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This is not a subject I am an expert on by any means, but I recently started looking into mental health services provided for military spouses and wanted to share what I've learned. 

As most of know, Tricare can be really confusing. What's covered? What's not covered? Who do I call? What region am I in? What do I need? The questions are endless. I covered quite a bit in my video on Tricare, but one thing I didn't cover was mental health services.

I have been diagnosed with clinical depression and general anxiety disorder in the past and previous sought help for both illnesses. I got better, I stopped taking the medication, and I thought things were good.

Then life happened.

I got married, I got a job, we moved, we had money problems, we moved again, it felt like things weren't going to get better. The every day stresses of life started to wear me down. And now here we are.

I don't have access to the same mental health facilities I did while I was a college student. I don't have that doctor here with me in Idaho at our duty station. And I don't know what Tricare can offer me in terms of mental health services. But I know I need help because I know that I'm sick and I can't get better on my own.

So, after a particularly nasty fight with Jeremy, I decided to start giving help a serious consideration. I researched and researched and honestly I'm still not 100% sure what my options are as a military spouse.

With Tricare, you are entitled to eight visits with an outpatient mental health provider without a referral. Okay, cool. So how do I find an outpatient mental health provider? What even is that? Can they prescribe medication? 

Another option is to talk to your PCM. This is the recommended if you feel you want to discuss medication options. This is probably the step I'll take.

My biggest problem is that at the end of next month I'm moving back to CA for a job while Jeremy stays in Idaho. My PCM also stays in Idaho. Another thing I need to figure out.

For those of you a little more well versed in the world of Tricare I would love some knowledge as the internet as been weak on this particular subject. 

And to those of you struggling with the same or similar illness, I'm sorry. I know how much it sucks, I know how it feels. You aren't alone, as cheesy as that sounds. I'm a good listener if anyone wants to talk.

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Military Spouse Guides by Birdie Jayne Schlusberg - 6M ago

My husband Joey and I have been together 5 and a half years, and married for 2 and a half. He deployed in the beginning of October 2016, so he was gone for our second wedding anniversary. (He was in boot camp for our first wedding anniversary, too, so we haven’t spent one together yet.) I started crying the night before, not able to stop thinking that this was the last night we’d spend together for over six months. He had a pretty early leave time in the day, so we were pretty much just getting up and leaving that morning. I had just started learning to drive a stick shift a few weeks before, and Joey often had me drive places, but I asked him to drive there that morning because I felt too upset to concentrate on it. There were a lot of people already there when we got to the drop off area, mostly in their own small groups. We waited a little while until they had to gather around and listen to some instructions and do a roll call, and then they had another 5 or 10 minutes to say goodbye before boarding a bus. I stayed in the parking lot until I couldn’t see the bus anymore.

I went straight home and had a good cry with our dog. I wanted to be alone, but I also didn’t. One of my friends picked me up around 10 in the morning and took me out to eat and to shop, and our other friend joined us a little later. We baked cookies and they helped clean and organize my house just to be nice and distract me, and they stayed with me that whole day. Even though I wanted to be alone at first, I was very grateful to have them around.

Naturally, the first month or two were pretty hard. I had to get used to being without him again; it was different from when he went to BMT because back then, we still lived in our home state. I lived a 10 minute drive from my mom, 15 minutes from my sisters, or 20 minutes from my dad. Now, I’m a 4 hour flight with no layovers. I felt guilty leaving our dog home alone when I went to work, especially since a lot of the time, I didn’t feel like entertaining him. Soon, it got too cold and there was too much snow to take him on walks, and I could tell he got bored a lot, which made me feel even more guilty. I got angry at him and at little things easily, but I pride myself on being polite and friendly so I never let it show, bottling it up until I was alone. I didn’t want to go out with friends, but I was glad when I did and had a good time.

I did little things to try and make me feel better, like using his car keys and wearing his clothes. I also did things that made it worse, like calculating the exact number of days he was gone at BMT (previously the longest I had gone without seeing him), and then calculating which day in his deployment would break that record and feeling extra sorry for myself that whole day. I sent him an occasional care package, and I even met a friend in person for the first time because she posted on facebook organizing a get-together to decorate care packages for our deployed spouses. We never ended up decorating the boxes, but we did hang out, eat, and get to know each other. My friends who I mentioned earlier had me over for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we hung out the day after Valentine’s day and on Joey’s birthday, all days which would have been harder compared to a regular day.

