You never forget your first — that’s what they all say. Whether service member or military spouse, your first duty station sticks with you for the duration of your military existence. Why? Because it’s all-new, and likely not so shiny. You have to learn things the hard way, you never know where anything is located, housing is a mess, and that’s not even the bulk of it.
PCSing certainly gets easier with time, but when it comes to your first move — your first oh-so-very-painful PCS — it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
Take a look at these all-too-common instances as described in totally accurate memes.
When you realize you have no idea what you are doing
2. Finally getting your HHG and trying to unpack like
Are we done yet?
3. Calling the housing office 10 times a day
4. All the training events for new families
Can we go now?
5. Trying to find the closest grocery store:
Do your best work, GPS.
6. Until you finally get acclimated to your surroundings
Everything is different here.
7. Trying to meet the new neighbors like:
8. SRSLY let’s BFF
Find your own kind of weird out there.
9. More unpacking
Seriously how long does this even take?
10. There are just so many distractions
It’ll get done … eventually.
Your first move, and your first duty station stick with you for the long haul. More often than not, it’s because of the growing pains along the way. Tell us about your most difficult lessons learned with your first PCS experience.
There’s always at least one person in every deployed unit who brings their guitar with them. Sometimes it’s because they want to learn how to play and decide their down time as the perfect opportunity to practice. Sometimes they just can’t part with their baby for 12 months.
Either way, you’ll find them hanging around the smoke shack playing for the masses. If they’re at the point where they’re willing to play for their squad in between missions, they’re probably pretty good at it. Here’s why:
If you start playing, others will stop what they’re doing — giving you even more free time. Just saying.
(Photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)
They’ve got plenty of time to practice.
Contrary to popular belief, there actually is down time on a deployment. Which unit you’re serving in will determine how much time that is, but everyone can at least have a moment to breathe.
If the guitarist brought an acoustic guitar, they can play it whenever and wherever they feel like it.
But thankfully they’ll stop caring before the guitar solo comes up.
(Photo by Pfc. Nathan Goodall
They learn to take requests.
There’s a handful of songs everyone who first picks up a guitar has to learn how to play. Iron Man, Smoke on the Water, Seven Nation Army, and eventually Stairway to Heaven. They’re kind of ‘rite of passage’ songs.
But not everyone on the deployment gets that and everyone will always request Free Bird.
It’s always a great time when other musicians get together.
(Photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)
They play all genres.
When you first pick up a guitar, you’ll play what you know and play what you like. But the deployment guitarist, after taking requests from everyone, learns to play all sorts of genres of music. Especially if they find other gifted musicians or singers in the unit.
Rock guys learn to play gospel. Country guys learn to play pop. And everything in between. As long as you’ve got someone to play with, you’ll learn their style too.
And I’m just saying, from personal experience, it’s also very common in the aid station since the guitarist is often times a corpsman or medic.
(Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)
They’ll play to the battalion or just a handful of smokers.
An odd thing happens when command teams find artists in their unit. They’ll single them out and voluntell them to share their art with the unit. Normally, this never bothers them because they just love playing.
But more often than not, they’re usually in the smoke pit — just strumming away at whatever comes to mind.
If they brought an electric guitar, oh yeah…they have passion.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)
They really do have the passion in their art.
A good guitar isn’t cheap. A beginner’s guitar can run you around 0 but the ones our semi-pros play on are up in the 0-00 range.
If they’re willing to risk losing that money by having their guitar get damaged though out a deployment, play in front of their brothers-in-arms, risk ridicule if they suck, and still get out there and perform — they’ve got as much passion as any recording artist out there.
With so many war movies out there to choose from, not many come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.
Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the war efforts of our service men and women were predominantly overlooked as they returned home.
Chris Taylor, played by Charlie Sheen, just landed in the “Nam” with a fresh shave and a stainless uniform. Before saying a word to anyone, he was automatically picked apart by war-harden soldiers passing by.
