From Corporate to Cul de Sac: Transitioning from an In-Office Job to Working from Home

Three years ago I left my first post-grad job to move to Fort Hood, Texas. After working a retail job for a few months, I found a job at the corporate headquarters of a global technology company. I spent the first few months of the job commuting an hour to and from our home and then, with a deployment looming, we moved closer to my job. The next two years I worked every day in the corporate office, networking, building relationships and getting to know the city.

Then we got the PCS news. Unfortunately for me, my job is not traditionally a remote role. There are very few exceptions made for employees that “need” or “want” to work remotely, and the most recent requests had been denied. I had to make sure my remote request was timed perfectly.

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I set out my objectives and planned. I needed to:

  1. Get my manager/leadership on board to advocate on my behalf for remote work. Every military spouse with career aspirations should have an advocate and mentor within their current job, as well as in their network, to provide career advice.
  2. Write a detailed business case. I referenced Joining Forces, which my company is a part of, as well as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, DoD rules regarding “Geo-bachelor” moves, and blogs written by my own company giving accolades to the benefits of remote work. These resources helped bring the importance of military spouse employment into the forefront.
  3. Research work from home jobs on FlexJobs.com as well as jobs local to our new location as a back-up plan. Military spouses registered with NMFA get 70% off a one-year subscription to FlexJobs!
  4. Decide if working from home is the best option for me and my career.

There are obvious benefits  to remaining gainfully employed every time you PCS, like the financial benefits. But there are downsides, too. Because my job isn’t traditionally remote, promotions would be difficult and moving from an in office role to a remote role, I would lose a lot of that valuable face time necessary to grow my career. I talked to people in my office who had done a work from home “pilot” program, and the reviews were mixed. Some thought working remotely was saying goodbye to any career growth. Others thought there was no way people could be productive while working remotely. And some thought it would be great and knew their productivity would surge if they could work from home.

Two weeks after we moved, I was still working in the corporate office to finish out the quarter. My manager and director called me in to let me know that I was approved to work from home based on my performance, and they set the guidelines and expectations for working remotely.

I decided to take the work from home opportunity and continue developing myself at my company. I have been working from home for 3 months and overall I am happy with my decision. My productivity has increased tremendously, my day is still structured like a regular work day, and I attend meetings virtually. Thankfully, I had over 2 years to form relationships with my teammates and build my network. Sometimes I do feel isolated being at home all day so I would encourage anyone considering work from home opportunities to get out and get involved in the community, as well as build a network at your new duty station.

Have you ever gone from a corporate office to the cul-de-sac to work remotely? What are the pros and cons you experienced?

Posted by Lesley Boatright, NMFA Volunteer and Army spouse, Fort Benning, GA

Renowned World War II Photographer and Vet Honors Military Families

At the age of 94, when most are settled down, Michael A. “Tony” Vaccaro is out snapping pictures. And not just any pictures—photos that change the way we see the world around us. Growing up between Italy and New York, Tony recalled a trip to the New York World’s Fair in 1939 as “the most amazing and spectacular event” of his youth. Shortly after that, he was introduced to photography by a teacher at his high school.

In 1944, after joining the US Army a year prior, Tony was sent to England, and later went on to serve as a front line infantryman in World War II. During this time, he shot thousands of photographs of the war, from the mundane to the explosive, and everything in between, including a renowned photograph called “The Kiss of Liberation,” which President Eisenhower called his favorite.

“The Kiss of Liberation”

When asked about the story behind “The Kiss of Liberation,” Vaccaro explained, “I was at St. Briac when it was early morning on August 14, 1944. No one was at the middle of the town, but at some point people started yelling, ‘We are liberated!’ Women and children ran to the middle of the town to celebrate. They started dancing and singing. I think the G.I. kissing the little girl is the most precious photograph I have ever taken.”

Because of his diligence to portraying the perils of war through photographs, Vaccaro was hailed as the “greatest war photographer of all time” by the BBC.

“When I was not on a night mission, I processed my films in four Army helmets and hung the wet negatives from tree branches to dry,” Vaccaro recalled of his time in the military.

