, many claims being made: family comes first, spousal abuse & alcohol & drug problems are treatable without penalty, better housing & medical care, etc are indeed being improved. Very slowly. Since the war, & the finacial drain due to that, more slowly than ever. You, the family, play by their rules. End of story.

How do I know all this? My hubby was career military for 13 years. For various reasons, all related to a DoD assignment, my husband left the military because of family needs & the DoD refusal to accomodate us. In all of those years we were active duty, I could count on one hand the number of couples who left the military because of conflicts with assignments. It is more common now, but still we get odd looks when asked why we left the military. And yes, it is 'our' career since the spouse & family still play a major role in the servicemember's career.

BTW~ the only stay at home dads I've ever met were married to active duty military women.


Anne E. said...

A man I worked with in DC a few years ago is married to a woman who is a very high ranking naval officer. He has up-rooted many times as her career took them all over the country. He is very fortunate that as a federal employee he can request to be reassigned to a new POD as a hardship case....some transfers take longer than others, but he has always found a job. This happend again very recently -- in an e-mail he indicated that he is crazy about his new position, and has his fingers crossed that he will be able to stay in it for some time to come...but no guarantees!

Tara Marie said...

We have a number of career military family members. I wanted to comment about the DoD, when I saw the RTB and SB's columns, but felt it might fall on deaf ears. I wasn't sure they wanted to hear another side of the story.

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