In war and in life, it doesn’t matter how you start the game — it’s how you finish it.
“Welcome to the suck, boot.” (Image via Giphy)
2. You have to keep up
Being in the infantry is one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs ever. You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest, but you need to pull your own weight…literally.
Move it! Move it! Move it! (Image via Giphy)
3. Staying positive
In the eyes of a “newbie,” the world can seem and feel like one big sh*t show — especially if you’re burning a barrel of sh*t with diesel fuel.
Finding new ways to approach a bad situation can boost morale — especially when you have a lot of time left in the bush.
Negativity can get you hurt, positivity can get you through it. (Image via Giphy)
4. We’re all the same
Regardless of what your race, religion, or education level — when it comes down to being a soldier in a dangerous combat zone, none of those aspects means a thing.
Preach! (image via Giphy)
5. Never quit
Sgt. Elias, by played Willem Dafoe, was intentionally left behind by Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) with the hope the V.C. would kill him off.
Although Elias struggled to stay in the fight, after taking several AK-47’s rounds, he showed the world he’s truly a warrior.
His back must have been killing him. (Image via Giphy)
6. War changes a man
The bright-eyed bushy-tailed boy that showed up in the beginning isn’t the thousand yard staring man who stands in front of you now.
When service members deploy to a combat zone, they get a checklist of gear they’re required to bring that will help them survive.
But many service members end up hauling ridiculous items along with them that they don’t need.
Anything can happen along the way to combat zones; troops could end up in an area that only has electricity for three hours a day and no running water, in which case, that brand-new Nintendo Wi really won’t do much.
So check out our list of silly things service members bring with them to war:
1. A sh*t-ton of cash
It’s okay to bring a little pocket change, but just be mindful because we’ve seen troops bring hundreds of dollars with them just to be stationed at a combat outpost where there is virtually nothing to buy.
ISIS failed to open a Super Target location near your new command post.
Yes. We’re all happy when a new Super Target store opens. (Images via Giphy)
2. Sports equipment
Having a football, basketball, or a soccer ball handy for some leisure activity while you’re deployed is a great way to relieve stress. But cramping these items into your already stuffed sea bag maybe a bad idea.
They make great care package items though. Write that down. (Images via Giphy)
3. Beach toys
Do we need to emphasize why you shouldn’t pack a pool noodle or an inflatable pool? Service members have done it before — we’ve seen it.
Don’t let that kid be your JTAC. (Images via Giphy)
4. An expensive laptop
Deployment movie nights are basically defined as everyone gathering around one laptop. But it’s not necessary to bring one that’s top of the line with the capability to hack into a secure website or Deejay at your local FOB.
You just don’t need that much power.
Remember, war can get dirty, and grit will find its way in between the keys — it could ruin it.
No matter what tech you bring, please don’t dance like this…ever. (Images via Giphy)
5. Unauthorized clothing
Halloween costumes, wigs, and designer clothes don’t have a real place in that already stuffed seabag.
By all means, have them sent to you in an excellent care package though. You could make a YouTube video and become internet famous. Priorities.
Mouse ears are a great choice to send to your deployed friend or spouse. ISIS will love it. (Images via Giphy)
Yes. Service members have been known to pack their X-boxes and PlayStations into their gear and pass them through customs. But many don’t take into account whether they can actually hunt down a TV to play on.
Just something for you to think about before you deploy.
Looks intense. He must be a POG. (Images via Giphy)
What random stuff did you see people pack with them on deployment?
If you’ve ever served in the Army, you know chain of command is everything. Orders flow down from the Commander, and the success of the mission is a direct reflection of the rigor and discipline with which his or her subordinates execute.
If you’ve ever worked in a gourmet kitchen, you know that chain of command is everything. Orders flow down from the Chef, and the success of the meal service is a direct reflection of the rigor and discipline with which his or her subordinates execute.
