Tag Archives: new to the military

Cyber Crisis: Protecting your family in a war waged by hackers

cyber-crisisRaise your hand if you’ve ever heard the term “OPSEC.”

What about “PII?” Or “PERSEC?”

It’s fairly common for military families to know an arsenal of acronyms that pertain to their service member, or military culture in general. While a lot of them are important, not understanding these three acronyms in particular can put you and your family in harm’s way.

OPSEC, or Operational Security, keeps our military information secure and out of the hands of those who could harm us – not just in person, but online, too. Sharing things like your loved one’s rank or job title, where they’re stationed, or when they’re returning home could get you in trouble. In some cases, even having a unit-specific sticker on your car could be a violation of OPSEC,

PII, or Personal Identifiable Information, is any information that can be pieced together to determine your identity. Things like your social security number and name are the obvious ones. But when someone knows your first name, email address, and the town you live in, it becomes easier to then determine your last name. With your full name, a person could search property records and find your address. And by simply driving by your home, they’d see the decal on your car, “Half of my heart is in Iraq.” They now know your service member is deployed and you are home alone, just from sharing too much PII.

PERSEC, or Personal Security, like OPSEC, reminds us to be aware of what we are sharing. Terrorists are just as tech savvy as you and I, and in most cases, have the means and abilities to find out things about us that we didn’t know they could.

With the internet being our main way to communicate with our service members when deployed, pay your bills, share photos, and do online banking, we have to be even more cautious of what we share online. If you aren’t careful, each of these seemingly harmless actions can lead to over-sharing, and can put your family in danger.

Are you doing everything you can to protect your family? Find out this Thursday at 3:00PM, when we bring you a live stream discussion with Former CIA and NSA Director, General Michael Hayden and one of America’s top private cyber sleuths, Kevin Mandia . They’ll share a real-world evaluation of threats and solutions, plus tips to keep your military family safe.

Do you have questions for General Hayden or Mr. Mandia? We’ll be asking them! Leave your question in the comment section below.

Tune in to find out how to protect your military family from danger online.

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Same-Sex Spouses: Welcome!

same-sex-military-coupleIt’s been over a month since same-sex spouses could register in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and receive a brand-new military family member ID and all the benefits it encompasses.

We have heard of the overwhelming welcome that these just-recognized military spouses have received. We have also heard of their pride in their new-found recognition as a military spouse.

In case you haven’t heard, once a spouse is enrolled in DEERS, he or she is eligible for the whole array of military benefits.

The most important benefits to most service members and their spouses are:

  • Military Family Member Identification Card
  • TRICARE health care coverage
  • Dependent-rate housing allowance
  • Eligibility for the family separation allowance
  • Ability to move off base to live with a spouse
  • Command-sponsored visas
  • Access to military installations and facilities, including: commissaries, exchanges, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) centers; Family Center programs
  • Joint Duty Assignments
  • Access to legal assistance

The spouses of service members may also invoke the protections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which provides certain protections from civil actions against service members who are called to active duty.

While military affiliated same-sex married couples are protected under Federal law, there are some states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage and may create stumbling blocks in accessing state benefits or services.

A recent example includes the refusal of National Guard armories in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi to issue military ID cards to same-sex spouses because same-sex marriages are illegal in those states.

You should also check on other state legal requirements such as those associated with adopting biological children, or limitations to joint home-ownership. There may also be problems with accompanied assignments to countries where homosexuality is illegal.

The information landscape is in a state of constant change so check back with our website, and the Military Partners and Families Coalition, for updates.

New military spouses – welcome! Consider this your symbolic swat with the saber. And know that we are here to provide you and your military family the same helpful information and resources that we have been offering to all military families for more than 40 years.

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director

You Know You’re a Military Spouse When…

sunset-on-baseMilitary life is a funny thing. Nothing ever seems to stay the same, but somehow, we embrace change as our “normal.” Finding civilian friends who understand your “normal” is another funny, yet rare thing – much like a unicorn. We know they’re out there, and when we find one, it’s magical. While not all of our civilian friends understand military life, there’s always a military spouse out there who can relate to the exact place you’re at in your life.

