Embracing the Army (PCS) Journey

PCS + Christmas + Flight School Graduation = a whole lot of insanity fun!!

My motto since Ryan’s first 1 year deployment in 2011-2012 (and tattooed on the inside of my wrist) has been “Embrace the Journey”.  it’s my reminder to stop worrying about the future, stressing about the present and letting go of the past.  This has been a necessity as an Army wife and even more so as a flight school spouse.  I have to live in the present!

As Ryan’s journey through flight school progressed and he wasn’t afforded any breaks (the Army is cutting down the “bubbles” between instructional sections in order to push students through faster to get them to their units due to a severe shortage of pilots), it was my hope to not PCS at Christmas.   (For those unfamiliar with military acronyms, a PCS is a Permanent Change of Station or as permanent of a move as you can have in the military).  Well, it’s been said to never tell the Army your plans!  The Army and God definitely have a sense of humor!

Never tell the Army your plans!

I’m probably a weird one, but PCS-ing is one of my favorite aspects of being married to a soldier.  I grew up as an Army BRAT and my adventurous side gets restless and needs a new home and city to explore every few years!  We’ve been trying to get back up North and to the cold/snow since Ryan entered the Army and Ft. Drum, New York is the closest he can get us to my home in Maine.  So, even though I had no desire to uproot our lives a few weeks prior to Christmas, we’re embracing all of the wonderful things this move has to offer!

  1. We get SNOW! and COLD! for Christmas 🙂
  2. TeamGrim gets to travel through 8 states (almost) on the Army’s dime.
  3. Christmas adventures in different states. 
  4. The ability to see family and friends along the way.
  5. Getting to decorate for Christmas…TWICE!!
  6. Fun stories to tell and memories to look back upon.

I’m taking this whole situation as a reminder to myself to look for the good in every aspect of life.  Duty station assignment that you don’t like?  Explore it anyway and find reasons to like it.  Deployment/extended separation?  How can I grow in my relationship with God and how can this bring me and my spouse/kids closer?  

We can either focus on the negatives all of the time or we can find reasons to be excited and to embrace the memories that we’re making.  There is a LOT of stress in this life and it’s not for the faint of heart.  I have my days that I’m not the biggest fan of the military and i’m definitely ready for retirement, but i’m so thankful for all of the opportunities that we’ve been granted that most never get.

And now, it’s almost time to #Drive2Glory!

~Melissa

My Calling

In April, I worked my last day of my career in national security/government contracting to fulfill my dream of focusing on my husband and my kids.  Long before we were married, Ryan and I discussed our joint desire to be able to reach a point of financial security to allow me to stay home with our future children.  Being a military family comes with many challenges and I wanted to be as present as possible in our children’s lives.  While I commend dual military families and those with multiple careers (seriously, that’s tough work to balance it all!), I always knew it wasn’t for me.

Often, reality can feel different from our dreams.  Since that time i’ve struggled to find my identity beyond being a wife and a mother.  We often find our self-worth within our career or chosen profession, and all of my dreams have or are coming true.  But was this enough?  Society often pushes us to “want more” for ourselves and that we should strive to have it all: the husband, the kids, the top of a corporation…and the white picket fence.  Was it okay to “just” be a wife and a mom?  Could I REALLY be the driving force behind my family?

What if it’s OKAY that my role IS to be a military spouse and a mom?  What if that is my calling and my “mission field”?  I know that God is using me to encourage and lift up/support my husband as he serves our Country.  I know that God is using me to be engaged in our children’s lives and to set the example.  And I know that He is going to use me to pour back into the lives of other military spouses and families.  How will my mindset change and what more can I do if I transform my thoughts into THIS being my calling?  God has called my heart since I was a young girl and wanted to marry a soldier and to stay in the only life I ever knew.

What if it’s OKAY that my role IS to be a military spouse and a mom?

I’ve recently joined a book discussion group with a friend that started it in her home and we are diving into the book “Wife of a Soldier, a Journey of Faith” and today I had the great pleasure of meeting the author.  It’s been speaking to my heart and I highly recommend reading it, no matter your situation as a military spouse.  Diana Jeurgens describes how God has called each of us to this role for a reason.  It’s no mistake that I grew up wanting this life, that I married Ryan, that these kids were given to us to raise.

This military life can be exciting and stressful, lonely and friendly…it’s all in how we view it.  I know that i’ll still be human and have my moments that I hate the separations, deployments, and LATE duty nights…but oh, what a wonderful life this can be as well!

I’m not sure what the distant future holds for our family, but i’m so excited to serve God where He’s placed me for this season.  My husband has a very difficult role to play and I know that God has called me to be his supporter and to take care of our life on the home front.   I’m anxious to arrive at our next duty station in New York and I already feel led to a few areas of opportunity!

Melissa G.

PCS Organization

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I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with organization and it’s never come easy for me.  However, there are two times where my life is dress right dress: tax season and PCS time!

Moving at any point, much less with the military, can be chaotic and stressful; every little thing you can do to combat that is important!

