Making the Most of a Short Assignment

Recently, our family PCS’d after spending only 18 months in Texas. It seemed like as soon as we were finally unpacked in Texas, it was time to pack up and move again…but I might just call that “procrastinated organizing.” We were there for a grade and a half of school for the kids. Only one dance recital. Only a couple kids’ baseball seasons. But still long enough to make leaving difficult.

We were faced with the decision: how would we spend these 18 months? How would this time look different from a regular 3-year assignment? The answer we arrived at surprised us a bit.

We served others. We got involved; we mentored, volunteered, and tried new service opportunities. This is a tradition of military families, no matter how long they live in one place.

We connected with others. We decided against living reclusively in our own bubble. Though we did consider that for half of a second! I wondered if I should be upfront with others when I met them, letting them know early on that we were there for a short time. Eighteen months isn’t long enough to meet everyone, but 18 months in community with others is less lonely than the alternative.

We made family time a priority. Since my husband was not going to deploy or work long hours in this assignment, we spent time with extended family and spent a lot of time together, just us. We reconnected. We shared parenting roles and household chores in ways that aren’t possible during deployment or training cycles. We seized the opportunity to have meals together. In future assignments, this may not be as feasible.

We avoided regret. With a limited time frame, there is only so much that we could do, see, and visit. We decided not to regret what we didn’t get to do.

Though we thought that life on a short assignment would be an unusual experience, in many ways, we did exactly what we’ve always done. The way we wound up living life on short assignment wasn’t all too different from the way we lived on a longer assignment cycle. At the end of the day, one thing was for sure: these 18 months mattered. They just mattered. So, we lived like it did!

So, I say: hang up the pictures, connect with a group of likeminded people, really get to know your neighbors, and plant flowers on the front porch. Because these 6 months, 12 months or 18 months matter!

How to do you make the most of short assignments?

Posted by Teresa Banner, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

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