Cute, right? Yeah, it’s true though. The parallels between a deployed military force and a busy professional kitchen are abundant and revealing. Discipline, hierarchy, preparation, trust in team — it’s all there. And no one gets this more clearly than Army veteran Will Marquardt, who now serves as Chef de Cuisine (second in command) to celeb Chef Ludo Lefebvre in his five-star Hollywood hole-in-the-wall, Petit Trois.
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl took the 405 to the 10 to drop in on Petit Trois, where he found a young lieutenant at the top of his game, executing dish after perfect dish with precision, exemplary leadership, and an added dash of creativity.
During his time in the Corps, Hackman was demoted three times for leaving his post without proper authorization.
After Hackman had been discharged, the San Bernardino native went on to study journalism and TV production at the University of Illinois. By 30, he had broken into a successful acting career and would be nominated for five Academy Awards and winning two for his roles in “The French Connection” and “Unforgiven.”
Hackman is credited with approximately 100 film and TV roles and is currently retired from acting.
General Vincent Brooks has a tough job. As the commander of all American forces in Korea, he is responsible for the lives of some 20,000 U.S. troops. That’s big. But if North Korea attacks South Korea, the four-star general suddenly becomes the leader of up to 4 million joint U.S.-South Korean regulars and reservists.
Since 1981, the general staff on the Korean Peninsula has been organized as a combined staff, led by an American four-star general with a South Korean deputy commander of equal rank. If attacked by North Korea, this Combined Forces Command will command the joint air, sea, and ground defenses of the South.
The national duality of shared command exists throughout the CFC command structure. Anywhere an American officer is in command, the deputy is from the Republic of Korea. Anywhere an ROK officer is in command, the deputy is an American.
This structure exists from the tactical level all the way up to the overall commander.
This is not true for other nations who share a mutual defense treaty with the United States. In Japan, for example, the U.S. will still come aid in defending the nation, but the Japanese would retain their overall command structure.
When the Republic of Korea and American military do their annual, 200,000-man strong joint exercises (you know, the ones that piss off the North Koreans as they quake in their boots), the Combined Forces Command oversees that exercise.
For General Vincent Brooks, those exercises must be a necessary deterrent from North Korean aggression, even as the war of words exchanged between the Kim Regime and the Trump White House escalate.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Airmen from Los Angeles Air Force and March Air Reserve Base pilot battery-powered mini F-16 jets down the red carpet during the 86th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade in Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 26, 2017. The annual live parade is an American tradition, featuring 5,000 participants, attracting more than one million people on the streets of Hollywood and broadcasting to nationwide network televisions during the holiday season.
Smoke emanates from Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicolas Strickler’s M9 pistol during small-arms live-fire sustainment training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Nov. 29, 2017. During the live-fire training exercise, the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron Airmen honed their marksmanship skills, transitioning between firing the M9 pistol and M4 carbine. Strickler is a tactical air control party specialist assigned to the 3rd ASOS.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Peña)
Paratroopers with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division wait to board a C-17 Globemaster III from the 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., on Green Ramp here during a Battalion Mass Tactical Exercise Nov. 28. Airmen in the 43d Air Mobility Operations Group at Pope Field are supporting air and ground crews from several Air Mobility Command units during the exercise, providing operations, maintenance, Aerial Port, fuels, ground equipment and other support. Airlift here is provided through the Joint Airborne/Air Transportability Training program — or JA/ATT — giving Airmen opportunities to train for real-world airlift operations with other services.
An M1A2 Abrams tank from 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division fires its main weapon, a 120mm canon, during Gunnery Qualification Table VI on November 28, 2017. Gunnery Qualification Table VI evaluates the tank crew on engaging stationary and moving targets in defensive and offensive postures. 1-8 Cav. has been training at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex since early November and will continue into December before returning to Camp Humphreys.
Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Derrick Elliott from Bunnlevel, North Carolina, shoots a 9 mm pistol as his line coach, Lt. Andrew Spilling from St. Louis, watches during a small arms gun shoot on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21). New York, components of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are conducting a Combined Composite Training Unit Exercise that is the culmination of training for the Navy-Marine Corps team and will certify them for deployment.
U.S. Navy Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and prepare to render honors to the USS Arizona Memorial as the ship departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Nov. 29, 2017, in the Pacific Ocean. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific region routinely for more than 70 years promoting peace and security.
Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force conduct a low-light deck shoot to maintain marksmanship proficiency while underway aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), Nov. 26, 2017. Marines maintain accuracy with the M16A4 assault rifle and M9 pistol. The 15th MEU and America Amphibious Ready Group are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, and to preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
Lance Cpl. David Gaytan, an aircraft ordinance technician with Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 214, checks an AV-8B Harrier before the removal of ordnance during Exercise Winter Fury 18 at Marine Corp Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 29. Marines prepared several Harriers to support Winter Fury 18, which spans several locations including Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, MCAS Miramar and MCAS Yuma, Ariz.
Coast Guard Station Islamorada boatcrew members observe a vessel fire in Tarpon Basin near Key Largo, Florida after arriving on scene with Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission marine units, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. The boatcrew assisted in putting the fire out by utilizing the wash from their propeller.
Heavy snowflakes fall around a pair of Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters in Kodiak, Alaska, Nov. 29, 2017. Alaska-based Coast Guard aircrews train to respond even in snowy conditions.
Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Arianna Gunn is relentless. Yes, that’s a rating in the Coast Guard. And it’s no joke to the men and women who work that job. The Coast Guard, like any force in history, runs on its stomach.
Gunn’s drive to serve fresh, delicious, inventive, bar-raising gourmet meals to the crew members of her Coast Guard Cutter, Cochito, powers that vessel as surely as the twin diesels in its engine room. As it conducts long patrols of U.S. coastal waters, searching, rescuing and advancing the mission of the Department of Homeland Security, Gunn’s role in maintaining operational morale cannot be overstated.
Like Meals Ready to Eat host August Dannehl learned when he joined the Cochito on patrol, as far as ship’s cooks go, FS2 Gunn is in a class of her own.
She’s not a recipe follower so much as a recipe pioneer. She gathers her ingredients at local markets and farm stands. She joyfully invents dishes working in a galley the size of a closet. She defines the rhythm of the Cochito’s days at sea by the anticipation and delivery of each of her remarkable meals.
“There are times during this job, during a search and rescue case off shore, we don’t sleep, it’s too rough to eat, it’s almost unbearable. And coming back into calmer waters, looking forward to that amazing home cooked meal, that just brings everybody together,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Stephen Atchley, Coast Guard Cutter Cochito.
We could wax on about the culinary virtuosity of FS2 Gunn, but instead, we’ll hit you with some optics as an appetizer.
Uncle Jesse would say “Have mercy.” (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
Most sailors who go out on deployment don’t get into trouble. Others may find themselves on the wrong side of the shore patrol, though. Much of that can be minor, and is usually addressed with a loss of pay, or placing a sailor on restriction. But in some cases, that sailor needs to be confined.
Now, when you’re deployed to the Middle East, Mediterranean, or some other hot spot, it’s hard to ship the guy (or gal) back to the States to lock them up. So, on carriers and other large ships, the jail is brought with them – and it’s called the brig.
And in case you think that an upcoming battle earns some leeway for misbehavior, you’d best keep in mind that heading towards a fight won’t keep a sailor from getting tossed in the brig. In the book “Miracle at Midway,” historian Gordon Prange related how Marc Mitscher, captain of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8), threw a couple of sailors in the brig for minor infractions prior to the Battle of Midway.
In many cases where that is necessary, the sailors are sent to the brig after what is known as a “Captain’s Mast,” which is covered under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. According to Naval Orientation, the amount of time someone may be confined is limited. The exact limits depend on the rank of the commanding officer and the rank of the accused. The chart below from the linked manual explains those limits.