I think it’s very important to have someone you can talk to or spend time with or vent to; I think I was very lucky in that I had such wonderful friends and even a lot of acquaintances I could talk to, including some who were also going through their spouse’s first deployment, or ones who have been through it before. If I didn’t really know anybody, I probably would have had a much harder time and felt way more alone while Joey was gone. For anybody reading this whose spouse is about to deploy for the first time or already has, I can’t recommend reaching out and talking to someone strongly enough, whether they’re going through the same thing or not.

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Do's and Don'ts of Air Force BMT Letter Writing [A Guide to Writing Letters to Your Trainee in BMT] - YouTube

My husband, Jeremy, went through Basic Military Training for the Air Force December 2015 through February 2016. There are a lot of rules that go into writing letters to your trainee during that time, but even more important are the things they don’t tell you that will make BMT even better for your trainee. So here are my Do’s and Don’ts:

DO:

  • Write as often as possible. If you can write every day, do it. Even if it a half a page about how you went to work and then watched Netflix all night. Your trainee will appreciate it more than you can imagine.
  • Send pictures. BUT make sure they are tasteful. Keep your trainee involved in your life, make them feel less isolated from everything going on at home. BUT DO NOT SEND NUDITY.
  • Make sure that your trainee’s address is accurate and legible. You don’t want their letters getting lost because a simple mistake.
  • Use white envelope only. Your trainee will get picked on by his or her MTIs if you send anything flashy.

DON’T:

  • Send packages, gifts, or cash. It will get take away or thrown away and your trainee will get in trouble. There’s no rule against cash; however, they have to do a lot of paperwork for each bill. They don’t need money for anything while they are there, so hold off until they’re home.
  • Send cards. Similar to flashy envelopes, you don’t want anything that draws attention to your trainee. Stick with simple letters.
  • Send porn or anything else inappropriate.
  • Send food. It will be taken away or thrown away.
  • Send bad news. There is nothing wrong with sharing that you’re sad or that you miss them, but don’t tell them their brother got in a car accident. There is nothing they can do, they won’t be allowed to leave, and it will just distract them and make it harder for them.

The important thing is to make them feel less alone, keep them in the loop and don’t stress them out. Try your best to be positive, but don’t lie to them. You know your trainee best and you know what they’ll be able to handle and what they want to hear.

It can be hard when you are writing every single day and you rarely hear back. Remember that no news is good news and they are busy. I know it can be really tough, but hang in there, it will be over soon.

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Air Force Wife Thoughts on BMT WOT 5 [Military Spouse Guides] - YouTube

The best piece of advice I could ever give you is to SAVE as much as possible before your spouse leaves for BMT. If you don’t have a job that can fully cover your bills for at least a month, and you don’t have savings, BMT is going to be tough on you financially, as well as emotionally.

To use Jeremy as an example, he left for BMT December 15, 2015 and didn’t get paid until January 15, 2016. That first check was approximately $400 dollars. That means that if I hadn’t had a job, I would have been relying on $400 for a month and a half. And to further show how weird BMT pay can be, the next check was $5000. Thankfully for us, the checks evened out by the third one and we haven’t had an issue with pay since (knock on wood). But that’s not the case for everyone.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the times I’ve heard people tell stories about missing paychecks, paychecks that were too small or too big, getting back pay, or even worse, having pay taken back because they had been over paid. Most of these stories come from people in BMT or tech school.

Pay attention to the checks as they get deposited. Know your spouse’s rank and how much they should be getting paid. Know what BAH is for your zip code. After 30 days, you get separation pay. Know these things. Pay attention to them. If you feel like you were overpaid, don’t spend that money.

How much your spouse gets paid every month depends on his or her rank. You can enter the Air Force as an E-1 (Airman Basic), E-2 (Airman), or E-3 (Airman Frist Class) depending on how many college credits you had before enlisting. Ask your spouse what their rank will be before they leave. As far as I know, they will be paid based on the rank they will be once completely BMT. As of January 1, 2016, an E-1 makes $1566.90/month, and E-2 makes $1756.50/month, and an E-3 makes $1847.10/month.

BAH is calculated based on your spouse’s zip code of enlistment, or your zip code if they are different. Usually, BAH covers a region, not just that one zip code. To find your zip code’s BAH, click here.

The last thing you need to know is that your spouse will get separation pay after 30 days. As of January 1, 2016, separation pay is $250/month.

So let’s calculate this out.

Jeremy went into BMT as an E-1. He made $1566.90/month. BAH for our zip code was $3135/month. Add separation pay and he was making $4951.90/month. Divide that by 2 because each paycheck is half of your monthly income, and Jeremy was making $2475.95 per paycheck. (BAH was really high for us because we lived just outside San Francisco and cost of living is insane). So obviously, our first paycheck was really low and our second was really high. That was a good thing to pay attention to just in case it was a mistake.

