Supporting Your Spouse During ALS (Airman Leadership School)

Ahhhh, going back to Anchors & Planes basics today… a new step in the military life. One of my most popular blog series is about Basic Training. After BMT, we headed for Tech, first duty station, multiple deployments, training’s, and most recently ALS (Airman Leadership School.)

My husband tested out of cycle post-recent deployment, and found out he made Staff Sergeant (SSgt / E-5) just a few days after our son was born. It was such a surprise to him, but not to me; he is a natural born servant -hearted leader. So the next steps included several testings, CDC’s and ALS. Your loved one, no matter the branch, may have to take the school at another base. Luckily, we got to stay together this time! His class was on base, so it was only a five minute commune. His time in the class was different then his normal work schedule, so Anakin didn’t get to spend much time with him during the week, but the weekend were our jam (when he wasn’t doing homework.)

Your loved one may mention a few events that are taking place during the class: Class potluck/ BBQ, flag ceremony, and graduation. My husband was very casual in mentioning them, and putting no pressure on me to go to them, but was clear in saying “you’re invited” and “kids welcomed” or “I think kids can’t go.” The BBQ was super casual, and I brought Anakin hoping to meet other new moms… but there were only small handful of spouses. Which was great because everyone wanted to meet our baby, but a little intimidating when the ALS teachers decided to sit with us *tries to act civilized.*

When Anakin and I came back a couple weeks later for the flag ceremony, I was shocked to see only one other spouse there. The ALS teacher and base commander came over to chat and play with Anakin. One looked at Anakin saying, “You won’t remember today, but your daddy will never forget you being here for him.” Y’all, I wanted to cry. No matter how busy I am, how tired I am, how piss-y Anakin is – we will always do whatever it takes to be there for Davis. Sometimes showing support is just showing up.

So unlike my previous posts about supporting your loved one in the military, I am going to ask my husband, Davis, about how he felt the past month…

How did you feel supported by me?
Davis: I felt supported by you watching Anakin all day. Even when I came home, you watched him everyday, all day.

How did you not feel supported?
Davis: I didn’t feel not supported.

Looking back, what would make you not feel supported? Like if I did these things, it would make your time in ALS harder?
Davis: Hmm, complain about schedule. Complain about how much homework I had to do in the beginning. If you didn’t going to graduation without a good reason.

What would be “a good reason” to miss graduation?
Davis: Not having a baby sitter that you trusted, working – stuff like that.

If you could give anyone advice going into ALS, what would it be?
Davis: Take good notes and manage your time wisely.

I hope you enjoyed this post! ALS is short time that plays a big part in our loved one’s military career. Here is a vlog from the day of the flag ceremony and graduation; overall it just shows you it doesn’t matter how your day is going or how you’re dressed – sometimes you gotta just show up!

Davis, I am so thankful for you. For your hard work, for your fatherly heart, for your servant-hearted leadership. I love our beautiful life together, our family – and giving all the glory to God!

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Graduation Weekend! [Friday/Saturday/Sunday

It is now Sunday night, and I must admit… I’m exhausted. Today we said our good-byes again to our Airman, as he moves on from Basic Training and moved to a new base! But lets back it up a bit…

Friday was the Graduation ceremony at the parade fields, and holy cow, it was beautiful. Flags, retired planes, Airmen galore, MTI’s and families gather to watch these flights gradate from Basic Training and move on in their careers! We started the day off by grabbing Starbucks at the “mini Bx” then getting parking right next to the parade field. It was raining… the entire ceremony. Fortunately it was not cancelled and moved to the dorm! The Airmen toughed it out, and families were able to pop out the umbrellas.

PicMonkey sxassax

After the ceremony, we got to take a room tour of our Airman’s dorm! We met the MTI’s and visited their “Day Room” and our Airman’s wall locker. Next, we took our Airman off base for the first time to grab food at the Riverwalk. Then to the hotel to relax, watch tv, listen  to music, and catch up!

On Saturday, we adopted two more Airmen, and visited SeaWorld San Antonio! Because it was raining again, I bought a pancho haha. We all enjoyed the park’s games, rides, and exhibits. After, we returned to the hotel for time to relax. Today’s choice of TV: Southpark.

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Because our Airman was in Warrior Flight, they got one more town pass! Sunday, our two adopted Airmen, and our own, went out for a big breakfast at IHOP. After we returned to the hotel and jumped in the Jacuzzi (*MTI approved*). At 1PM, we went to the Chapel for church service… this was probably my favorite part of the entire weekend. The church was packed with hundreds of Trainees and Airmen worshiping. They worshiped their hearts out, and it was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. Before the service, I was having a hard time accepting that this was the last day… but a peace came over my heart with the goodbyes that were about to come. No matter what we face in life, the Lord will always prevail, and this was utterly and completely apart of His plan. We were without a doubt supposed to be in that place, at that time… together.

