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Ask VMW: Help, I am not on my husband's military orders...don't I get to come too?

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Ask VMW: Help, I am not on my husband's military orders...don't I get to come too?

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ask VMW: Help, I am not on my husband's military orders...don't I get to come too?

I am catching up with some questions from readers.  Here is one that I've answered often through email, so I thought I would blog about it:

"Help, my husband just got orders to Germany and me and the kids are not on it!  I thought families could automatically go with their soldier to Germany?  We don't want to be left behind!  Please help!"

First....take a deep breath.  Not being on orders can be standard.  The first thing you need to find out is if your Army spouse is serving an accompanied tour (typically three years) or an unaccompanied tour (two years).  An accompanied tour means he is authorized to bring his family with him on the government's dime...meaning, the Army will fly them all over, and they'll get supported over there with special passports authorizing them to stay beyond the traditional tourist 90 days (a SOFA stamped passport) and of course healthcare, schools and all the other support they'd normally get, same as if the servicemember was stationed in the US.

You and your children (the dependents) will get an EFMP screening.  This is a formality where medical professionals will look at your medical records and also interview you to see if you have any special medical needs.  PLEASE do this as soon as your military member finds out his new assignment, because without this screening, he will NOT get his orders!  The military want to make sure there are facilities near the new duty station (whether military or civilian) that can care for your medical problem.  Some things that come to mind are asthma, hearing loss, special physical therapy needs and other medical issues that may require special care.  Just because you or your dependents are enrolled in EFMP does not mean you cannot come along.  Germany is a very modern country with good healthcare facilities, so chances are high this will not be an issue for your family.

The first step for your spouse is to attend the levy briefing on his current post.  This is where he will learn how to ship his household goods, cars and all the other information he will need to move.  I suggest you go with him if you can....two sets of ears are always better than one.  On some posts, it is even a requirement for spouses to go too (as much as they can require...okay, highly encouraged then).  This briefing is given by your outgoing transportation office on your post.  The personnel people on your post will actually be "typing up" your spouse's orders, depending on what his assignment instructions coming down from the Department of the Army say (such as what unit he will be going to or if he will be going to a centralized location like a Replacement Detachment and then further assigned to a gaining unit AFTER arrival in country).  Remember that there may be beaucoup duty positions for a wheeled vehicle mechanice in the rank of Private or Specialist...not so many slots for let's say a Lieutenant Colonel in the Infantry...chances are the private will be sent to the Replacement Detachment in the country you are moving to, while the LTC has a pinpoint assignment of his exact duty station and job...that's just the way it is, the higher up in rank you go.  What goes on the orders also depends on which overseas duty location your spouse will be stationed in.  Some duty stations have longer waiting lists for housing, so orders are automatically noted as "non-concurrent travel" for dependents, meaning the military spouse travels first, then the spouse and children later.  This is done to save the military money and when you think about it, it may be cheaper and less stressful for you too.

When deciding whether to travel with your spouse, take these points into account, and if they don't cause extra financial hardship or stress for you, then go for it!  Otherwise, you may be better off waiting until your military spouse is settled and has housing.

  • Many times, there is no hotel or lodging on post/base, and you'll be staying at some civilian establishment.  Typically, your sponsor will guide you into where you should make a reservation or will do it for you.  You'll get travel pay to cover food and lodging, but that does not mean you can stay at the fanciest places and eat out for every meal (don't laugh...I've seen it done).  Know what your cap is ahead of time per day versus what it will cost for hotel and estimated food for you and your family...it'll be rank dependent.  Many overseas hotels have favorable government rates.  Read reviews on Trip Advisor and Booking.com.  See what other hotels are available in the area.  See how far they are from the post.  Walking distance?  Bus/metro routes?  Free breakfast or other freebies, like parking (if you get a rental car), amenities, etc.  The more they throw into the room price, the more travel money is left over for you.
  • Do you have children?  Can you get adjoining rooms, ie two rooms?  Are there bathtubs (my kids like baths)?  Many European business hotels only have showerstalls.  Will you PCS during the summer during school break?  If not, do you have a plan to get them registered into school quickly?  Which school (if there is more than one US Department of Defense school)?  Is there busing from the hotel?  Will your child be able to change schools if your eventual home is in another zone (Stuttgart has three different elementary schools, and they are all not the same quality unfortunately...just like anywhere else).  Is it easier for your children to stay where they are now, especially if family is nearby?  Can they handle the change of moving multiple times from hotels to a home when you find it with sometimes temporary housing in between? 
  • How will your pets handle being in a hotel for a longer timeframe?  Plan in being in a hotel for one to three months.  Sometimes, you can get temporary housing, which is basically apartment living, until you find a house or onpost housing is available.  You'd have temporary furniture and live there in the interim.  It all depends on what is available at the post when your husband signs in.  You'll get on the housing list as soon as he inprocesses after arrival....no earlier.  Is your dog a barker?  Is he not house broken or does he not do well under stress?  Even though European countries are very pet friendly, there are going to be times you can't take him along.  Will he be okay in his crate?  Is he crate trained?  Will he bark and growl at the cleaning staff?  Make sure you let your sponsor know you have a pet and make sure your lodging accepts pets and is tolerant of possible pet problems.  The Marriott in Sindelfingen, Germany (Stuttgart area) is one of the better places in Stuttgart to go if you have pets.
  • Find out if your hotel has a microwave or a refrigerator.  Our last PCS hotel had a refrigerator that was barely cold, so no milk storage.  We also did not have a microwave, so we ate out alot, plus a lot of sandwiches.  Read my post here about being creative on a budget when it comes to mealtime.
  • As long as you don't eat out every night, most people can make some money on their travel pay.....meaning, they give out less money than the Army pays them for travel expenses.  The average cost of a good restaurant meal in Germany, per person is anywhere from 15-20 euro, which includes drinks.
  • Are you going to spring for a rental car to get you around?  The Army does not pay for a rental car, so ship your car from stateside....early, to get it sooner rather than later.  Rental car = more money going out.  Who will have the car most days?  Your spouse or you?
  • Your spouse will most likely have to inprocess and also spend time at work.  You'll spend a lot of time bored (if you let yourself be) and alone.  Are you a self-starter enough that you can keep yourself busy?  Are you brave enough to at least venture out on your own?  If you choose to stay in the hotel, will you go stir crazy after days on end?  What about your children?  Hopefully, your spouse has a good sponsor, whose wife will come get you now and again.  Or, perhaps the Family Readiness Group is established enough to welcome newcomers and give a helping hand. We gave out welcome kits and visited the new spouse as soon as possible.  I think the Air Force even has folks (the sponsor or their version of the Family Readiness Group) who will fill your lodging refrigerator for you!  How about that!
With all that being said, I think it totally depends on your personality and how independent you are, whether you travel with your military spouse or not.  Just be well informed and make the best decision you can make for your particular family.  If you're worried about flying with multiple children and pets, many times, the spouse can take off work to come back to the US to help you fly over.  I've flown over with two babies on my own...but my personality was able to handle that.  You have to know yourself what you are capable of and use the power of positive thinking while you're at it!  What other advice would you add?

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1 Comments:

Blogger sweet european dreams said...

No worries! When we were headed to Germany, they messed up my husband's orders and only had him down for a 2 yr stay. He had to leave for Germany without us and he had the paperwork corrected to a 3 year stay once he arrived. We were on a flight to Germany about 2 weeks behind him. It all worked out just fine!

October 26, 2010 at 4:10 PM  

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