The video clip below is from the 2008 documentary mini-series “Carrier,” produced by Mel Gibson’s production company. It provides a tour of the brig on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as it was in 2005.
America’s first warriors are also the first to defend America. As a people, American Indians are disproportionately dedicated to the defense of the United States; yet, as it has been pointed out many times, they don’t always get a fair shake.
But they deserve our respect. Our warrior culture starts with their warrior culture. No other group in America gave so many of their own as selflessly.
1. American Indians enlist in wildly disproportionate numbers.
When we received PCS orders to the Washington D.C. area, our plans certainly did not include living in a hotel for six months with an escape artist cat.
In our minds, we would be in temporary lodging for a few weeks while we closed on a new house. With a July move, we fully expected to have household goods delivered by August and be celebrating the holidays in our new home.
My husband and I had firmly decided we wanted to buy a house in the area. He was a cyber operations specialist and I had just separated active duty myself, and still maintained a current security clearance. Between a heady mix of defense contractor jobs available for me and the likelihood of an extended military assignment for him, we knew buying would be a smart move.
We had no idea that decision might take six months.
Due to a ridiculously tight housing market, we struggled to find anything that fit our realistic, non-million dollar budget. Homes that did fit our needs were gone in hours. Others needed such extensive repairs, as to be unfeasible. Days ticked by, summer eased into fall and by the time we finally found a 1950’s Cape Cod with renovations we could actually afford, our California wardrobe of shorts and flip-flops were useless. Our winter clothes were in our household goods, which had gone into storage, and I had received a job offer working downtown – which required a new professional wardrobe. We shook our heads in frustration at trying to figure out how to make living in a hotel with 250 square feet of space functional.
It turned out to be a very powerful lesson in embracing minimalism.
What is Minimalism?
Minimalism can best be explained over many mediums. It appears in art, music, fashion and architecture. Merriam Webster defines it as, “a style or technique characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.” Others explain minimalism as a lifestyle. In the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo challenges readers to evaluate what items in their environment bring them joy and how to eliminate clutter with the KonMari Method. The military tends to define and embrace minimalism as doing “more with less.”
In our own lives, as we learned to function and live with less, we slowly discovered several advantages in a lifestyle stripped down to the essentials.
1. Re-evaluating purchases
We quickly realized any purchases brought into our tiny space had to be carefully evaluated. Limited by pure square footage and storage capacity, we were forced us to bring in less of everything. It didn’t take long for the habit to become second nature and lead to new shopping patterns.
2. Saving more than just money
As we shopped smarter and bought only essentials, we weren’t surprised that we started saving real money. What did come as a surprise however, was the feeling of actually having more. With less physical space to fill up, and a reduced urge to do so, we not only gained more money and time, we also gained a fresh sense of renewed mental space. Adopting a minimalistic lifestyle created more room for things that mattered.
3. Collecting experiences versus things
Instead of collecting “stuff” that always seemed to turn into clutter, we developed a new focus on collecting fresh experiences. We had more money to travel, to explore new neighborhoods or try a unique restaurant. We quickly embraced this new feeling of liberation – and I knew unequivocally that we had made a permanent lifestyle shift.
4. A new sense of freedom
By the time we finally moved into our home, we were ready for a new change. As we slowly unpacked the sky-high boxes, we realized that by living in a hotel with less, we had refined our priorities. What we truly needed was quickly distinguishable from what could be culled and eliminated. As a result, our next PCS was cleaner and lighter, which turned out to be a very powerful lesson for an overseas assignment. We were allotted 14,000 pounds for Germany and couldn’t help but giggle when our household goods topped the scales at a mere 3,700 pounds.
What began as a challenging PCS turned into a beautiful and liberating life lesson in simplicity. And couldn’t we all use a little more simplicity in this crazy, but wonderful military life.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.