December 21, 2009
As we talked about earlier, duty stations are partially determined by which branch service your hubby’s in, and what job he does for that specific branch. Other factors in your station include how popular a certain station is, how long the tour is for, and how much it will cost the military to move you there, and back. For example, if you’re stationed in South Carolina, but really want a post in northwest Washington state, it may be harder to get the military to move you there than it would be to say, Washington, DC. The Pentagon is geographically closer to South Carolina and therefore cheaper for the military to relocate your household. Additionally, factors including marriage and children can play a contributing role in deciding where and for how long you’ll be heading anywhere in particular.
The vast majority of assignments are located within the continental United States (a.k.a. CONUS), but nearly one in five is located outside of that area, or as the military calls it, OCONUS. (They’re a creative bunch -- those military jargon-makers.) Today, most OCONUS duty stations are concentrated in Europe and Japan and welcome families along with their service member (even sites like Bahrain and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have recently opened their gates to families), but there are a few notable holdouts. If your husband should be assigned to an “unaccompanied” tour (such as Korea, parts of Japan, and certain areas in the middle east) it’s really not negotiable, and should be prepared for differently than a typical PCS. In fact, an unaccompanied tour will feel more like a one-year deployment.
Although most unaccompanied tours are for one year or less, and can be tempting to take both financially and as collateral towards a better assignment in the future, they can also be some of the hardest tours in the service. Think carefully about your options before deciding to take one. Many are located in remote areas cut off from communication, and the comforts of home.
Additionally, spouses can find that being separated without the support of a standard deploying unit can make the time go by much more slowly and lead to a lot more resentment than they expected to feel.
When talking to your husband about where you might want to live, try to think of it from the military’s perspective as well, and think about ways to make it a more viable option. Look into picking up skills that are needed at those particular stations, and try to get as close, geographically, as you can, to entice the military into supporting your plans. Keep in mind that some positions (especially officers and higher-ranking NCOs) will be better promotion candidates if they’ve had varied experience in many regions all around the country and world, so look at the big picture, as well as the small, when planning for and negotiating your moves.