Rebekah Gleaves Sanderlin’s piece in the Atlantic on being an Army wife waiting for her husband to come home is beautifully written and gut wrenching:
I’ve been a military spouse for 17 years. I know reunions very well; they are a tangle of sometimes conflicting emotions. Can I tell you what a military reunion is like for the person at home?
You wait. For weeks, you wait. The reunion date shifts. It’s a moving target. You get your hopes up, and then flights get canceled. You pray that he will just get out of the war zone. You bargain. You want him home as soon as possible, but you don’t mind him getting stuck for a month in Germany, or Ireland, or Dubai, just so long as he’s not somewhere with rocket attacks and IEDs. You add an extra week, maybe two, to the calendar your kids use to count down the days, so they won’t get their minds stuck on a certain date.
I dont want to ever be a spouse of a military person.. ugh. Also, you’d think these folks would vote for politicans who are generally careful about putting their troops in danger, but that seems to always not be the case.
Amy Klobuchar has perfect response to the friends of Wilmer:
When she starts getting booed at the McIntyre-Shaheen Dinner, she quickly quips “Hi, Bernie people!”.
@ MM: kudos for identifying The Atlantic, which has a paywall (4 or 5 free articles each month). Will remember this for reading (later).
@Cacti: I like her style. If nothing else, it will get back to Bernie. Obama would never have allowed his supporters to behave like that.
One thing I’ve learned about children is never tell them something is going to happen until it is really, truly happening. Their disappointment is too much for everyone.
The military really makes it harder than they need to on military families with all the endless moving. Even in times of peace like the 1980s when there really weren’t any major wartime deployments, soldiers still got bounced all over the world every year or so. Not every nation does that sort of thing but it is a part of American military culture that will be really hard to ever break. But there is really no reason why a soldier or marine couldn’t spend the bulk of their career with one main home base with the occasional overseas deployment and training elsewhere.
Major Major Major Major
@Cacti: Breaks my heart that she’s not a major contender.
Yes there is, but that would require knowing/understanding the military and what we’re trying to accomplish with overall force training/development.
Edit: if you want quasi-fiefdoms and technically deficient troops, please leave them at one station for twenty years.
A Ghost To Most
My USAF retired BIL, through whom I met my wife, has turned into a Q-Anon crazy, and has cut off all contact with his family. Thankfully, that includes us.
@A Ghost To Most:
Ugh. There are probably literal cult meetings, during which weaponry of various types are discussed with zeal.
@Leto: And if you want embittered, broken families and atomized, dysfunctional units, you move people around frequently and seemingly at random.
And just for grins (not!) The number of service members who have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries from Iran’s meaningless strike has now topped 100.
Yes, the powerful ending. You need no one watching. I have thought a lot about the reality show SOTU reunion and how effed up and cruel it was. My heart is breaking every day for my country.
@Major Major Major Major:
Chin up! It ain’t over yet.
If Biden fades away, and that seems distinctly possible, she has a real chance. In fact with Biden out of it I think everyone except Yang and Steyer have some reason to believe they can get the nomination.
@Kent: Who decides who gets the prime “home bases” ? I was in for 20 years, some places sucked (but other folks loved them, Guam comes to mind) some places are awesome , but expensive and far from the mainland (Hawai’i anyone?) I loved Bremerton, Washington and San Diego but decidedly did not love Long Beach in many ways. Do married folks get dibs on the “better” locations? Do people who are married and have kids get first pick? Do you let the people who want to stay in Europe forever do so, which means some “career making” postings are not available to other people?
We educate doctors and nurses who go to school and spend their whole careers in California or New York or Texas and they manage to be technically proficient without bouncing around to 10 different states during their training and careers.
I fully understand that the current system requires that sort of bouncing around and that it would require a major overhaul in the way the military does business. And that you would still want lots of mobility at the upper ranks for coherency and career advancement. But if the military wants to make military careers more family friendly (the subject of this thread) I suspect there is a lot more they could do. Yes, of course, I understand soldiers need to do training in different environments, deserts, forests, arctic, tropics, etc. But what most troops do when deployed to Fort Hood or Fort Bragg or Fort Campbell is pretty much the same thing.