So why was Jeremy’s first paycheck so low? First of all, every trainee gets $300 taken out of their first check and put on a card that can be used at the BX. They also get uniform fees taken out. The first check covers those first 30 days so there is no separation pay. And finally, we did not receive BAH in the first check, which is why the second check was so much.

I hope this helps to explain how pay in general works and how messed up it can be during BMT. I have horror stories, but the main thing to keep in mind is have savings and pay attention to your pay. If you do those two things, you will be fine.

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Moving Away From Home for the Military [Air Force Wife Guide] - YouTube

When I was 18, I moved 399 miles away from from home. I was going to college. I was ready to here be anywhere but home. I was ready to get out and experience new things, learn new things, and meet new people. And I did. I made lifelong friends, I experienced some crazy things, and most importantly I learned how much I wanted to be surrounded by the people I love forever.

Then Jeremy joined the Air Force and once again, I moved away from home. 665 miles away from not only my family, but all of my best friends. It was a lot harder this time.

We moved from California to Idaho, a state to which I had never been. I knew nothing about Idaho and I knew no one in Idaho.

It has been a rough transition for both of us. No matter how much we want to say we didn’t like California, we are Californians at heart and sometimes we stick out here.

I’ve noticed my sarcastic sense of humor often gets mistaken for me being rude. I talk a little differently, using words like “dude” and “hella,” and phrases such as “yeah, no.”

When you move somewhere new, you become very aware of things you always thought were normal, but turned out to be regional. But eventually you learn to adapt.

Skype, social media, and smart phones have made it increasingly easier to keep loved ones close. I’m constantly texting or tweeting at my friends and family. We’ll be missing Christmas this year, but we plan to Skype/FaceTime our families so it’ll almost be like we’re there!

I know it can be tough, especially if it’s your first time living away from home. Hang in there. You’ll make friends eventually and you’ll have a new place to call home.

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How my husband joining the military has changed my life - YouTube

I say this a lot: military life is hard. You move around, you go places you maybe don’t want to go, you do jobs you don’t want to do, you have to make new friends all the time. Other than financial stability (and maybe a sense of purpose) there aren’t a lot of positives associated with military life. Especially as the spouse.

We often get stereotyped as these sad little puppies that just follow our husbands where they get stationed and we don’t live our own lives. We sit around all day, maybe clean the house and cook dinner. None of us are educated. None of us work. None of us have goals or dreams and even if we do, we can’t pursue them.

None of that is true. At least not for all of us.

Jeremy joining the military has given me so many opportunities that I never would have even imagined. Yes, there are hard times. For both of us. But there have been a lot of positives as well.

1. We are living in a state that we have considered moving to in the past, but didn’t have the financial means to do so. That’s awesome. We got the opportunity to move to Idaho and we love it here. We probably won’t leave.

2. We have a house. Now, we don’t own our house, we rent it, BUT we pay less per month for this house than we paid for half of a two bedroom apartment back home. And that entire apartment could fit in our current living room.

3. The financial stability has given me the opportunity to pursue my creative goals such as blogging and creating YouTube videos. These are things I never would have been able to do when I was working full time back home.

4. If we had kids and I wanted to stay home, I could. That never would have been possible before.

Yes, military life is hard. And it’s not for everyone. And we now know it’s not for us. In 3 more years, we’re leaving it behind. But we will always be great full for the opportunities it has given us. Both of us.

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There's more to us than being military spouses [with Makenna Gott] - YouTube

Seriously, Makenna Gott is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She’s so positive and always smiling and it’s awesome. Also, she gives great advice.

Back in November 2016, I got the opportunity to attend VloggerFair in Seattle, WA. It just so happened that the Gotts were going as well.

For a little background, I have been watching Kyle Gott’s YouTube videos since Jeremy decided he wanted to join the military, which was just about 2 years ago. Around then Kyle and his wife Makenna had started a vlogging channel and I immediately started watching those videos as well. After a while of commenting, messaging, chatting, and starting my own channel we became friends so when we were all going to be in Seattle it was the perfect time to hang out!

One of the things I really want to focus on with my YouTube videos is empowering military spouses. So many of us feel like we have very few options because our options, especially career-wise, are limited to wherever the military sends our spouses. For a lot of us, that’s small towns in the middle of nowhere and career opportunities are limited. Many feel like they have to put their dreams on hold and I don’t believe that’s the case. I believe that as long as we try hard enough and stop making excuses, we can achieve our goals even within the confines of the military lifestyle.

