It’s been almost a year since my husband ended his time as an active duty soldier. The very next day he joined the National Guard. Going to the Guard wasn’t an easy decision to make but it is what we felt was best at the time.
Since we did not move away from the Army post we had been living at, we have not experienced some of the things others do such as not having a supportive military community nearby. We still shop at the commissary, attend military family events and I have a lot of military spouse friends in the area.
The last year has been a bit difficult as we get used to our new role in the U.S. military. Being a part of the National Guard has a few things in common with being active duty but there are also a lot of differences and the transition can be a bit overwhelming.
Here are 5 tips for a better transition based on my own experiences with my husband:
1. Save money. You are going to need extra money during this time. You might need the money to move but you also will need it to fill in any pay gaps. If your service member is going to take time off between the Army and his civilian job, you need to prepare for that. You do have to wait a little longer than normal for their last active duty paycheck. Keep that in mind as you are making plans. You don’t want to get yourselves in a difficult situation because of lack of funds.
2. Learn about insurance. One of the hardest parts of the transition was changing our insurance. If you decide to buy your insurance through the Guard, which will be about $200 a month for a family, you will also have to pay more at appointments. If you were on Tricare Prime, this will be a shock. After years of not having to pay anything when I took my kids to the doctor, I got a bill. That was hard to get used to. You need to know how your new insurance works and which doctors take the new insurance. My doctor does not take Tricare Reserve Select so I had to find a new doctor.
3. Have a plan A, plan B and a plan C. Sometimes your plans won’t work out. You need to have backup plans. You might think a certain job is going to be right for your family and then you realize that the job really isn’t. Finding your new normal can be a bit difficult. Your spouse might have trouble adjusting to a different type of job. Give yourself some time to work things out. It takes a while to get into a new groove.
4. Connect with others. Finding other Guard spouses to talk to was very helpful. I had a few questions that I knew they would know the answers to. If you really don’t know anyone else in the Guard you can always look for an online group. Finding these people can be a great way to make some new friends for your new stage of life.
5. Except a change of identity. Sometimes it won’t even feel like you are a military family anymore. This can be hard since that used to be such a big part of your life. He will live a civilian life when he does not have his Guard duties. Then, he will put on his uniform to get ready to go to drill and you will be reminded that he is very much a part of the military. It is a strange feeling after active duty life.