I worked for a decade for NOAA, mostly in Alaska. The lower level biologists, technicians, enforcement officers, etc. mostly stayed put and worked up through the ranks in their regional offices while the top administrators tended to bounce around between regional offices and DC and so forth. I don’t think the fisheries biologists I worked with in Alaska were technically deficient because they hadn’t worked in the haddock fishery in Maine, or the snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. And yes, if they chose to transfer to a different region they could get up to speed fast enough.
You tell me what the answer is to make the military more friendly to military families and spouses? Or is that just not something worth trying?
You do it like the rest of the civilian world and government does it. If Long Beach sucks then you increase the incentives (faster advancement, better pay and perks etc.) until people start wanting to go there. And there are no doubt plenty of sailors from the LA who would prefer to serve there compared to Bremerton.
I don’t have all the answers. But I doubt the military is doing all they really can to make the life more stable for those who want it. And for those who love bouncing around the planet, more power to them too.
You tell us if you think the military is doing all it can to make life better for military families. Or do we just not give a shit about them because that’s the way it has always been and always will be?
@Kent: Speaking from my experience growing up as an Air Force brat, there were a number of things they could have done. We always seemed to be transferred in the middle of the school year–rather disruptive as you can imagine. Another change would have been to plan on 2-3 year stays in one place rather than have us move every year or two. They also had us flip flopping from far north to far south–we ended up being the only family in Denison, TX with a snow blower, having just come from Sault Ste. Marie MI. I will say, though, that I learned a lot about this country travelling like that. I’ve always wondered whether anyone has written a book about the experiences of military families, kids in particular. I think a lot of how kids do depends on the strength of their immediate family, because you’re almost always far away from extended family and you don’t really have a “home town”.
@Kent: Let me get home from PT and I’ll explain. The examples you’re using, while fine for their field, are just poor when it comes to the military. But I’ll explain in a bit.
Sending a loved one to a war zone is no picnic either. My stepdaughter was delayed in Germany on her way to Iraq – she could tell me she wasn’t there yet, but couldn’t say when she would be leaving. So I worried about not hearing from her. When she finally called from the relative safety of the base, she called to say “We got in yesterday, and I was so exhausted, I slept through a mortar attack.”
SO I worried continuously until she was back in the US
@Leto: I’m not trying to be argumentative. I’m just aware that this is a major issue with a lot of military families and wondering if the military is really doing all that it could to improve the quality of life for military families. This isn’t WW2 where we scooped up nearly every able bodied male of draft age and shipped them off for the duration. Then they all demobilized and came home. If we want to make military careers attractive to the best and brightest then we should be doing what we can to make their lives and those of their families as good as possible.
@Cacti: The one candidate that for sure will see to put an end to endless wars and the suffering of wife, mothers, and children waiting game.
Comrade Colette Collaboratrice
Everything you just said. In the 20 years my father was in the Navy, we moved over 20 times. I went to school in Hawai’i, California, and Connecticut just in 3rd grade. I didn’t have a “home town” until I was 28 and arbitrarily chose one for myself – and then up and moved there, having spent only one weekend there previously.
As for the article, the part that really got me was showing her kids photos of their dad so they’d recognize him when he got home. My mother used to do that. I mentioned it to my dad once, many years later, thinking nothing of it, and he felt so sad and guilty.
My dad was a Navy brat himself, with the same kind of peripatetic childhood we had. I see patterns both positive and negative in both of us – the practiced ease with new people and situations, the self-reliance, the restlessness, and holy shit, the swearing.
@Comrade Colette Collaboratrice: Agree with you about the positive and negative aspects of moving so much, and how accustomed you get to it. When I got to college, I remember feeling a bit unsettled in my junior year. Finally I realized it as “it’s time to move”, since that was the longest I had been in any one place.
@Dadadadadadada: On the flip side, I’ve seen a bunch of countries and cultures I would not have otherwise experienced, met a load of people I would have never known from a diversity of backgrounds I would not have likely experienced from a single duty station. And I count myself very lucky to have had that opportunity. I also believe that my son is lucky to have had that opportunity.
Having worked for the military during part of the time my husband was active duty, I can attest that had we not moved officers, stagnant leadership would have been a death knell for morale and functional units.