I’ve kept a PCS binder on hand since our first move from Ft. Bragg to HAAF which has made it easier for other PCS’s.  All I have to do is purge the unnecessary info (which gets scanned and stored on the server, because i’m slightly a nerd) and update information that’s changed.  I also pull out the important docs that stay filed in locked fireproof boxes.  Now that we’ve added two kids and a dog since that first move, the included items have shifted a bit.

Below i’ve included a list of items that we’ve found to be beneficial for our family.  Bear in mind, my husband keeps his own storage clipboard with his necessary documents for in-processing so I haven’t listed those here.

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  1. Important documents: Socials, Passports, etc.  I also keep a clear pocket for receipts/loose documents.
  2. Local Info: Details about the installation and local area that we’ve found.
  3. Birth/Marriage Certificates
  4. Insurance Information
  5. Government PCS Rate/Compensation Info.
  6. Drum Housing Info & Paperwork.
  7. Outgoing Housing CHecklists, etc.
  8. Kids’ Vaccinations & Records (You could also carry hard copies of any necessary prescriptions until you get established).
  9. Pet Shot Records
  10. Notes (Loose leaf paper)

img_9172For this move i’ve also included a Do It Yourself or “DITY” checklist.  (The Army calls this a PPM now or Personally Procured Move).  There’s nothing worse than getting to a new house and realizing you have nothing to cook with!  Hopefully this will help to keep ourselves straight.

Finally, I take pictures of our furniture and electronics with serial numbers and keep the thumb drive in the binder with us for future claims.

On packing day, the kids and I mostly hang out in the “Don’t Touch Room” where we keep everything that we will be hand carrying with us.  This way we don’t have to worry about anything accidentally getting packed by the movers.

I hope this helps for your future PCS moves!  Do you have any additions that I have forgotten?

~Melissa G.

Adventures in NOLA

When we first received our orders for Ft. Rucker and Ryan was picked up for flight school we added New Orleans to our “Duty Station Bucket List”. Our time here is running out quicker than we expected and time has definitely gotten away from us, so we had to fit in a quick weekend trip over Columbus Day weekend.

Our latest camping adventure in “Roo” we checked off Mississippi and Louisiana. We stopped in MS to check out a giant oak tree across from the beach that has survived many hurricanes (including Cat 5s!) and has been there for 500 years! Friendship Oak was pretty and the kids appreciated the break up from the drive and the ability to get some of those never-ending toddler wiggles out.

I was thrilled to finally stay right on the water (which I’ve been determined to do since we bought our camper back in March) and we were very impressed with the campground. Convenience store on-site, house boats and its own restaurant (they served delicious smoked meat and jambalaya. (Pontchartrain Landing)

Downtown NOLA was a city in its very own league with so much character. Dogs are everywhere and even welcomed in the restaurants and bars, and the people were eclectic but fun. It’s a tough and resilient crowd and a blend of so many cultures. We took the kids on a carriage ride with a mule and toured the oldest above ground graveyard in America.

Finally, we were able to spend a few hours at the National WW2 Museum, which did not even do it justice. I highly recommend allowing yourself a few days to spend there if you’re a history nerd like Ryan and I are.

We’d definitely love to go back someday and possibly see Ryan’s mama’s Saints play in the Super Dome!

Check out some of our pics below:

Flight School ~ PCS ORDERS ~

The other big, important day while in flight school is the day you receive your orders for your follow-on duty station!  The aviators are allowed to maintain a list of the Top 3 places that they would like to go, and the Army (most of the time) attempts to grant it to you and your family.  As with anything in the Army, nothing is guaranteed, and it’s both exciting and nerve-wracking waiting for these to come through!

“They say” can often get you into trouble and for us it did.  We were told an average of 4-6 weeks from selection he’d receive the draft of his orders telling him where we’d be sent next.  4-6 weeks turned into 7, then 8….then the rest of his class (all but Ryan and 1 other) received their orders.  I’ll admit, I didn’t handle this frustration in the most graceful way!  I’ve moved around my entire life as an Army Brat turned federal contractor, turned Army wife.  Literally my first passport had my hospital birth picture.  However, we’ve been trying to get back up North for 7 years.  Ryan’s first duty station was supposed to be Alaska…then those were pulled for Ft. Bragg.  Ugh!  Our family is in Maine and New England will always be HOME, so we were so anxious to find out if our hopes would come true!

FINALLY, 9 weeks from selection and halfway through his advanced airframe training his orders came through!!

And our next duty station is….

FT DRUM, NEW YORK!!!!!!!!

Ft. Drum was our #1 choice and we were praying so hard that Ryan would get selected to go!!!!!  We are beyond excited for the next chapter of our story and to FINALLY be back closer to home.  It’s about 7 hours back to our home town in Maine which is the closest we can get.  We are so thankful for snow…and 4 seasons!

FLY TO GLORY!!!!!

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Flight School ~ SELECTION ~

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Life in an active duty Army family comes with many tear-jerking and monumental moments for your soldier and your family.  Some are sad and oh so difficult…while others can be some of the most memorable moments of your life.

Ryan (and TeamGrim) has had many of those!  Flight School on the Warrant Officer side (there are Commissioned Officers as well) goes through several phases which are best broken down as follows:

  1. WOCS: Warrant Officer Candidate School.  About 5 weeks of training that is worse than basic (according to Ryan haha) that breaks down the enlisted soldier to turn them into an officer.  At the end is a very special graduation where your loved one(s) can pin your new rank on you.  Logan & Emma (and I) had the privilege 🙂
  2. WOBC (A) Follow-on Training for their rank that lasts for about 3 weeks.
  3. SERE/Dunker: Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.  POW training that is called the best worst school you can attend in the army.  Ryan already had this training so he able to bypass it.  Dunker/HOST teaches them how to survive a water landing and techniques for water survival.
  4. Finally, FLIGHT SCHOOL BEGINS: This is being revamped by the Army, but Ryan’s was broken into a few different sections of training where he had “check rides” showing his proficiency in each before he was able to proceed.

At the end of this first portion of training a very special and much anticipated day arrives that determines the course for the rest of their careers: ADVANCED AIR FRAME SELECTION DAY!!!!!!!

Up until Selection Day the active duty flight school students have no idea what air frames will be available when they walk into that room!  The board will be revealed (dramatically!) and each student is able to pick their bird from the ones that are available based on the OML (Order of Merit List: ranking by their grades in school, check ride grades, PT Test, etc.).  The OML is so competitive that the top people are usually only separated by .001 of a point!!!  These people are truly the best of the best in the army!

Since Ryan spent the first 7+ years of his career as a Chinook maintainer his heart belongs to the big girl.  We prayed so much over the course of our time here that he’d be able to have his number 1 pick.  Of course, he would have loved any rotary wing, but to get your #1 is incredibly special.  To add to the intensity, there are well under 200 slots a year so it’s the hardest airframe to choose!  Most classes have 1-2, if any, and Ryan’s class had 8 slots available for Warrant Officers!!!!

“You guys, God is an on-time God and His timing is ALWAYS perfect.”

This was totally a God thing!  When Ryan’s packet took a while to get a waiver and a few pieces of the puzzle to come together I told him it was all God’s timing.  I said “I’m claiming it and God’s trying to put you in a class flooded with Chinooks!!!  You guys, God is an on time God and His timing is ALWAYS perfect.  He’s taught us over and over again to lean on Him and one of these days maybe it will stop blowing me away.

From here Ryan will move on to his Chinook training that will last approximately 16 weeks.  After that he’ll got another short training to pick up his CW2 rank and he’ll be able to pin on those wings at his graduation!!

She laughs without fear of the future.

Life sure can throw a lot of storms your way.  We’ve been thrown some crazy curve balls in our marriage (as everyone does in different ways), but God has never let us down.  I could list example after example after example where God has taken care of us in ways that we never could have imagined.  Stress about money?  Bonus comes through for work or re-enlistment covers our entire $10k+ IVF cycle for our babies.  Stressing about finally getting to apply to flight school?  Picked up first round go and one of the first classes to EVER have the availability number of his dream aircraft (the hardest helicopter to get in the Army).  Terrified of not being able to have kids after 3 failed rounds of infertility treatments?  First round success of IVF with strong, healthy miracle twins!

So why do I have moments where the fear seems to overwhelm and swallow me whole?  Why do I stress about things that are beyond my control, but are the deepest desires of my heart?

I try not to be terrified that I won’t get to bring my 4 waiting embabies home.  What if my Graves’ disease keeps me from being able to conceive again or carry to term?  What if I can’t get pregnant before we PCS and we are sent OCONUS and I can’t get back for another transfer?  Will we finally have a duty station of our dreams and get back up North or OCONUS?  This verse hung in my bathroom in Savannah and I prayed it and believed it every day of our fertility treatments.  I’m believing it once again!

“He gives the barren woman a home, He makes her the joyous mother of children.  Praise the Lord!” Psalm 113:9

We wrestle not against flesh and blood and the devil sure knows my weaknesses.  The most important thing in the world to me has always been family.  That’s no secret and I can’t even turn my back and pretend that it’s not true.  So where does he attack me?  Loneliness in waiting for my dream husband to come along.  Infertility, Secondary Infertility, distant family abandonment.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5: 6-8

I refuse to let him win.  I’m still human, but I believe that my God is bigger than all of this.  I have to pray and have faith that He can turn situations around for His benefit.  If hearts will not allow that, then I pray He heals me, my husband, and my kids’ hearts and fills that void with His love.

“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.”  Psalm 27:10

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“When you’ve done everything you can do, that’s when God will step in and do what you can’t do.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

I know that I NEVER tire of my kids wanting me and needing me.  I want to give them all of the desires of their hearts, so how much more does God desire to help us through all that we’re up against?  He’s already performed so many miracles in our lives.  He has been so faithful to us in everything, so who am I to ever doubt Him?  My flesh is weak, but I know He’s in control!  Praying His words over our lives!

~Melissa G.