After the service, we returned to the Riverwalk with the three Airmen for lunch, and then back to the base to send them off at 6PM 😦 This entire experience has been so amazing! Every letter, every call, every “only [x] days left,” was totally worth it four these amazing four days. I hope you and your Airman get to adventure and spend time together. I wish them the best of luck in their new adventures! For me? My counter is being reset for 7 months until I see my Airman again. Some will say it’s difficult, but I think loving my Airman is the easiest thing in the world ❤

Graduation Weekend! [Arrival/Thursday]

Congratulations to your Airman on their way to graduation weekend! For this weekend, I get to say congratulations to my Airman! After a long 8 1/2 weeks, you are now an Airman for the greatest Air Force in the world!

For you supporters traveling to Lackland AFB (TX) for the Graduation events, I pray for your safe travels! It is definitely an  overwhelming, once-in-a-lifetime experience. My fiance’s parents, brother, and I flew from California to Houston, TX , then drove to San Antonio, TX on Wednesday (the day before the coin ceremony). We checked in, got familiar with the area, enjoyed our first Texas drinks and dinner, then relaxed in our hotel room.

PicMonkey scsZ

Thursday (Airman’s Run, Coin Ceremony) was so amazing! After not seeing my fiance for over eight weeks, this was an incredibly emotional morning. I highly recommend attending the orientation for family/ spouses. There is many guidelines for what you can and can not do both on and off base! After everyone lined up with their banners and watched our Airmen run with their flights. We didn’t see him right away because he was on the opposite side, but luckily while snapping pictures, we spotted him! This picture was the first time I seen him since MEPS, so I instantly cried haha. If your Airman is on the opposite side, don’t relocate! They will run by again in the opposite direction. Seeing him this close was really awesome! His entire flight was beaming with pride as they were titled “Warrior Flight.”

After the run, we snagged seats closest to where his flight was (top of bleachers is best! Shade and back rest!) The entire ceremony was incredible. You will watch your Airman receive their coin which means they are no longer trainees, HOOYAH! After the ceremony you get to “tap out” your Airman by tapping their shoulder or by hugging them (I may or may not have blacked out and went straight for the kiss).

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The rest of the day, he was on base liberty (meaning he is required to stay on base at all times). We went bowling, to the mall, and ate tons of food! We also got to hang out with his Wingman all day as well, which was twice the fun! We visited all the planes and brought them back to their dorms at 8PM.

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I wish you and your new Airman the best of luck! I will try to cover Friday and Saturday’s events tomorrow night! Much love 

xoxo

HOW TO SURVIVE BASIC TRAINING (THE SUPPORTERS GUIDE) PT. 2

If you are just joining, and are interested on Weeks 0-3 please click here to read my post on those weeks. If you are here to read about my experience with weeks 4-8, aloha!

We are on day 58 of basic training! 8 weeks, 1344 hours, 80,640 minutes, 4,838,400 seconds of being apart, but who’s counting? In just a few days we will be on our way Texas for graduation weekend! We are so excited to see Davis, and proud of his accomplishments! But enough about what is to come, lets go over the past few weeks.

First thing I recommend doing, if you haven’t done so already: join WingMoms. You don’t have to be a mom, you can be a sibling, spouse, supporter, whatever! I stumbled across WingMoms on Facebook, and was so impressed by their incredible support. They have lists of all of the FLTs, so you can join groups of other supporters cheering on an Airman in the same flight as yours! In my group, everyone shared as much information as possible. The best part, is that the group leaders have already experienced being a mom during basic training, so they have amazing advice. I found this group helped most with phone calls! I knew when to expect a call, which helped a ton at work. I was blessed enough to have a boss very supportive of my relationship and let me take a break when these calls came in. But back to WingMoms! Their site is filled with week by week information, and graduation information (their maps and schedules are on point). Their Facebook page even lets you chat with active members and MTI’s! I forgot to mention, the admin leaders wished me good night and good morning every single day through out basic training. I used to hear it from my Airman, and when it suddenly stopped… it was not fun. But these ladies and men have been such a blessing! Click here to be linked to their site.

