Military Life – Intro

This far I’ve been blogging about RV Living. However, part of what has prepared me for life in an RV has been my life experiences – largely due to the niche lifestyle as both a Military Dependent and later as a Service Member.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this website, I had an extensive and varied career in the U.S. Military. What follows is an autobiographical account of my tenure and experiences within the military. But I must start from before the beginning:

I grew up as a United States Air Force (USAF) dependent meaning my father was in the USAF and my mother, my sister and myself were his legal dependents who he was obliged to care for. By extension to his status as an Active Duty service member we too were beneficiaries of care by the Department of Defense (DOD). We enjoyed cost-free medical care, reduced price food and consumer goods, moving and relocation assistance and legal representation if needed. The medical care was through an on-base clinic. The food and consumer goods were available via the commissary and base exchanges respectively.
Before any Permanent Change-of-Station (PCS) moves the USAF would publish the appropriate orders for my father to move himself, his family (dependents – us!) and all our household items to the next assigned base or posting for his job. In order to qualify for a PCS assignment a service member must have sufficient retainability (IE time remaining in their current enlistment contract) to be at that assignment for a minimum period of time. When I was a kid that was about 2.5 years or 30 months. If you had less than that amount of time before your enlistment period was up, you either went TDY (Temporary DutY) to the next posting or got extended in a current posting. Needs of the Service came as first priority but they would try to keep their Airmen contented and happy if possible.
Assignments in the USA in the contiguous 48 states were considered Continental USA (CONUS) and the service member might live either on-base or off-base at their assigned duty station. This was determined variously by the number of housing units available, the rank/pay-grade of the service member and sometimes by the number of dependents. For instance, if it was a crowded base housing situation the waiting list to get into on-base housing might be quite long and a family might be housed off-base for an extended time. The service member’s grade or rank either made them higher or lower in priority of advancement on their respective list. This list was the stratified type, size and quality of housing based on rank and pay-grade.
If a service member was of too low a rank they were NOT permitted to life off-base. This was predicated on the notion that they made insufficient money to afford dependents and housing or that they had neither the necessary life skills nor maturity or sufficient military experience to be trusted with being away from a supervised life-state(!).
Keep in mind, all of these policies are enacted first through the paradigm of “The needs of the Service come first!” Care of and for dependents was largely due to a realization that Airman would likely do better at their roles and duties if they were content and happy – ergo Family Care was provided by the US Military. Other branches than the USAF, the US Army (USA), the US Marine Corps (USMC) and the US Navy (USN), were NOT as accommodating as the USAF! “If the Marine Corps (or Army, or Navy) wanted you to have a wife they’d have issued you one in your duffel-bag!” is a frequent proverb for other branches.
All of this is relevant to MY service in the Military as I figured out as a 16-year-old selling paint at a Montgomery Wards store in Charleston, SC. to dependent Navy wives that I DIDN’T want to be in the USN (months away from the family at sea!) Neither did I want to be in the Army (lots of “Field Problems” – IE training out in the boonies while living in tents – usually in the rain!?) The USMC did have a “pull” for me as I did have a desire to be “tough” or “good enough” to be a Marine. (By the way, the USMC has never offered bonuses or incentives to join, just basic education and retirement benefits, etc. yet they never miss their Recruiting goals due to the cachet of, “The few, the proud, the Marines!” Works like a charm! Brilliant marketing!) But I knew at a pretty early stage in my life that I did want a wife and kids. When? Why? Not sure! But I wanted to be a husband and a father.
Originally this discussion only came up when I received a letter from the USN offering me a full-ride scholarship to Clemson State University for the Nuclear Physics program if I would commit to a 4-year stint as an Officer after I graduated. At first I was like, “Nuke-powered Aircraft Carriers! Yessirie!” But my dad disabused me of that notion with, “Nuke subs!” WHAT? NO WAY! I had worked across the aisle from the sporting goods department while selling paint and wall-coverings at that “Monkey-Wards” store. One of the Sporting Goods sales guys had just gotten out of the Navy there at Charleston, SC (1975~76 when there was still an active USN Base there. The same place they later filmed the “Army Wives” series after the naval base had shut down. By the way, those nice houses in the show were what upper-ranking Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and Commissioned Officers got to live in. You also got to see the OTHER houses for the lower-ranking Soldiers’ families on the show – just sayin’!) “Sporting Goods Guy” would regale me with stories of the UTTER BOREDOM of life below the surface of the ocean for 6-month-long stints on a “Boomer” (Nuke missile sub) in the Atlantic. . . Tore up THAT Scholarship offer letter! My Dad then filled me in on the US Army situation AND told me the USMC proverb about the “wife in a duffel-bag”… Yech!
Besides, I was College-bound and due to great grades didn’t even need a Military offer to get it all paid for! But WHAT to do?!? DEFINITELY, NOT the US Military – not even the “Chair Force”!
Soooo, just HOW did I end up entering the USAF? When? Why? I’ll get to that in a day or so in another Blog…

Rotaidalg / Larry G. Himes

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