Air Force · Education

Independent-Dependent

Some days I did not see C for more than 30 minutes.

18222000_1420737927986753_2384868387020813616_nWhen I was a student, I would have my classes, work, and internships in the mornings and afternoons with weekends free. However, during those two years, C had to work nights (6pm-6am) including every other weekend. Some mornings, I would set my alarm for 6:30am just to see C for 5 minutes if he wanted to stop by on his way home from work because my apartment was near base. Otherwise, we would not see each other until the weekends he had off, and on those weekends, I would flip my sleep schedule to be nocturnal with him.

Although my professors thought this would hinder my studies, his lack of availability kept me focused on homework on the days I knew he had to work. Unintentionally, his schedule was incentive to not procrastinate so when we could see each other, I could be free of responsibilities. We could just be.

This past year after graduating with my Master’s degree, I have been working 2 to 3 part 18222592_1420737797986766_9084673677864931464_n.jpgtime jobs 6 to 7 days a week on average of 50-60 hours per week. It was just when I began working weekends that C was switched to a different flight that had every weekend off. Our roles reversed.

Some days I don’t see C for more than 15 minutes.

The complications of our work schedules can be frustrating. We are limited to running errands together on Saturdays when I get off work in the evenings. We cannot hike or do any outdoors activities together because it is dark by the time we reunite in the day. We have to be conscious of when we complete laundry so we do not wake up the other person while trying to put clothes away. And when I cook dinner, I need to plan my meals so we can both eat a hot meal despite the fact that we come home from work five hours apart from each other. It is simple and small tasks that most couples do not view as obstacles, but military couples do.

Some day I won’t see C for months.

To add further frustration, there is always the deployment tempo in the back of our minds. With a short notice, C could receive orders to deploy and then be completely gone for six months at a time in a war zone. This adds pressure to make the most of the time we have together while he is stateside and not PCSing or deploying. It becomes a temptation to simplify our life and quit my jobs to be what the military wants me to be: a dependent.

18268576_1420737694653443_2153369251584837844_nIt is at this point that a military wife finds herself at the fork in the road. One path is simple: stay at home, be a wife and mother, avoid any schedule complications by not going to college and not finding work. The second path: keep busy with work, school, and hobbies because as a military wife you do spend a lot of time apart, especially with deployments, training sessions, retraining, PCSing etc. It is with the second path that you build your own dreams, have some tasks to help pass time quicker while separated, and help relieve some financial responsibility from your significant other who is military.

It is not an easy route to follow. However, the time apart should be used as an incentive to make the most of the time you do have together and the most of the time you have apart. Be an independent-dependent.

 

 

 

Education

Dependent on Education

Only 21 percent of military spouses have a Bachelor’s degree.

The following are major factors as to why military wives feel intimidated and/or feel discouraged to pursue higher education:

  • Their military spouse’s career lacks concrete scheduling.
    • It is not uncommon for the work schedule of a military personnel to fluctuate from day to day. Most receive their post for the next day at the end of their shift. So, this could be the difference of getting off work at 6pm or at 11:30pm. It makes a difference in the daily lives of military wives to plan the evening accordingly.
  • The military attracts people from disadvantaged backgrounds
    • People typically enlist in the military to pay for college because they grew up poor or to have a respectable career without further education because college is not for everyone and is not always promoted in every household. Most military couples are high school sweethearts with similar backgrounds.
  • The military increases the service-member’s salary if married
    • Increasing the service-member’s pay after marriage encourages military personnel to marry young, which most do. Other perks include being able to live on base with your significant other and being able to PCS with your significant other.  The point of a degree is to increase chances at a higher paying job. If the military already financially provides for the family then there is also less survival stress for the spouse and less motivation to find a vocation, have a career, and obtain a higher education.
  • There is always a possibility of PCSing
    • Most military spouses do not want to start their education without the guarantee that they will be in one location for the four years it will take to finish with a Bachelor’s degree.

13165901_10206382560674856_2100158456922171746_nThose factors are often used as an excuse with some resentment towards the service-member as to why the spouse feels they can neither have a career nor a higher education. It is difficult balancing school with military stress, especially when scheduling trips, evenings, and the future. Marrying military was one of the reasons I did not apply for PhD programs right after graduating with my first Master’s degree. Graduate school credits do not transfer, and there are not a lot of online programs for graduate school. However, rather than letting the difficulties of location affect my career, I did intensive research to find an online graduate program for my second Master’s that could complement my career path while opening more accessible career opportunities in any state, if we were to PCS.

American Military University is a top ranked online university with undergraduate programs for veterans and spouses. However, there are also other amazing options for spouses to continue school online–>Click Here

Furthermore, the military also provides some financial aid to the spouses. Below is a list of programs established to assist dependents’ education:

  • The MyCAA (Military Spouse Career Advancement Account) provides $4,000 over two years for a military spouse to receive an Associate’s degree in a portable career. It is supported by the Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program.
  • After 9/11, service-member’s can transfer their unused G.I. Bill benefits to immediate family members if they have put in 6 years of service and promised 4 more years.
  • Dependents’ Education Assistance Program (DEA) offers a possibility of 45 months worth of education benefits for eligible dependents towards a degree or certificate
  • Furthermore, the Air Force offers scholarships for dependents to apply towards their college degree.

If a military spouse wants to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in a traditional college setting then it is also important to remember that undergraduate credits transfer. It is possible to start your degree in one location and graduate from a different school in a different location.

There will have to be some compromises with the military whether it be studying online, transferring credits, and/or studying part-time during deployments. However,compromising is always better than never trying.