Now none of that is to say it’s all puppy dogs and unicorns and rainbow kisses. I’ve never been able to build up what one might consider a career, due to the frequent moving, and the fear I’ll be moved soon and therefore not worth the risk by potential employers. Things get broken and stolen by movers. Changing schools is difficult on kids, particularly when schools operate very differently and the move is mid year. They end up behind here and ahead there and struggle to balance it out just in time to move again.
As far as leadership, new guy comes in and is an idea fairy clueless to what’s going on, what’s been tried and what hasn’t been tried, and refuses to accept any evidence that his great new idea was done two years ago and flopped in precisely this way for these reasons. Oh no no it wasn’t MY way though… ok dude. We’ll put in a pin in that and have a discussion in 6 months when you conclude the same thing.
So it’s not always awesome but I’d say it’s a mountainous oversimplification to assert it only generates “embittered, broken families and atomized, dysfunctional units, you move people around frequently and seemingly at random.”
As always, I’ll speak only for the USAF because that’s my branch: yes, yes we are. I will say that the DoD as a whole is trying really, really hard to make family life better because of the post 9/11 experiences where we deployed people from 8-15 months, let them spend about 2-3 months at home, then sent them off again for 8-15 months… they discovered that wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t healthy for the member, or for their family. When the member has a shit home life, they typically aren’t fully there on the job. It’s bad for the shop/team. DoD as a whole has recognized this and is trying to things to help.
As far as the AF is concerned, we had long ago implemented rotations for our personnel. Some career fields fare better than others. My career field is one of the heavier tasked, but it’s also one that is more battlefield oriented. Other career fields the people might not deploy, might also never leave one of the mega bases.
Then you have the pilots and our special forces: they’re the “tip of the spear” of our service. And they are constantly gone. They’re known as HDLDs: High Demand, Low Density. And we’ve burned through them. Not just the aircraft, but the people. Recruitment into their ranks is low to begin with, but the training process winnows out more than 50% of them (low side/conservative estimate) and we always need them. There’s never enough. We pour untold millions into them for their training, and then we ask them to perform starting day 1.
It’ll never happen. Let me ask this: how many of your kids are going into the military (not the kids you teach, but the yours)? How many of them have you told: “I think you should go into the Marines.” If not, why? You said earlier that for shit assignments, offer more money until it becomes more attractive. They already do that for overseas and stateside assignments (why didn’t you know this?). Why don’t they station people at one place for twenty years? Base of Preference has been a thing with the AF for over twenty years (you know about that, right?). Bonus pay for certain jobs. Retention pay/fast tracked career advancement. How are you going to entice people when they find out that they’re going to break you, not pay for your health care, as well as the new 401k style retirement system we have? You knew about that, right?
Let me ask this: how do you propose to make sure that people are exposed to enough systems to ensure competency when they deploy? Lets take my career field: off the top of my head I can name roughly 40 different systems we were expected to “know”. Each base has a few of these systems, but not all of them. When deployed, you might/might not know the system you’re working on. Meaning, hey this was back at my home base so I’m g2g! Or: shit, last time I saw this was 4-10 years ago. Fuck! Now you’re a liability.
How about this: what type of leader do you want (enlisted side)? One who’s been around a bit, seen a ton of different things, so has a better understanding of how shit works/is better able to work out solutions, OR the guy who’s been stationed 1 place for 10 years, only seen the same systems for 10 years, so when presented with a new system/challenge falls back into old routines and doesn’t know wtf is going on because this is his first time seeing this shit, but is expected to “lead us” out of it? (Personally experienced both).
Also all of this is a public sector job. So how much do you think we should pay the people who risk their lives day in and day out? Lets parse this further: should there be a pay divide between front line troops and rear support? Who does more work? How do you quantify that?
Which all kind of goes back to, this isn’t NOAA. This isn’t Commerce Dept. You don’t ask them the same things you ask us. Also if you want to recruit better people, 1) stop fucking talking about cutting us all the time. I’m going to make a generalization here, but this blog always talks about cutting the military budget. When we (service members) here that, what we hear is: you’re taking our jobs. Because that’s what it translates into. The DoD won’t give up their hardware. They can’t. But they will cut troops. They will. They always have. They’ll cut troops, MWR benefits, pay, bonuses, pretty much everything to do with troop costs. Figure out a better message to say.