During week 4-8, write write write. My AB looked forward to letters and pictures throughout these weeks. The days are long! Although they are getting the hang of BMT, everyday they face more challenges  and more studying. Especially with BEAST weeks during WOT6! My AB was not allowed to mail out letters or call, but he did receive them. Write encouraging words! After a while, I was bored of telling him about my own life, and how much I missed him, so I started to include some “Pin-spiration” with quotes and artistic ideas! I sent him pictures of all of my recent art projects and events I was attending or hosted. His favorites were pictures of the kids in our families or the letters/ drawings they sent him! During WOT7 they are under high stress with evaluations almost every day. They won’t have time to write often, but when they call, encourage them and let them know thy have your support. Many are trying to make honors so they can have one more day off base with their families. For some, they need encouraging to try their absolute hardest, and they will excel far beyond the bare minimum! Some may even shoot for WARHAWK, so cheer them on, and pray for them!

I must admit, these weeks were a lot easier for me emotionally and mentally. There is now a light at the end of the tunnel. The days are long, but the weeks go by fast! Even the days with no letters or calls, I was still so proud of him, and excited to see him. I have had a countdown on my phone, which helps to watch that ugly little number get prettier and prettier! I’ve had amazing support between my sister, his family, and WingMoms! Sometimes the friends closest to you can’t always relate. I had to invest into different friendships while keeping old ones, which was a really good thing. It’s painful to think of someone not caring, but they just don’t understand. Don’t burn bridges with your loneliness (or ego), instead just accept the change! The last thing we all need is an ounce of negativity, so let your light shine and embrace what is to come… graduation!

I hope this posts helps some of you who are about to be a supporter, or are currently! I look forward to making one last post on BMT on GRADUATION WEEKEND! If you have any questions or additional advice on Weeks 4-8, leave a comment below, and I will do my best to share my experience with you.

-XOXO

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(via Instagram @aangeladriana)

How to survive Basic Training (The Wife’s/ Fiance’s/Girlfriend’s/Supporters Guide)

If you have come across this post, it was most likely not by accident. If you are anything like me, you googled, “What is going to happen in Basic Training for my AB (Airman Basic)?!” or if you’re identical to me, “What am I going to do during Basic Training?!”

So your loved one has decided to join the military and now is time for them to leave for basic training. The time before they leave for basic training will be full of emotion for the both of you, but keep in mind that they are the ones going through it and you are their supporter. They are full of emotions both good and bad, so let them know how much you care for them and that they can do it. Until they leave, try and spend as much time with them, and encourage them to spend more time with their families and loved ones. Try and do things with them to prepare  as  team. My AB and I went shopping together for his “packing list”, and it was so cool to share that with him. It felt like we, as a unit, were getting ready for the change and embracing it (don’t worry I made sure he didn’t get name brand everything, gotta watch those funds yaknow?) Try to lift your future Airman to peaceful and calm spirits about their choice when they feel down; our happy place was with our church family, and praying for peace, joy, and patience.

The process of leaving and basic training are straight forward. They have their ceremony, say their goodbyes, get processed, *boom* they are on their way to basic training. What isn’t so straight forward is what is going to happen while they are there as far as communicating with you. Can we write them? Can they write back? When are their phone calls? Do they get Instagram breaks? What do you mean they don’t get Instagram breaks?

I have searched high and low on military wives blogs. I’ve found stories of rainbows and daisies, and I’ve found stories of completely crazy experiences (like that I can’t repeat because they were so scary for Airmen). Here I am going to share my personal experiences with my AB as we go through them! So they are fresh and raw for you to get a brief idea on what it is like for a supporter during Basic Training. Some of my experiences are far different from others I have heard or read, and in some cases, spot on/ the same. Keep in mind that anything can differ for you and your Airman. There are many factors that can differ, but we all have one thing in common, we love our AB’s.

Basic Training is currently 8 1/2 weeks long (I say currently because it used to be 6, but whatever Mr. Changed It To Be Longer.) Right now my AB has been in Basic Training for 24 days (end of week WOT3). In BMT there are 0-8 weeks. For a breakdown of what your AB will be learning, here is a list of the WOT’s http://afwm.org/category/wot/

Our first call was the morning after his flight arrived at Lackland AFB (much sooner than expected). The AB’s only have three minutes to call, provide an address, and hang up. The recruiter recommended that we “ignore” the call, so the address can be repeated.  Some answer their phones, and are not ready to write down the address. If this happens, you can still get your AB’s address by calling the Air Force Basic Training Reception center at (210) 671-3024. I listened to my AB’s voice-mail about twenty times, and still had the address wrong, but my first few letters still were received. They also mail out their address, along with graduation information (I was devastated when I thought this envelope was a letter, so be prepared!)

