I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Writer, Military Career Management Expert & Speaker Pamela McBride. Pamela is the mom of two, an Army spouse of twenty years and is the co-author of “The Mocha Manual To Military Life: A Saavy Guide for Wives, Girlfriends and Female Service Members.
1. The book is called “The Mocha Manual to Military Life” which at first glance some might assume applies only to a small segment of spouses, how can all spouses benefit from your book?
Having been married to a Soldier for almost 22 years, one of the most important things to me in writing this book was its authenticity. The topics I chose to cover are those topics that are important to anyone who is married to a service member, engaged to a service member or is a service member. Whenever two or more of us get together, there are certain things we talk about, like surviving the first year, separation and deployment, how to start and maintain a career, raising military children, and keeping our relationships strong, to name a few. This book directly, openly, and truthfully addresses those topics without any element of fiction, commercialism, or sensationalism. And it covers the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Now, within those subject areas, there are some experiences that are impacted by culture or ethnicity. Those things are included, too. Hundreds of military spouses and service members were interviewed, including men in both of those roles, all lengths of service, ranks, and backgrounds. So, good, solid advice and real stories of our lives with which everyone will identify are what make this book authentic and a huge benefit to anyone who reads it. It is a resource book that you will use again and again for yourself and to help others.
Lastly, specific features of the book that are beneficial are checklists, tips, and charts that will help you navigate the murky waters of all kinds of topics. For example, there are items like:
- The “Official” family deployment checklist (pgs. 102 – 107)
- Detailed pictures of rank insignia, explanations of how to figure it all out, and why it is important (pgs. 116-122)
- Key terms for PCS-ing (pgs. 156 -160)
- The notification process in case of injury or death and casualty assistance (pgs. 308 – 323);
- Guide to military acronyms as an appendix.
2. In the book you mention that you had the pleasure of living in Hawaii, what are three of your most important PCS tips that you can give?
Get the kids involved.
Hubby and I believe that our attitudes about moving are what determined our children’s attitudes. Instead of reacting as if moving is some awful thing that is happening to us, we came up with all the reasons it would be great and exciting. One of the first questions was what family or friends already live there. The internet makes it easy to find out and keep up with where other military friends are stationed. We have done virtual tours of homes and schools, and scoped out what the community has to offer. We never have a problem quickly identifying what we have to look forward to.
Create stability for the family.
Ok, so where you live and work and with whom you interact will change often, there is no denying that. But there are also plenty of things that don’t have to change. For example, you can keep the same type of routines, schedules and traditions. Eating dinner together, being involved in sports and activities, communicating often with extended family by phone and email, and holiday celebrations don’t, and probably shouldn’t change.
Remove the clutter
Before, during and after the move, things will be so much less stressful if there isn’t a whole lot of junk to contend with. On page 150 I provided several strategies like “search and seizure” and great tips for living in transition and in temporary lodging.
3. The Mocha Manual to Military Life stresses “Planning Ahead” what are some ways spouses can plan ahead before marriage to a service member and during a military marriage?
There are certain qualities that I believe contribute to the “survivability factor” of our military marriages. For example (from page 10):
“Commitment to yourself: Don’t let your dreams go by the wayside just because you marry a military man. A successful military wife has professional, educational recreational, spiritual, and other interests that make her who she is as an individual. That individual is who he was attracted to initially, and it will be that individual who makes the whole family unit successful”
Other qualities listed include; determination; adaptability; confidence to be independent; positive attitude; and willingness to be a friend.
As you enter into the planning stage of getting married, there are strategies that will get you off to a good start as a couple. Pages 14-26 offers advice such as how to build support systems around you; marrying for the right reasons; making life decisions a team effort; understanding how the military works, and even tips for planning your big day, including a wedding planning checklist and how to get more for your money by using military services and discounts for the wedding.
4. Due to the constant moves many spouses have a hard time continuing their education or staying on their career paths. In the book you discuss using base services to help get on track, what services can spouses utilize at local military installations to further their career and education goals?
There is so much available, but I will try to narrow it down. Every military post or base has an office that provides various family services. Among those services are career and education counseling, workshops, and resources. For example, there are the:
- Airmen & Family Readiness Centers
- Army Community Services
- Army Reserve Family Programs
- Coast Guard Work Life Program
- Marine Corps Community Services
- National Guard Family Programs
- Navy Fleet and Family Services
However, I encourage spouses to visit www.militaryonesource.com to find career and education programs specifically designed for military spouses. You can search by location so you can visit the ones right in your backyard. Also, there are many career and education programs and services available for military spouses that you will discover here. For example, the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) program that funds tuition for military spouses would be listed. In all these cases, do your research and then work directly with a person who can help you plan your next steps.
5. Chapter 10 discusses keeping marriage and friendships strong. You discuss putting yourself out there and getting involved? What are some programs or groups you would recommend for a new spouse or even a veteran spouse seeking to put herself out there and make friends?
I think it is important to interact with military and non-military people because it gives you a more balanced life in general. Groups where you would find a mix of people would be off post volunteer organizations, schools (for you or the children), professional associations, church, and work. Another great way to connect is to ask people you know who have lived in the location if they know people who live there now or what groups they were involved with. Getting introduced to people eases the difficulty of making friends. On-post connections can be made through using the many discounted fun activities like bowling alleys, festivals, fitness centers, arts & crafts, sports, hobby-related classes, and more.
6. Lastly with deployments at an all time high, long distance relationships are even more common than normal, how can us spouses keep the fire burning even with distance between us?
(Chapters 10 & 3)
First, protect your relationship using the tips on page 288. For example, set physical and emotional boundaries for dealing with other people. Also, have a review committee in your mind. In other words, ask yourself: Would hubby, mother-in-law, or sister approve of what I am doing?
Second, communicate with your spouse often. Whether it is by phone, email or handwritten letters, staying in touch is a priority. Always talk about even the positive little things that are going on in your day-to-day activities, and ask about his. Page 290 has even more creative ways to stay in touch, like sending a cotton ball or pair of lacy panties sprayed with perfume or sending a box full of reasons why you love him.
Third, read A Woman’s Got Needs, Too! On Page 82-84 for a few other secrets. (wink, wink)
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