Since his time in the Army, Vaccaro continued his art, photographing a number of subjects like John Fitzgerald Kennedy, The Eisenhower Family, Enzo Ferrari, Greta Garbo, Pablo Picasso, Federico Fellini, Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’ Keeffe, Maria Callas, General George S. Patton, Sophia Loren and many other celebrities of the second half of the twentieth century.

But Vaccaro’s fondness for the military has remained strong through the decades–including his support of military families.

General Patton, as photographed by Tony Vaccaro in 1945.

Tony Vacarro Studio has committed to donating 25% of sale proceeds to military support organizations, including NMFA. Among the items for sale are signed prints Vaccaro took of General Patton in 1945 Nuremberg, Germany, seen above.

We are grateful for Mr. Vaccaro’s continued legacy, and his support of organizations, like NMFA that make an impact on our nation’s families.

If you’d like to purchase one of these amazing prints—go to http://tonyvaccaro.studio/portfolio and email enquiry@tonyvaccaro.studio with the code “Veterans Support Vaccaro.” The code applies until Thanksgiving.

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Dear President-Elect Trump,

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On November 8, 2016, Americans took to the polls to cast their votes in what many call as historic Presidential election. As results trickled in Tuesday evening, candidates Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton were neck in neck for the White House.

After a long, sometimes catty and upsetting year watching the campaigns unfold, Americans have chosen Donald Trump to be the 45th President-Elect of the United States of America.

Now that the votes are in, military families have some things they want President-Elect Trump to know.

See what they’re concerned about, and read the letter to President-Elect Trump.

When Waiting Gets Old

It’s no secret that military family life involves a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait. Quickly: pack up, prepare, make decisions, fill out paperwork, unpack…then, wait.

Oh, how many things there are to wait for!

Maybe you’re waiting on orders; it’s so easy to wonder why receiving PCS orders can take so long. We think, “If we could just get that Request For Orders, then I can start researching housing and schools and preschool ballet classes and whether the PX is any good.” Until then, you can only wonder, “Are we going overseas or staying in the US? Should I stock up on warm winter clothes for the kids because we might go to Alaska, or should I invest in lots of shorts because we’re moving to Florida?”

Or maybe you are so very tired of waiting for the delivery of your household goods in the middle of a move. Paper plates and creative adaptations of take-out are just not cutting it anymore. It’s been weeks since you slept in your own bed. You need some flatware, picture frames, and the calm of knowing every important box made it to the next location.

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Even after you’ve settled into a new community, you might still be living life in limbo, waiting for a return to normalcy. Maybe you are tired of waiting for that perfect job to come available near your new home. Or, perhaps you find yourself waiting to make the group of friends that you’ve hoped for. You’ve hung up that “Welcome Home” sign, but it just doesn’t feel like home yet. So you wait.

Watching the clock tick day after day is almost never as annoying and stressful as when waiting for a deployed spouse to come home. Homecoming feels so far away sometimes. During deployment we find ourselves waiting for the chance to relax again, breathe again, sleep well at night again, and feel whole again…which only happens when they finally make it home.

It’s easy to be discouraged when waiting gets old. It’s exhausting and frustrating. So much of our lives as military spouses are outside our own control.

It is the waiting that often connects the seasons of our lives, drawing bridges between what was, what is now, and what will be. One thing I know for sure: though waiting is uncomfortable, it somehow has the capacity to make us stronger, and more resilient. It can be irritating, but it can also be challenging. And waiting can help fuel anticipation for new chapters of our lives.

To the military spouses who are waiting for something, know this: waiting is itself a season, and seasons change. Hang in there. That RFO, your household goods, great new friends, and the day that you call a new place, “home,” are just around the corner!

How do you get through the waiting seasons? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

teresa-bannerPosted by Teresa Banner, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Our First OCONUS PCS: Lessons Learned

PHEW! We just finished another PCS season. Congratulations to those who moved this past summer! We made it! And for those lucky ones who stayed put, you know what I’m talking about.

Confession: I’ve been with my service member for almost nine years, but this was our first official PCS together since we got married. Oh, and it was overseas. I did NOT know what I was getting myself into.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with all the PCS checklists out there; believe me, I think I read most of them. I noticed a few to-do’s that were missing though. Below are a few things I learned on my own during our most recent international PCS.