When writing letters, keep in mind that your Airman is in a new environment, and even those good at adapting to change will not consider BMT Disneyland.  Keep letters upbeat and positive. Motivate. Let them know they are missed so much, but don’t say things like, “I wish you didn’t leave, two months is too long” or “If it is too difficult, you can always come back home.” Be their cheerleader, and let them know failure is not an option (in a good way)! Like “I miss you, but what you are doing is amazing. ” or “I know it is difficult, but think of how rewarding it will be to be a US Airman!” My AB loves to know that I am praying for his flight, and when I send verses on strength, courage, brotherhood, and love.

A trend you will notice on all blogs or sites is: “write them EVERYDAY.” At first I was writing every few days. My life is not exciting enough to write a letter everyday! But the first and last thing my AB wrote on his first letter is “please write everyday, even twice a day!” Mail Call will be the highlight of their day. When they hear their name, they feel loved. This is their time to connect with you! They may not write back often, but they want to know what is going on in your life, in their families life, and even their pets. My AB was allowed small pictures, so I send pictures of our niece and nephew, our siblings, his pets, house projects, new things I buy or are gifted, etc. It makes him feel “in the lop.loop.” I go as far as to make sure he sees every post on social networking before I post it (too crazy?)!

Things not to send:

  1. Pictures before given permission. Never n00dz, ya nasty!
  2. Care packages! This is MTI ammo to break down your AB! Some Training Instructors have thrown awaythe package in front of their Trainee, or even eat their treats! Even if your AB says it is okay… just don’t.
  3. Girly smelling envelopes/ Glitter/ Colored envelopes/  etc. The simpler, the better. Keep it to paint white envelope, all cap letters, and do not dot your “i”s with hearts!

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Your first call will be when your AB’s flight gets “Patio Time.” During this time, they can hang out, get snacks at vending machines, and use the payphones. My first (and only, so far) call was at the end of WOT2 on his 17th day of being at Lackland AFB. It was a short and sweet 7 minute call, and for me, it was an emotional one. Something I wish I did prior was: make a note on my phone of all the little things to ask him. Since that call, I have pages of notes ready, full of questions!

I hope this posts helps some of you who are about to be a supporter, or are currently! I look forward to making future posts regarding Weeks 4-8 and GRADUATION WEEKEND! If you have any questions or additional advice on Weeks 0-3, leave a comment below, and I will do my best to share my experience with you 🙂

 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10

Part II: http://wp.me/p4tpCw-25

Grace and Hallways (A Love Story)

Davis and I met years ago. It seems like yesterday, I was walking in the hallways of our high school searching for his A’s hat. I knew his name (praise the Lord for MySpace), and I knew he was dreamy… and I knew I liked the A’s too, so obviously we were going to get married. We never talked, we never hung out, we pretended to not know each other. Years later, I was at his high school graduation party; oh God, it was so awkward. I remember walking into his family’s house, and falling in love with it already. There were crosses, Jesus plates, and grandma-made home decor. My first thought was: He loves Jesus? My second: I don’t know anything about cars, what are these guys talking about? A year later, I seen him again at a party. I went with a guy I was dating, and so this time, Davis really kept his distance… A year after that, it was New Years Eve party. Before the party, I vented to my best friend “DAVIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL, WHY DOESN’T HE GIVE ME ATTENTION” We arrive to this party and there he is. I went with all of my beautiful friends, and yet he walked straight up to me. I regret not staying until midnight, but from that moment on, it was game on.

Disneyland Jan 2013
Disneyland Jan 2013

At the time, I lived an hour out of town, without a car.  I was working and going to school, and he worked graveyard. He made it work. He would drive an hour to see me, two hours to work, and an hour back home, just to wake up and do it all over again. The first thing I learned about Davis, was he was in love with Jesus. Sundays were my favorite. We would go to church together, and during worship he would grab my hand. This was what I wanted all along. The second thing I learned was Davis could fix anything. He was constantly working, building, helping, fixing anything for anyone. Mostly cars, but you could see this was a gift from God, not just a talent he picked up. After a few months of dating, the third important thing I learned, was he was interested in the Air Force.

I begged him to not do it. Try out college, or a better full-time job, ANYTHING, just please don’t do THAT. No one in my immediate family was in the military, so the only examples I had were Black Hawk Down and Dear John… so, no. I refuse to be a “military girlfriend.” Months passed, and God wreaked my heart. I was being so selfish, and closed-minded . This was what he was born to do all along, this was why He blessed him. I let my selfishness and fear of being alone or dependent keep me from supporting him. After a year of dating, we had a serious talk. What do we want out of life? What are our goals? Are we really meant to be together? He told me he still felt called to serve, and I said okay. His face was confused, he accused me of lying, but I wasn’t. I loved him, and together or apart, I was going to support him, because that’s what friends do…

The process started. Meeting the requirements, the studying, the testing, the meeting… He got in the USAF DEP November 2013. I was so happy for him, he was glowing. In January, he was at work and got called into the recruiters office. When he got there, they gave him his “ship date” and everything became real. His ship date was March 25th. Two months notice, which was both too much and too little time. They flew by way too fast, and they broke my heart for way too long. February 16th, two days after our second anniversary, he got on one knee. It was perfect. Engaged or not, I was still 100% by his side.