In honor of your “normal,” here are a few of the funnier ways you know you’re a military spouse:

  • You have enjoyed a beautiful sunset on your installation, complete with barbed wire fences in the view.
  • The majority of your laundry consists of camouflage, green shirts, and brown socks. If you’re Navy or Coast Guard, it’s blue shirts and black socks.
  • You can pack and unpack a house within a couple days, but you still have a few boxes that haven’t been unpacked from your move 2 years ago.
  • Your kids have a drawer full of soccer jerseys from playing on so many different teams over your years of moving around.
  • You use a military I.D. all the time and get frustrated when places ask for a “real I.D.”
  • You still find colorful little moving tags on various pieces of furniture even though it’s been a year since your last PCS. Bonus points if you’ve found multiple tags from multiple PCS’s on the same piece of furniture.
  • You don’t panic when your doctor walks in wearing ACU’s or BDU’s.
  • You know that a month-long separation is short, no matter what anyone says.
  • You read all of the homecoming banners on base and smile over each one. Then wonder, “What will my banner say?”
  • You save voicemails from your spouse, so you can listen to them anytime you think of him or her.
  • You have two anniversaries: your Justice of the Peace anniversary and your wedding anniversary.
  • You answer your spouse’s text messages with “Roger.”
  • You know there is no such thing as “planning in advance,” and you know you can’t make solid plans on where you will spend Christmas until the middle of December.
  • You have three jobs on your resume for the last two years.
  • You know your spouse’s social security number better than your own and often confuse the two when filling out documents about yourself.
  • When you go out on the town, you constantly have to point out that your date of birth is on the back of your military I.D.
  • You celebrate holidays based on duty schedules.
  • You have 20 different sized curtains to fit all the different windows of houses you’ve lived in.
  • You refer to your spouse’s friends by their last name. And no one holds it against you if you don’t know their first name.
  • You have found at least 10 different sets of orange foam earplugs in the washer or dryer.
  • You always have to explain to employers why you have had so many jobs by age 26. Then you hope they take you seriously knowing you may be leaving soon.
  • You have a Florida driver’s license, with an Oklahoma license plate, and you live in Virginia.
  • You are a pro at prepping a dress uniform.
  • You tear up when you hear “God Bless the USA,” even though you’ve heard it 50 times before.
  • When your spouse is deployed, you are married to your phone, email, and/or Skype.
  • You know to stay FAR away from the commissary near the 1st and 15th of every month, and if you absolutely have to go on those days, it’s a planned mission with emergency exit options.

Can you relate to any of these? If so, let us know and submit your own in the comments section below!

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

PCS: Panic, Cry, Scream

ShannnonSeb1In the military community, summertime is notoriously known to be “PCS Season” – the most popular time for service members to receive new orders, or their “Permanent Change of Station.” In my world, I like to think of it as “Panic, Cry, Scream,” because that is usually how I feel shortly after we get the news of our new orders. Panic sets in when I realize all the things already on my To-Do list, followed by a good cry because, once again, it’s time to pick up and find a new home. Screaming happens frequently as the time to move gets closer. To-Do lists are left undone, there are no more tears to cry, and whether I like it or not, change is coming.

That’s the funny thing about this lifestyle – being a military family. Change is inevitable. I remember the turning point when I realized life was going to change drastically. This moment left me with no other choice but to embrace change.

I left my small hometown in Florida in 2009, where I lived for all 23 years of my life, and moved with my now-husband all the way to Oklahoma. He and I had been dating for a while and being left behind while he got new orders to Oklahoma was not an option. I was going with him whether we were married or not! I packed all my things from the bedroom I’d grown up in, took the furniture from my room which still showed 10 years of pencil marks my mom made to track how much I’d grown, and began dreaming of a new life in the Midwest.

The morning came when we packed the car, said goodbye to my mom and dad, and set off for our new installation. I took in the moment like it was the last breath I’d ever take. The smell of pine trees mixed with the humid Florida air while my parents stood at the end of the driveway, waving as their only child drove away. I was fresh out of college, unmarried, and leaving my Southern bubble behind.