2) Again a generalization, but nobody here says shit about military issues. I’m not talking strategic issues, which Silverman will partially cover, but nuts and bolts/wtf actually matters to us issues. How much digital ink was spilled covering our swap from a full benefits defined pension to 401k pension? How about when they take a hatchet to Tricare? MRW programs? When they can’t hire enough people for the CDC (on base daycare)? The black mold problem in privatized military housing? Privatized military housing? (Warren has a whole plank on that; it’s part of why I support her) I know I’ve spoken about some of these issues at length, but for the most part they die with no response/attention paid. I don’t expect them to garner front page write-ups, but at least be aware of wtf we’re going through.
I’m not saying this be a full service military blog, but nobody here covers those issues. Most of the people here don’t know jack squat about them. So when you say:
I’ll say: please read up on wtf we’re doing before you make statements like this. And if you don’t know what we’re doing: ask. Do some of your own research. Or ask. I’m always willing to answer shit. If I don’t know, I’ll tell you I don’t know. But most of the time I know where to look and that’s probably faster than a general google search.
I’ll wrap up this fucking monster post by saying this: I’ve thought about a lot of these issues for close to 15 years now. I have ideas about things, but I retired as an E6 which means that I didn’t get to affect any type of change to the system. All I could do was plant ideas into my subordinates and hope that maybe 10 years down the road part of an idea might yield a small tangible result. Also this system needs change from both inside and out. It can’t just be an external action. It also has to come from the inside. And if you want change from the inside, you have to have the people there.
@Dadadadadadada: There’s nothing random about assignment selections. It’s just that the system isn’t explained to most people, so they feel it’s random. In the AF, people have more control than they realize. Enlisted side that is. Officers go through interviews before they’re hired/assigned to a new unit. So if you have a dysfunctional leader…
I’ve been involved with that. It’s not fun.
@Leto: Thanks for the long detailed explanation in what is probably a dead thread. Those of us on the outside obviously don’t know all. Closest I’ve come in our family was an uncle who was an Army doctor so he and my cousins got bounced all over. We hung out with them a lot when he was at Fort Lewis and then they ended up in some top job at Walter Reed. But that was a long time ago.
Only thing I really know today is what I do read, which is articles like this: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/03/majority-military-spouses-are-underemployed/585586/ which make me wonder if we, as a country, are really doing everything we can do for military families.
@Kent: Michelle Obama and Jill Biden started a program just for that. Officers are bounced around more due to the nature of how command works. They want well rounded/experienced leaders who have been exposed to multiple different bases/commands/structures. It makes them more versatile. Staying in one place for so long can make you stagnate (like Avalune said). At least, that’s the theory ;)
And we as a country can always do better, but like everything else, it’s going to take a massive effort to do so. Going from the draft to all volunteer service was a massive undertaking. Getting a number of the enlisted QoL programs was a massive undertaking (we can thank a lot of POC service members for that). But we have to keep trying.
@Leto: Everything worth doing in government is hard. Changing the health care system is hard. Solving climate change is hard. Improving public education is hard. Doesn’t make those things not worth doing though. And despite the Sanders revolutionary rhetoric, most change is incremental.
One quote I remember of Obama’s. At least I think it was Obama’s was something to the effect of “a President only ever faces difficult problems. Because the easy problems all get resolved long before they reach your desk”
@Duane: It’s not just children. I often run training sessions for adults, and if you put in the agenda that there is going to be a break at 10:15, there had better be a break at 10:15!
@Leto:Privatized military housing? (Warren has a whole plank on that; it’s part of why I support her)
The NDAA 2020 contains a provision that impacts privatized military housing, requiring landlords to perform radon testing and mitigation. It’s a small step, but it’s the first time I’ve seen anything like that, and now we’ll put it into the compliance protocols used during triennial external environmental compliance reviews (and annual internal reviews). I’m reviewing the AWIA (drinking water infrastructure) now to see how that impacts family housing.
@Leto: I really appreciate your comments about the military. IT would be great if you could be a front pager.