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Throw a party!
Not at your own house though and schedule it far enough in advance of your actual move! We opted for a local watering hole that was convenient for us and many of our close friends who would be attending. We scheduled our going away party about two weeks before movers came so we could enjoy ourselves.

Drive cross country!
We had to drive cross country since we were PCSing overseas with our dog. Fun fact: no commercial airline can guarantee they will fly a short-nosed dog (Pugs, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers, Pit Bulls, etc.) in August due to the heat. So we made an unforgettable trip–with our Boxer in tow–by driving from northern Virginia to Seattle to catch our Air Mobility Command (Space-A) flight to the Asia Pacific region. We gave ourselves almost two weeks to follow the Lewis and Clark trail. We first traveled to Ohio to visit family, played tourists in Minneapolis, then followed the trail by driving around Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the North Dakota badlands, hiking Montana’s Glacier National Park, following the Columbia River Gorge, and ending in Seattle. This affordable trip is highly recommended for those history buffs, families with pets, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Your pet is worth it!
Pets are part of the family. My dog is my everything, yes, I’m a dog mom! No, I don’t have children but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot harder to PCS with a pet overseas than with five kids. Despite the countless trips to the vet to prepare for the move, it was worth it. We were extremely organized, which made the flight very easy. Flying AMC was very stress-free and extremely helpful with the pet. At each layover, pet owners were able to walk their pets and give them water. Once we landed, customs took only a few minutes and we took our dog straight to the kennel. It was a great experience.

Have a meltdown!
It’s okay, we’ve all been there. Sometimes you just need to cry it out.

When OCONUS, immerse yourself in the culture!
You only have a couple years in country, so make the most of it. Take advantage of the base’s language and cultural course offerings. Travel as much as you can. Time will fly by!

What would you add to this list?

Posted by Nicole Russell, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Japan

Survive and Thrive: Scott Air Force Base

Scott Air Force Base (SAFB) is located in Illinois, just 30 minutes outside St. Louis with access to all the perks that come with a big city. A plethora of restaurants and retail stores can be found both in the heart of St. Louis, as well as the surrounding cities. Eureka, a city neighboring St. Louis, offers a Six Flags theme park. There’s historical attractions, including museums and attractions dedicated to the Arch as well as Lewis and Clark’s expedition that went through St. Louis.

There are lots of great housing options available in St. Louis, as well as the cities and towns on the outskirts. Some of the great neighboring towns that are within a ten minute drive are: Lebanon, Mascoutah, Swansea,  Summerfield, Belleville and many more depending on the commute preferred.

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Endless options of churches and organizations to get involved in

For the service members and family who desire a church home there are hundreds within a few short miles of base, as well as a chapel located on Scott. There are also multiple organizations you can join to make you feel connected.

There are excellent school systems with many extra curricular activities. For the families that homeschool–there any many homeschool co-ops. Illinois also happens to be one of the more homeschool-friendly states and has very few laws to restrict families from doing so. For the military spouses there are fantastic women’s groups on base, as well as MOPS groups, too!

Great for families or single service members

The single service members will have plenty to keep them busy. There are museums, theaters, clubs, and bars. There are also major sports leagues for the avid sports fan including soccer, hockey and baseball.

Appealing to both the families and single service members, there are many farmers markets and public farms to enjoy, as well as large flea markets in the nearby towns.

St. Louis and other nearby cities have endless opportunities for the family. With a jump zone getting ready to open in Fairview Heights and one located a little farther over the Mississippi River. The St. Louis Zoo is a free exhibit and was recently voted as the top free attraction in the U.S. The children’s museum and science museum are located within a few miles of each other, and there will also be an aquarium opening inside the St. Louis Union Station soon.

So, what about the base?

SAFB is a decent size installation with many comforts and amenities. There are a few restaurants located right on base including McCalisters, which just opened. It also features a nice size BX and Commissary. It has a dog park, airman’s attic, thrift store, and library. The base also includes a community outdoor pool and bowling alley. On-base housing has a few different neighborhoods and schools for families to call home while stationed there.

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Scenic places nearby

While Scott may not have mountains or beaches, it does have some scenic places within a few hours that are worth visiting. From amazing hiking trails like Pere Marquette and beautiful lakes such as Carlyle Lake, the outdoor person will have plenty to do, but will have to drive an hour or two to enjoy them.