Then it hit me. Thoughts scrambled through my head as all the familiar things I knew and loved passed by the car window. My mind raced and all I could do was embrace the change that was happening. I had to be brave and fearless, kind and understanding. It was time to be determined and ferocious to take on the military “lifestyle” and be the best supporter I could be for my service member. This was the moment life changed for me.

I married my husband seven months later.

ShannonSeb2

I never dreamed of a life as a military spouse. In fact, I never dreamed of a life outside of my small, Southern town. Call me naïve, but I did not think life existed in a world where there was no sweet tea, or beach access. Choosing to pull out of the driveway that humid morning in 2009 has been the best decision I have ever made.

Today, I am a strong-minded, gritty military spouse with a few years of deployments and PCS’s under my belt. I am resilient and determined to make the best of any situation. I have learned how to rely on like-minded people for support. I have figured out it is okay to attend military balls wearing the same dress each year because, chances are, no one would remember. I learned how to be a banker, chef, tailor, and nurse!

Change is inevitable, especially in the military culture. It’s important to remember that each PCS is a chance to see the sunrise from a new place, meet new friends, and find new adventures. Maybe it’s not “Panic, Cry, Scream,” but instead, “Perfect Change of Scenery.” I’ll tell you firsthand, our first PCS was a pivotal moment in my life, and it has shaped who I am today! Embrace it and see what kind of person it makes you.

Shannon-SebastianBy Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

An Outsider Looking In: Military life perspective from an AmeriCorp member and civilian

volunteer-with-flagAs I wrap up my first month here at the National Military Family Association , I wanted to share my perspective as a civilian working for a nonprofit that advocates for military families. For the next year, I’ll be a member of the Government Relations team through the AmeriCorps Call 2 Service Corps

Honestly, when I initially decided to apply for positions through AmeriCorps, I anticipated something along the lines of “feed the hungry!” or “clean up this polluted stream!” Those are both issues that pull at my heartstrings, and are typically what one thinks of when “AmeriCorps” comes to mind.

However, when I came across the Association’s job posting, I liked what I read about the kind of work I would be doing (think: research, reading, and writing), while working alongside these great experts in the Government Relations department. I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not sure about the whole ‘military thing’, but they’re working for the betterment of families, so let’s do it!”

I haven’t regretted the decision to accept my position for one second. Learning how different the lives are of military families, in comparison to civilians, has astounded me. I had so many preconceived notions about military life, many of which greatly underestimated the realities of the hardships the families face, and many more of which were completely off base and entirely inaccurate. For instance, I assumed “military brats” moved to 2 or 3 different places by the time they finally graduate high school. In reality, many of them move every 2-3 YEARS!

I can’t begin to imagine trying to navigate the confusions of childhood and adolescence all while having to make new friends and adjusting to a new location on a regular basis. I knew that deployments were often long and not easy for military families, but I didn’t quite grasp just how hard they were. To get a better idea, check out these videos. My coworker (and military spouse), Karen, showed these videos to me to help me grasp the realities military families face every day – the same realities SHE faces every day – while husbands and wives, siblings and children, are deployed.

I am looking forward to my year of service to the Association. I am excited to continue learning about military families, and the issues that matter to them. I am excited to further develop my skills as an ally and resource. I am excited to see, firsthand, the efforts our Staff and Volunteers make to ensure military families receive the benefits and help they deserve. I am excited to be a part of the National Military Family Association.

What tips do you have for those wanting to learn more about military families and the military community?

nateBy Nate Parsons, Government Relations and Volunteer Services AmeriCorp Member

Military Spouse Motto: “I’ll see you when I see you!”

Military spouse motto: I'll see you when I see you!There are many things to get used to when you are introduced to the military. There is the “hurry up and wait,” the “probably won’t call you for a week,” the “it’s out of my control,” and my favorite—“you will see me when you see me.” Let it be known that my husband and I appreciate food on our table. Matt is honored to be a part of the Coast Guard and I am right there with him. However, I would be lying if I said everything ran smoothly all the time. In fact, just writing that statement made my nose grow.