But that’s just my opinion. I want to bring military spouses onto my channel who have basically done this. They haven’t let the military stop them from pursuing their goals. Makenna is one of those people.

A few of the things we talk about are YouTube, modeling, and being a stay-at-home-spouse. We talk about how Kyle’s Air Force career has given them opportunities to pursue dreams they never thought possible. And Makenna shares her best advice with all the people out there who don’t feel like their dreams are attainable. Be sure to check it out and let me know what goals you are trying to pursue!

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Can I live with my Airman during tech school is the one question I seem to get the most often. It depends on a lot of factors, but first and foremost are you on your spouse’s orders?

What does that mean?

When your spouse is getting ready to leave BMT and head to tech school he or she will get orders, which is basically a piece of paper that says where he or she is going and for how long. As a dependent your name will either be on those orders or not.

How can I get my name on their orders?

You can’t. It’s not up to you. If your Airman’s tech school is more than 100 classroom days at one location, your name and any other dependents – such as children – will be on their orders. Tech school length is calculated by days actually spent in a classroom, so weekends, holidays, even teacher work days can factor into the length of your spouses tech school.

Jeremy’s tech school, for example, was 87 classroom days, but he didn’t start until more than a month after he arrived and with all the weekends, holidays, and other days, his graduation was 5 months after his arrival at tech school.

Moving On Orders
What Does it Mean to Move to My Husband's Tech School On Orders? [Moving to Tech School On Orders] - YouTube

If your name is on his or her orders that means the Air Force will pay to move you and any other dependents to your Airman’s tech school and you can live in base housing.

Here’s the tricky part though. Just because you’re on orders doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get to live with your Airman. First and foremost, he or she needs to get through phase one of tech school, also known as ITP or the initial training phase. That process usually lasts about 2-4 weeks. After that your spouse can apply for SepRat, which is the process of moving out of the dorms and into a home with you.

Your Airman will be given a checklist of tasks they must complete, briefings to attend, and paperwork to fill out. These can include, but are not limited to, going to Finance, TMO, Personnel, and the A&FRC. Some Airmen may have to contact key spouses or attend finance and budget classes as well. In addition to completing these tasks, your Airman must also be in good standing, meaning his or her grades meet a certain standard and there are no disciplinary marks on his or her record.

This process can take as little as a few weeks or as much as a few months. Once your Airman completes his or her checklist it is up to the MTL. And occasionally they may not grant it at all.

Nothing is really guaranteed when you’re a military spouse so be prepared that you may move out there and it could take six months for him or her to be able to move in or they may never get the opportunity.

If your Airman’s tech school is more than 100 days and you are not on his or her orders, double check that all 100 days are at one location. Some tech schools are split between two or even three bases, which then would disqualify you from being on orders.

Moving Off Orders
Can I Move to My Airman's Tech School if I'm NOT on Orders? [Tech School Less than 100 Days] - YouTube

Though Jeremy’s tech school wasn’t long enough for me to be on his orders, I moved on my own. Because it was such a short period of time, it didn’t make sense to rent an apartment, plus everything off base in safe areas was really expensive, so I looked into extended stay hotels. I ended up getting a room in a hotel on base and I was there for 99 days, which was the maximum stay they allowed.

Moving off orders means that the Air Force will not pay for your move, they will not put you up in base housing, and your spouse will not be able to live with you. I have heard of one exception to this out of hundreds of people I’ve spoken to, so even though it may be possible to have your spouse live with you off orders, it is extremely rare and definitely not allowed.

For a lot of people, the decision to move off orders to tech school comes down to: is it worth the cost? Because it will cost a lot. For us it was a no-brainer. I had a full time that would allow me to work from home and we missed each other. But I know this isn’t the case for everyone so take a long hard look at what you can afford and what’s best for your family.

Often times, your Airman will be able to get a 29b to stay with you on weekends. Jeremy only had his approved once, so every Friday I would pick him up after class and we would hang out until 11:30 pm when I would take him back to the dorms. I would then get up at 4:00 am Saturday morning and pick him up bringing him back to my hotel where we would hang out until 11:30 pm, I would get him again Sunday morning at 4:00 am and take him back at 5:30 pm. And that was it for every week. Sometimes he would get flag detail or have to work CQ and I would see him even less. Once or twice he had time on weekdays, but that was rare.

Jeremy’s tech school is one of the stricter ones out there, but be aware that you will most likely only see your spouse on the weekends so make sure you have something to fill your weekdays with, such as school or a job.