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March 16th, his family threw him the best party either of us have ever gone to. The love and support from all of his friends my family, his family,and my family brought so much peace into his heart!

The last week was a roller-coaster for everyone. It was bittersweet. It was excited and proud one moment, and scared and unsure the next. It was the last Sunday. I dragged him to church, and during worship we were silent. The message wasn’t a message from our pastor, but everyone’s experience with grace, and what does grace mean to them. One by one, church members would go up. Some funny and playful, some thankful and appreciative. Then we were asked to do a spur of the moment worship song… and it hit me.

The words, the music, the moment, God had hit me so hard. This was the last time I was going to worship with Davis by my side for a long time. The last time we would call a church home for a long long time. It was the same church we went to years ago, and God brought us back to it. How selfish was I being to put God to the side and focus on how hard it was for us? Who was I to question his plan again and make it about me and my fairy tale? Davis heard me sobbing, and he couldn’t hold it back either. With make up down my face, and my sleeves covered in teary foundation, I was relieved the song ended. YAY! No more tears, lets just tuck our heads down an make a run for the car…

We sat again, and as I am wiping tears away still, I hear them call our name to the stage… no, please God, no more.  We look at each other and lift each other up. We walk up, and our best friends and pastor are up there with us. The introduce us to the church, and explain what we are going through, and about to go through. The asked everyone to bow their heads and pray for us… it was the first time anyone had ever prayed for me without me asking them too. It was the first time first time Davis and I were in front of a church so venerable and speechless. Any other day, we could speak in front of anyone, but this was a first… and I realized this was grace. This wasn’t the end, but the beginning. We were not just leaving our old life learning about God and in comfortably, we were entering a life of trusting God and going out into the world for Him as a unit.

As the church prayed for us, the tears came more powerful and heartbreaking as ever, not out of sadness, but the birth of a new heart. A new heart for God, a new heart for Davis, and a new heart for myself. Peace came back into our relationship, and the fear disappeared. We were ready to fight for what God brought together. We went to the beach after, fell in love all over again.

I cried the last night he was home. I cried the last morning he was home. I cried watching him pack up his room and throw things away. I cried just thinking of how much I would miss him and how much I couldn’t wait to see him. The night we took him to the hotel was a blessing in disguise. What was supposed to be sad, wasn’t. He checked into his room, and came back out. We drank hot coco and cuddled in the lobby. His family talked about movies, and mosquitos, and he was calm. This was everything he wanted. He wanted it to be normal, he wanted to feel like he was at home. I cried when I hugged him the last time for that night. He called before bed, and explained to me what would happen the next day.

March 25th he was officially  active in the Air Force. We went to the center and got to spend some time with him before the ceremony. They called him back, and when he returned his face was a face I’d never seen before. It was strong and straight to the point. He looked at us and said “This is the last time I will see you guys, I won’t be able to spend time with you after the ceremony.” I hugged him, and quickly stepped away to let his family hug him. When they were done, he stared at me. His mom nudged me to hug him again, so I did. It was the first time I refused to let go. The tears poured down and I said I love you. He had to go but my arms were locked, and I felt him sink… we made eye contact and he left.

We were asked to go into the ceremony room, where he was front row. He looked so strong and brave, but of coarse it wasn’t anything his siblings couldn’t break through. He smiled and laughed, it was the cutest thing ever. He heard their officer walking and he put on a straight face again, and we just laughed at how good he was at it. Did he practice this in the mirror or something? The swearing-in started. It was straight to the point, and he was so handsome doing it. They gave us a minute after to hug good bye. It was the first time I didn’t cry (not that his dad betting me money had anything to do with it). We had our last kiss, and it was all smiles.

He hugged everyone and again, I was the last. His dad was whispering “Oh last hug, this is so sad” to get me to budge, but I wouldn’t. I smiled, and Davis said not to cry, so I didn’t. I knew this would come one day, and I was blessed to be so prepared for it. He let go, and went into a classroom, and we left the building. Walking down the halls this time, I wasn’t looking for the boy in the A’s hat anymore, I was collecting his dad’s $10, and looking for our next adventure.