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Atlanta military 101: How to understand your new service member

Military families face many challenges. Support them by understanding and accepting those challenges.
Military families face many challenges. Support them by understanding and accepting those challenges.
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With Atlanta military bases like Dobbins, Gillem and McPherson as well as local armories such as in Douglasville, it’s inevitable that civilian and military lives will mix. This mix, as is often the case, can include marriage and family.

While those in the military “know” often easily accept the rigors of a military existence; constant moves, relocations to faraway stations, stressful work hours and conditions and, unfortunately... war, civilians who may have never been exposed to such challenges may find these situations and transitions difficult to understand.

Perhaps having never faced such a challenging existence, it may be best for civilians to take advice from their new military service family members as far as the necessary standards go. But a few of the most obvious challenges a civilian family may need to understand can include such things as military pay, base locations, leave times and necessary career decisions.

While the military provides for housing and medical, military pay may be low for a young service member with less than two years time and grade on duty. A service member with no dependents, with under two years of service, may make somewhere around 1500-1700 dollars a month base pay-give or take- but may make a bit more with dependents depending upon how many. They also must account for haircuts and essentials; not to mention if they provide for children (which raises the pay but should still be budgeted responsibly) and the occasional movie break or time out with friends. So their pay must be considered. While it’s a good earning for a young person starting out, the pay is still tight and this should be understood by civilian family and friends. Visitation expenses should be the responsibility of the family and friends in the first few years of a young military member's or family's life.

Base locations can vary depending upon branch and career choice or assignment. It may be wonderful for your family to remain close at hand and stationed nearby at an Atlanta area base, but their long-term future goals should be considered before the needs or wants of others. Civilian family members must understand that, by and large, their new service family member has no choice in the matter. While they can make requests on their “wish chit”, that gives them the opportunity to list their base of preference, they often do not get their first choice. They will be stationed where the military orders them to go and they must go for as long as the military orders stipulate.

For every day the military member works, they receive time off. This is called “leave”. Leave accumulates over the span of each month and the military member uses it at his or her discretion. Leave must be approved. This does not make the military bad or unreasonable. It is a means to ensure that the country remains safe with each military post manned while offering the opportunity for each service member who wants to take their leave, may do so in a fair and timely manner. Your new military service family member is required to put in for leave on his or her own and this should be done well in advance of any planned visit to avoid possible issues.

It’s very important that the needs of the service member be observed and considered. Service members are in highly stressful positions no matter their career choice. Some must travel extensively. Others, even though base-bound, must look out for those who are deployed and it is their duty- 24/7- to make sure their brothers-and-sisters-in-arms are well cared for and safe.

If you are welcoming a new service member into your civilian family, you must understand their limitations and accept them so they will feel welcomed and comfortable in your family. You should be proud of your new service family member and understand their special circumstances. They're proud of their choice. You should be too!

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