Us support spouses learn from the beginning that we need to remain calm and flexible when making schedules for the family, fun, and travel. I had a very hard time learning this concept. Matt would tell me that he would be home one day and by the next day, he would find out he wouldn’t be coming back for another two days. Or the ship was due to pull in at 10 am and then didn’t show up until 6 pm. Or we’re set to go on week-long vacation and he is kept back two days for inspections so our little trip is delayed. I have been told before that he will be home a week early just to see him a week after his arrival date. So, I decided to stop asking.

Matt thinks it is a control thing with me. But, I am willing to bet that other spouses would like a definite answer on when their husbands or wives are coming home. It is about planning and the excitement of seeing one another again. We get our hopes up at the prospect of meeting them at the dock and our first embrace since they left the house. From the moment our spouses leave, we are counting the seconds until they are home. It would just be nice to know when they are actually coming home.

So, after many disappointments, I learned that I will see my spouse when I see him. My advice is to stop looking at the clock. Try to keep busy. If you are anxious and bored, that is your issue, not your spouse’s. Too many times I see people get angry with their spouse about scheduling and arrivals. It isn’t worth it to be mad at someone who has no control over the situation either. We confuse excitement with anger and then the arrival is ruined. Learn to accept the choice we made to marry into the military and know that this is how it is. It’s our way of life and we’re stronger because of it.

Posted by Rebecca Brinkley, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association. A version of this post originally appeared on Rebecca’s blog I Know It’s Tough.

MyMilitaryLife app for military families – updates and a new look!

MyMilitaryLife app for military families - updates and a new look!Have you seen the new updates to MyMilitaryLife? We now offer four new Life Paths—Raising Kids, Having a Baby, Moving, and Reintegration. Remember to answer the new questions that pop up when you visit these Life Paths and be sure to regularly update your profile information in order to have customized content available to you and your family. The more you fill out your profile, the better MyMilitaryLife can tailor information to your life.

In addition to four new Life Paths, we’ve also been working on a new look for the App! The new design features a swipe action and larger images to make it easier to navigate and discover the answers you’ve been looking for. Just swipe your finger right to left to progress to the next Life Path. Once in a Life Path look to the top left of the screen for easy access to the menu that includes your profile, favorites, alerts, help, and a shortcut to other Life Paths.

To get the latest look and additional Life Paths be sure to update your MyMilitaryLife App today. Android users will see the app updates automatically, but iPhone users must manually update the MyMilitaryLife App.

If you loved the old design, don’t worry – in the upper right hand corner of the App is an option to go back to the previous look. Personally, I love the new look and how user friendly it is to swipe from one Life Path to the next.

If you haven’t downloaded MyMilitaryLife, do so today to receive personalized to-do lists to help you navigate the many adventures of military life. MyMilitaryLife is available for free on Android, iPhone, and an online portal at www.MyMilitaryLife.org.

What do you love most about the new upgrade?

simmoneBy Simmone Quesnell, Content Specialist for MyMilitaryLife at the National Military Family Association

Military spouse education: the costs, the options, and whether it’s right for you

military spouse educationThe same story is told throughout military communities and within military support systems—military spouses are hard pressed to find employment. PCS moves are frequent and jobs come and go. Luckily there is a way to help combat the unemployment woes. Education.

Not only will a higher education increase the chances of employment for military spouses, it will contribute to your family’s financial well-being. A study from CollegeBoard.org reports, “the typical bachelor’s degree recipient can expect to earn about 66% more during a 40-year working life than the typical high school graduate earns over the same period. Higher earnings are one of the important outcomes of higher education. Average earnings for adults increase with years of education and particularly with degree completion.” Higher education degrees are now more accessible to military spouses thanks to distance learning programs.

The education community has shifted in favor of military spouses. Many private and public universities offer reputable degree programs online, an attractive option for mobile military spouses. Distance learning can also be more flexible when it comes to your military family calendar. Find additional information on pursuing a degree in higher education in our website section on spouse education.

