The hit television show, “Lost,” is about a group of plane crash survivors who find themselves stranded on a mysterious tropical island. Each episode, the characters become more and more confused as they encounter polar bears, a monster made entirely of black smoke and unknown assailants.
For many of us, our first experience in the Army life may feel a bit like that. It’s easy to feel lost as we try to become acclimated to the new world we have entered.
But unlike those plane crash survivors, we don’t have people lurking around every corner, threatening us with harm. Instead, there are those who work countless hours to provide us with everything we need to become acclimated to the Army life. So for those who are new to the military life, I offer the following tips:
1) Take a visit to the Army Community Services center. When I arrived at my husband’s first duty station, he was instructed to take me first to ACS. Although I had no clue at the time what ACS was, it made a huge difference. I got the chance to see what types of services were offered, get a calendar of on-post events and I even left with a couple of job leads.
2) Take advantage of the free classes and events. Fort Jackson offers a wide array of classes every week. The best part is, they’re all free. Whether you want to learn how to “speak Army,” get a handle on your finances or learn how to deal with your active toddler, there is a class for you. ACS even holds events for newcomers that provide information on various on-post agencies and what they have to offer.
3) Contact the hospital. Even for those who never get sick, it is a good idea to be familiar with the on-post hospital. While Moncrief Army Community Hospital doesn’t have an emergency room, there are several other clinics, including an urgent care clinic, that offer family members and Soldiers an opportunity to be seen.
It is also a good idea to stop by the TRICARE office to make sure that you and all of your family members are enrolled. A couple of weeks ago, I missed out on an appointment for my son because I never bothered to fill out the proper paperwork. Taking a few minutes in advance to make sure all of your paperwork is in order can mean avoiding a hassle later.
4) Get in touch with your unit’s Family Readiness Group. At an FRG meeting the other day, one of the women shared how she had an emergency soon after she and her husband reached their new duty station. With her husband already away on assignment, she was left to take care of things alone. The FRG offers support for spouses, whether in an emergency or not. Don’t wait until a deployment to seek guidance from the FRG, start now. If your unit doesn’t have an FRG, or if you’re unsure, speak to the company commander about possibly starting one.
5) Get out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to want to keep to yourself upon arriving in a new place. But it is healthy for you — and your family members — to experience all that the post has to offer. Check out the community calendar at http://jackson.mhsoftware.com/. Or take advantage of the hourly care options on post and take some “me” time to go shopping, work out or just take a nap while the children are under the care of trained professionals.
Is this an exhaustive list of hints to get you ready for a new life in the military? Of course not. But I can assure you that there are many men and women, much wiser than me, who have the best advice possible.
And many of them are right in your unit.
Editor’s note: Crystal Lewis Brown is an Army spouse of five years and editor of the Fort Jackson Leader.