Since July of 2016, after my husband left for the Navy, I have been learning the ropes of living a MilSO (Military Significant Other) lifestyle. At times it’s so unbearably hard, I wonder if I will make it through another day. I always do, one way or another. I went into this life completely blind, not know what to expect or when. It took me a while to get used to having my life be seemingly in the air at all times. I’m still not fully accustomed but I would like to share what I have learned.
For starters, I am a Navy Wife, so by no means am I speaking on behalf of all branches.
Ah yes, if you’ve been through it, you know about it. This is one of the hardest things to get used to. One day your love is home, and the next day he is off somewhere with limited communication.
My husband was gone for two months in Great Lakes and it was a lot to take in. When he got there he was allowed to call and tell me he was safe, but after that it was a while before I got to hear his voice again.
I tell everyone who asks the same thing; write everyday, and send lots of photos. I did this, and although it was almost two weeks in before I received a response, my husband expressed his gratitude when he was one of the only recruits to receive the first mail. You can recieve your recruits mailing address quicker if you ask his or her recruiter.
While in bootcamp, they see the same things day in and day out. Pictures can really help them to not feel so secluded and alone. Almost like they are enjoying the moment with you. I was told how appreciated my photos were by much more than my husband.
The hardest part about this is not being in real-time. If something is going on with either of you, the other finds out almost a week (at least) later. This can get frustrating because sometimes you just need your honey now.
Eventually letters get on a schedule. You, at home, can send one every day, but your recruit has to wait until Sunday to send out a weeks worth of letters. I usually received mail on Thursday’s, and they always seemed to come when I needed to hear from him most.
There is a Facebook Page where they will update you on graduation, any changes, and you can even catch your recruit when they post the division photos.
While in Boot, your recruit will also have the chance to request their primary Duty Station. They get to list three, but that doesn’t mean they will get their choices. They will go where they’re needed.
While away, you won’t hear their voice much. It’s hard to not be able to just pick up the phone and call them, and have everything be better. Every other Sunday you can (hope) to expect a call home – also known as Sailor Sunday. If you don’t receive a call, don’t worry. This could mean they were busy at call time, or their division may have been misbehaving and getting calls taken away was their punishment.
There is so much that goes into planning for their graduation. Hotels, transportation, attire. I had no idea what I was going into.
First of all, about two weeks after your recruit gets to bootcamp, you will receive a packet and pamphlet in the mail. If you still haven’t received your recruits mailing address, this is where you can get it.
It also tells you about graduation and hotels and such. Because of the mass quantities of people who plan to attend, a recruit is allowed four guests at max. I know that a lot of families are bigger than this, so try reaching out to your recruit and seeing if they know of someone who doesn’t have all their spots filled if you need an extra. It is up to your recruit to put you in their guest list, as it is your ticket in!
Book your hotel ASAP. I can’t express this enough. You and thousands of others are all in the same area for graduation, rooms will fill up quick. Some hotels provide shuttle transportation the morning of graduation. Mine did not, so I booked a taxi two weeks before and called three times prior to him actually picking me up, just to be safe.
You will want to leave at least two hours before the ceremony is expected to start. The traffic is insane and once you get there, you will wait in long lines. This may sound like an overkill, but you want good seats and to be able to see your recruit. To add to this, all recruits are placed in a division. Know this information beforehand, it will determine where you will want to sit once you get there.
Bring your ID. Anywhere and everywhere. They will not let you in without it, and that would be extremely disappointing to you and your recruit.
I searched far and wide when I needed help with this. The truth is, there is no right or wrong thing to wear. You see everything from fancy to casual, and in between. Keep in mind, your recruit hasn’t seen a done up face or outfit in some time, but regardless your presence means so much more.
The only guidelines to go by are the weather. It is a long walk from the gate to the graduation hall, so if it’s snowing and you’re not dressed as such, you may freeze. To add to this, if you can’t walk in heels, Graduation day is not the day to try. Seriously, long walk from the gate to the ceremony.
My husband graduated in early September. I wore a white pencil skirt that came to my knees, a blue blouse, and red heels I got from Charlotte Russe. Both of us were happy with my outfit of choice.
After The Liberty Bell Rings
Once the ceremony is concluded, the liberty bell will ring and you can then run into the arms of your recruit. It’s the moment that you’ve been waiting for, and it’s extremely emotional, let me tell you.
What you don’t know is, they have to report to their school following. You thought it was over? Oh no, your recruit is government property now, and that comes first.
Some recruits only go across the street from bootcamp for A School, others will travel to other states. You will know this information beforehand, so don’t worry. My husband’s school was across the street, but I have heard that you get the evening with your recruit before you have to put them on a plane, if their school is elsewhere.
So after, you will want to encourage your recruit to check into their A School as soon as possible. This is what gives him off base liberty. He or she will have to go there and check in before you’re allowed to take them off base. The sooner they check in, the sooner you get your quality time.
Checking them out, and back in…
Phase 1 liberty is from 05:00 to 22:00. This is their time to be off base with you, and it lasts the weekend. Think of it like checking out a library book. Most don’t know this, but you will have to go on base and meet your recruit at the gate. They will then act as your sponsor to get you on base. From there you have to go to their “ship” (barracks) to check them out. You will need your ID for this! From there you can choose to take an on base taxi off base, or walk all they way back out and have an uber pick you up from there.
As your day concludes, you’ll want to get them back to base so that they check in on time. It’s the same process as checking them out. Keep in mind the traffic getting there, and the walk from the gate to their ship, I recommend leaving an hour before they’re actually supposed to be checked in. Again, it may seem like an overkill, but you don’t want to risk their weekend liberty and not see them at all.
During this time, there are any things you and your recruit can do. Navy Pier is a popular activity amongst most, and Gurnee Mills, which is the mall. Your recruit will know what they want to do so don’t read too much into planning this.
A lot of recruits get cell phones or turn their service back on, as they can have them while in school (yes, FaceTime).
This is where they will learn their job of choice. They study a lot, and take a lot of tests. They will have to stand watch amongst many other things. Encourage your Sailor to study as much as they can, in both bootcamp and A School. This will determine how quickly they move up.
It is different for everyone. My husband’s school only lasted two months, but some people are there for 9 months or longer. While in A School you can call, text, and FaceTime your recruit as often as their not busy. This makes it a lot easier to deal with the time apart.
By this time, you know where your recruit will be heading after they graduate from A School. If your recruit is your husband or wife, you will be able to join them at their duty station. You will know and learn about BHA and DEERS, as your recruit will educate you on all of this.
In my experience, living on base is not always the best choice for everyone. You will know what works as you go.
You will want to learn chain of command, as your recruit will come out speaking a whole new language. This makes it easier to understand them as they talk about work. It also helps to learn what is okay and not okay as a MilSO, and keep in mind that you are representing your SO.
I hope this helps current and soon to be MilSO’s and MilFam’s everywhere! Feel free to comment below if you have any questions for me!
Behind every strong Sailor is an even stronger support system