One necessary price I know of that comes with education is the cost of tuition. To alleviate the inevitable costs of higher education, military spouses have options. Visit your installation’s Family Center, Education Center, and the financial aid office at the school you wish to attend for more information on financial assistance. Various military associations, including the National Military Family Association and some military spouse clubs, offer scholarships for military spouses. If eligible, you can use a portion of your service member’s GI Bill or apply for government funding through MyCAA.

The National Military Family Association is made up of many military spouses like me, so we know firsthand the importance of military spouse education and the difficulties that come with achieving higher education due to moves and expenses. If you’ve been following us on our website or social media, you know our Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarships are awarded to spouses of all Uniformed Services members and applications are live online now. The application deadline is TOMORROW, January 31st – there is still time to apply here!

I truly believe an education outweighs the cost that comes with more schooling. As a military spouse, my education has broadened my career options and allowed me pursue opportunities that would not be available if I did not have a degree.

Are you starting or continuing your education? What challenges have you faced in doing so and what resources have worked for you?

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Program Manager at the National Military Family Association

Military families and child care – what are the options?

Military families and child care - what are the options?When mom and dad work, finding care for the little ones, especially if the child is under the age of two can be a challenge and quite an expense. According to Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report, in 35 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for center-based care for an infant was higher than a year’s in-state tuition and related fees at a four-year public college. Yikes.

Military families are not immune to this cost. Many times the Child Development Centers are backfilled for months and do not have space availability for new parents. Since many military families don’t have the safety net of extended family and the service member’s schedule is unpredictable, finding reliable child care is a top priority.

So what resources are available for military families?

Military OneSource is a great resource as families start thinking about what options are available when it comes to child care. The National Military Family Association also has a section on our website dedicated to information about child care for military kids. Both are good starting points!

If you are located near a military base, contact the local Information and Referral specialist and the Children, Youth, and Teen programs. The Information Referral specialist will provide information about child care on and off base. The Children, Youth, and Teen programs will have installation-specific options available. Services vary from installation or community and fees are tiered based on the total family income.

Military families may also be eligible for a subsidy through Child Care Aware (formerly NACCRRA). Child Care Aware can help parents locate quality resources in their local community. Child Care Aware also processes the military child care subsidy for most Services. The subsidy programs include Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood, Operation Military Child Care, and Child Care Assistance for Families of Severely Injured Military Members. Eligibility requirements vary from program to program, and Service-specific information is available on Child Care Aware’s website.

Most military families are also eligible for a free membership to Sittercity, a popular child care website that is a great option for families new to an area that don’t know any babysitters.

What child care resources have worked for you and your family?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information
Manager at the 
National Military Family Association

So you love a service member: partners, parents & significant others

So you love a service member: partners, parents & significant othersSo, you love a service member. They could be your son or daughter, your boyfriend, or long term partner, but there are likely a number of things you’ve yet to understand about the military lifestyle.  As an “outsider” on the inside, it can be difficult to feel connected to the military community, especially when your service member is deployed or away on duty.

Modern military families take on many different shapes and forms, and it’s important for you to know the basic information and resources available to your unique situation.  Getting everything down can be confusing, even for those that grew up in the military, let alone for parents or boyfriends trying to nail down the logistics. Whether you think an FRG* is the toy robot your nephew wants for Christmas, or you just want to know how to keep in touch with your service member while they’re deployed, the new Partners, Parents, and Significant Others section of our website has you covered. Find information particular to those new to the military lifestyle or just approaching the military from a new perspective. Acronyms, benefits, and information for caregivers—we’ve put it all in one place!

As a non-ID card holder, you are likely not near a military installation, and there are many things that you might not have access to.  Your service member is always your best information resource, but they might not always be available to help with questions and concerns as they arise. Create your own military community by staying in the know through your service member’s leadership, and becoming part of local groups and organizations that provide support and resources. With our nation at war for more than a decade, it is an especially difficult time to have a loved one in the military, but having the right resources and information can help provide some stability in the most unstable of times.

*an FRG isn’t a toy robot—it’s a Family Readiness Group.

Experienced military families: what’s something you’ve learned that you would pass on to a non-ID card holder as they learn more about the military?

maranathaPosted by Maranatha Bivens, Communications Editor
at the National Military Family Association