If you have recently married a service member, welcome to the military! This world may seem overwhelming and mysterious to you now, but life in the military offers tremendous benefits and many exciting opportunities.
After you said "I do" you may be asking, "Now what's next?" particularly if your spouse is deployed or in training and not available to guide you through the process. The most important first step is for your spouse to enroll you in DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System). Enrollment makes you eligible for military benefits, such as health care and base shopping. Once you are enrolled, you can go to the nearest base ID office to obtain a military dependent ID card. This card will grant you access to military bases and allow you to use all the amenities on base.
Now that you are enrolled as a spouse and have your ID card, take advantage of all the activities and benefits you are now eligible for! Start out by visiting the base family support center where you will receive an introduction to all of the benefits available to you. If your spouse is deployed, connect with his/her unit's FRG (Family Readiness Group). FRGs are comprised of spouses and children of deployed unit members and exist to support their families. This is a great starting place to connect with spouses like yourself and join in on group excursions and activities.
If you would like a job on base, the career center is the best place to inquire about openings for spouses. Spouses receive job preference, which means a spouse with the same qualifications as another non- preference candidate would be offered the job first. USAJobs.com lists all federal job openings and allows you to search for position openings at a specific base. All military branches also have their own civilian websites where jobs openings can be searched by base. If the job search is taking longer than expected, volunteer opportunities are abundant and a great way to make connections with other spouses and potential employers.
If you would like to further your education, check out class listings at the education center . Most bases offer college courses on site and the military offers education discounts and scholarships for spouses at off base locations. In addition to traditional classes, you can expand your knowledge with classes such as photography, foreign languages, and even parenting skills!
Finally, have fun! The base travel office offers discounts on amusement parks, flights and local tours. Low cost camping trailers and outdoor equipment are available for rent and many bases have horse stables with riding tours and lessons. You also have access to an affordable on base movie theater, bowling alley, several restaurants and clubs, and a fitness center.
Whether you will be a military spouse for four years or thirty, welcome to the club! I hope you enjoy your time in the military and take advantage of all it has to offer.