The downsides

There are some things that we don’t love so much about being stationed at Scott. One of which is the lack of outdoor things to enjoy–nearby mountains, beaches, and other beautiful things just aren’t there. Since Scott is not next to any major bodies of water, there seems to be little explanation for the constant and sometimes overwhelming humidity. But the largest and most common complaint people have with SAFB is the medical group. Many have reported that they are slow and unorganized. Those who live on base often complain the housing isn’t as nice, or as durable as other housing they have lived in, and sometimes dealing with maintenance can be a challenge.

Final Grade

Many families enjoy living at Scott. While it’s often not their favorite installation, it isn’t the worst. Many retirees enjoy SAFB so much they come back here to stay. There is much to enjoy in St. Louis as well as neighboring towns and on Scott. Just keep expectations reasonable when dealing with the medical group and this Air Force installation will feel like home in no time.

Has your family ever been stationed at Scott Air Force Base? What would you add to this list?

mandi-verlanderPosted by Mandi Verlander, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse

When Separating From the Military Unexpectedly Becomes Your Reality

When a service member separates from, or even considers a life outside of the military, it affects the entire family. Regardless if it is by choice, or because of the “up or out” policies of the military, it still can take a major toll on everyone involved.

Just a few months ago our family was anxiously awaiting the results of the most recent promotion boards. My husband has always planned on making the Air Force his first career, and I was anxiously awaiting my first opportunity to “pin on” his next rank (the last time he promoted was during a deployment). Then the day finally came when the promotion list was released.

My husband’s name was not on the list. The military had thrown us another curve ball and I found myself flooded with a range of emotions.

I felt angry, frustrated, and confused. My husband and I both knew there was a chance he wouldn’t make the next rank due to an incident that happened nearly eight years prior. But I had convinced myself that him being worried about not making it was just his normal way of underestimating himself. I never once thought he wouldn’t be on the promotion list.

It didn’t take long for those first emotions to take a back burner to fear. I found myself worried about everything. When people would ask how my husband was holding up after the news, I always said, “You know him, just getting his ducks in a row and giving work 110 percent like always.”

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I tried to play it off like this setback was no big deal. Then a close friend asked how I was feeling about all of it. I tried to act like it didn’t really effect me–since it was happening to my husband, not me. But my friend saw right through it. She pointed out that if he did separate, it would impact all of us.

When I left my job to put my husband’s career first, I put faith in the notion that my husband’s career could support our growing family. But now with his career in question, I was suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of what comes next? And you know the worst part? I didn’t want to share my fears with my husband, because I didn’t want to make him feel any worse than he already did.

I know if he does separate in the near future he will find a job he loves, he will find a new way to serve the military and our family will keep moving forward. We’ll adjust, like we always do, but that doesn’t make it any less scary.

In fact, it’s actually had the opposite effect. How are we supposed to know what to do next with our lives? We always figured we wouldn’t have much say in our path until my husband reached that magical number of 20 years, so when we talked about having a “normal” life, it always seem so far away.

Even as I say it, the idea of a normal non-active duty military lifestyle sounds terrifying. You would think I would love the idea of no more TDYs, or last minute PCSs. I would embrace the fact that our last deployment could very well be our last deployment.

But instead of being excited about these prospects, I find myself a little lost and confused. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have my husband around and out of war zones, but I know how much he loves to serve. And I would never wish for that to no longer be an option.

In the last couple of months, my husband and I have began working together to tackle all the emotions and concerns that come along with the idea of possibly separating from the military. We’ve made list after list of places we could live, ways he could still serve (i.e. Guard or Reserves), civilian jobs he might be interested in. We’ve researched and discussed each option in depth about what it would mean for both his career and our family. And even though we might not know what will come next, we are a lot more prepared than we’ve ever been in the past.

For all you spouses that find yourself in a similar situation, I have just a few words of advice. Don’t pretend it isn’t affecting you, don’t say you’re okay if you aren’t. Talk openly with your spouse. The first couple of conversations may be tough, but opening the lines of communication will save you many sleepless nights.

Has your service member ever separated unexpectedly from the military? How did your family handle the change?

Posted by Tara O’Meara, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse