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!
We get SNOW! and COLD! for Christmas 🙂
TeamGrim gets to travel through 8 states (almost) on the Army’s dime.
Christmas adventures in different states.
The ability to see family and friends along the way.
Getting to decorate for Christmas…TWICE!!
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.
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!
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:
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 🙂
WOBC (A) Follow-on Training for their rank that lasts for about 3 weeks.
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.
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!!
On the 16th of March, Ryan’s flight school class had their long-awaited family day. Ryan’s Mom came up from Florida for the weekend and we all got to take a ride out to go watch Daddy fly “wop wops” (helicopters)! It was his 7th week of flight school (5th actually flying) and we’ve been so anxious to see him in action in person… Talk about surreal!!
Once we followed the caravan out to airfield, we kept looking all around for his tail number that he gave us since he was one of the last helicopters to make it over to the stage field, and Grams and I both started crying once we finally spotted him coming in for his landing! We got to see them hover, complete a few different landings, as well as completing their traffic patterns. We are so proud of our pilot-in-training and all that is to come on this adventure! All of the long nights, studies, check rides and tests will be worth it when he gets to have the coolest job in the military when he graduates!
SLIDESHOW: Here are a few of our pictures/videos from the day. We hope you enjoy!