For us it was worth everything to be together during that time, Jeremy said it kept him sane and for me, I was just done doing the long distance thing after four years of college. It’s a big decision, so make sure your spouse and you are on the same page about what is best for your family.

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Air Force BMT Graduation is a four day event held at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX running Thursday-Sunday after 7.5 weeks of training. It’s best to arrive on Wednesday, as the events start early on Thursday morning.

There are many rules your trainee must follow during graduation weekend, including not wearing civilian clothing unless otherwise told and no public displays of affection. Your trainee will be aware of what they can and cannot do and occasionally the rules can change which is why I will not include all of them.

For a BMT Graduation Map, please click here.

Thursday: Airman’s Run, Orientation Briefings, Coin Ceremony, and Base Liberty

The Orientation Briefings are held at 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. at the Pfingston Reception Center. They will basically repeat everything I’m going to share with you in this guide, but it still doesn’t hurt to go if you would like to. I would recommend sending at least one person to go hold a spot to watch the Airman’s Run if you choose to attend the 7:00 a.m. briefing.

If you haven’t already found out from your trainee what his or her heritage flight is called, it will be up on a big screen in the Reception Center. This will be important for the ceremonies later on.

The Airman’s Run is at 8:00 a.m., but people will start to fight for spots pretty early on. If you go in the winter — like I did — bundle up, it gets cold. The run takes place behind the Reception Center and only lasts a few minutes. Your Airman will be grouped by squadron and then by flight. Each squadron has a specific color they wear:

320 TRS: Red
321 TRS: Dark Gray
322 TRS: Gold
323 TRS: Tan
324 TRS: Maroon
326 TRS: Dark Blue
331 TRS: Black

The different colors makes it a little easier to find your Airman, but you may still miss him or her, as the run isn’t very long. They do run by twice though, so keep your eyes peeled! As long as you’re in the front, there really is no bad place to stand along the run. Keep in mind in the winter they may have on their PT jackets instead of their colored shirt.

Between the run and the Coin Ceremony, we went to get coffee and get warm, which was great. But by the time we got back for the Coin Ceremony, there was almost nowhere left to sit.

The Coin Ceremony starts at 11:00 a.m., but the Honor Graduate Ceremony is before that. To get a good seat, I recommend finding a spot as soon as the run is over and just hanging out there. This ceremony is when your trainee officially becomes an Airman and it is incredibly emotional. Following the ceremony is retreat where we pay tribute to the flag.

Now the fun part!

Immediately following the Coin Ceremony and Retreat your new Airman gets Base Liberty. If they are in the band flight, you will meet them behind the bleachers (which will be announced before everyone is released). If they are not in the band flight, you will get to tap them out from where they stand. This part can be chaotic as everyone is running to try and find their Airman. Best of luck and enjoy the rest of your day with your new Airman!

Base liberty ends at 8:00 p.m., which is when your Airman needs to be back in his dorm so please allow time to get them back so they don’t get in trouble. Congratulations on making it through day 1!

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Air Force BMT Graduation is a four day event held at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX running Thursday-Sunday after 7.5 weeks of training. It’s best to arrive on Wednesday, as the events start early on Thursday morning.

There are many rules your trainee must follow during graduation weekend, including not wearing civilian clothing unless otherwise told and no public displays of affection. Your trainee will be aware of what they can and cannot do and occasionally the rules can change which is why I will not include all of them.

For a BMT Graduation Map, please click here.

Friday: Orientation Briefing, Graduation Parade, Open House, and Town Pass.

The Orientation Briefing is held at 7:15 a.m. at the Pfingston Reception Center. They will basically repeat everything I’m going to share with you in this guide, but it still doesn’t hurt to go if you would like to. If you went on Thursday, don’t go on Friday, it’s the same information.

If you do decide to go, I recommend sending someone over to the Parade Field to save a seat for the Graduation Parade as it can fill up quickly.

The Graduation Parade begins at 9:00 a.m. on the Parade Field, which is only a short walk from the Reception Center. There is a bus for handicap guests.

During the Parade, your Airman will walk the field with his or her TRS/FLT for Pass in Review followed by the Oath of Enlistment.

 

Immediately following the Parade is Squadron Open House where you will have a chance to see your Airman’s dorm. This is optional, but it is fun to see how your Airman has been living for the past two months.

Following Open House, your Airman is released for Town Pass, meaning you are free to leave the base and head out into San Antonio. Town Pass ends at 8:00 p.m. so remember to give your Airman plenty of time to make it back to his or her dorm room!

Be sure to check back soon for more guides to graduation weekend, including fun things to do around San Antonio!

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