Whether you're about to live it or are wondering if it's a viable personal move (as well as a great professional move), there are many questions surrounding drill life. Known as being "on the trail," drill sergeants and their families deal with a schedule and a lifestyle that differs from the rest of the military world. (And the rest of training units for that matter.)
Here are 5 truths of what it's like to live on the trail, and what you can expect as a military spouse or dependent of an incoming drill.
1. It's not like “regular” military life
If you're a milspouse, you think "been there, done that," right? Perhaps your spouse has been deployed, you've experienced several TDYs apart, and more. So if going drill is on the table you might be thinking, NBD. But the truth is, the life of a drill family greatly differs from the rest of the military.
Training units in general are a whole new world, but add in trainees that – at least for a portion of time – have to be supervised at all hours, and you're looking at a schedule that's spotty at best, and an unequal balance of parenting and household responsibilities. Be ready to pick up the slack; life on the trail is by far a family effort.
2. The hours are long
Military spouses are often left to handle things at home for days on end. Middle of the night calls when they have to go into work? Check. Last-minute overnights? Also a yep. Because trainees are involved, planning days ahead doesn't always work. Everything could be listed out in excruciating detail, then something goes incredibly wrong, and drill sergeants have to return to work. Is that always the case? Of course not. Units do their best to keep hours low, but it's always a possibility.
3. Experience depends on unit
Drill schedules take this to a new level. For instance, each MOS has its own timeline for basic and AIT scheduling. Each also comes with various rules on if/when weekends are non-work days, how many drills have to be present at each time, etc. But even furthermore, each individual company has its own rundown for days off, long weekends, especially in OSUT scenarios. (BCT and AIT in one location.)
If you have orders, the best source of information will be those who have been there first.
4. They're loud, but not “in-the-movies” mean
Stephen Colbert learns how "mean" drill instructors can be.
When the "brown round" goes on, the voice escalates. Privates are talked down to, they're encouraged to learn respect, and quickly. Being a drill means your spouse will have to, from time to time, be mean. But don't freak out, either; it's not all it's cracked up to be. Yes, drill school teaches how to break and build incoming soldiers, but personality plays into this, too. Each drill will have their owner leadership style, their own way of being heard. Donning the same headgear as Smokey the Bear won't suddenly make your spouse a screaming, demanding individual.
5. Drills don’t like being gone either
It won't take long for most military spouses to wish they had more time with their always-working spouse. But while they're gone for hours, sometimes days, remember that they don't like the schedule, either. They are likely getting little sleep and training round-the-clock.
Being married to a drill is definitely a grind, but with a solid effort, it's also a great way to fast-track a military career.
Keep in mind that there's light at the end of the tunnel, and incredible honor involved with life on the trail. It's a great way for families to become tight-knit and rely on one another, even with crazy schedules.
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