Whether your spouse joined the military after you got married, or you've recently married a servicemember, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the dizzying number of things there are to learn about life in the military. If that's the case, you're far from alone.
he following information will help ease your transition from civilian to military life. Each branch of the U.S. Military also has branch-specific information for new spouses.
Enroll in DEERS
The Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is your gateway to all things military, and getting enrolled should be at the top of your to-do list. Without enrolling, you won't be able to receive most of your benefits, including healthcare (TRICARE) and post/base privileges.
Upon enrollment you'll receive your military ID card, which will allow you access to military installations and give you commissary and PX/BX privileges.
Enrollment is simple and relatively quick. Detailed instructions, including which documents you'll need to bring to the ID card office, are here. Pay special attention to the location of the ID card office, just in case you lose yours or need to get it renewed.
Enroll in TRICARE
Once you've registered in DEERS, your next task is to enroll in the military's healthcare plan, TRICARE. (Important: The order matters: You must first be enrolled in DEERS before you can sign up for TRICARE.)
You'll find complete details about the various TRICARE plans and enrollment instructions on the TRICARE Web site.
If you need or want dental insurance, take a look at the TRICARE Dental Program. The monthly premiums are reasonable and the copays are low. Under the plan, routine exams, x-rays, cleanings, fillings, and other basic procedures are free.
Get Familiar with Your Post/Base
Whether you live on or off a military installation, it's a good idea to become familiar with your post/base and the services it offers. The two places you'll probably visit the most are the commissary (where you can buy groceries) and the PX/BX (where you can buy just about everything else).
You'll also want to locate the nearest hospital or medical facility. Keep in mind that not all military installations have a hospital, so you may need to find the civilian hospital or medical facility that's not only near by, but also accepts TRICARE or whatever health insurance plan you're covered by. This is particularly important if you have kids as you don't ever want to be faced with not knowing where the hospital or medical facility is located if you need to make a quick trip there (especially in the middle of the night).
Also, depending on your needs, preferences and circumstances, you may also want to locate the bank, post office, chapel, DoD, schools, and local child care providers.
Take some time to learn the common acronyms that are used in the military community. The sooner you do this, the sooner you'll stop feelng as if you're constantly listening to a foreign language.
Although there are literally thousands of acronyms, the following are among the most common:
- AAFES: Army and Air Force Exchange Service
- BAH: Basic Allowance for Housing
- CDC: Child Development Center
- COLA: Cost of Living Allowance
- CONUS: Continental United States
- DEERS: Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System
- DFAS: Defense Finance and Accounting Services
- DoD: Department of Defense
- FRG: Family Readiness Group
- FSG: Family Support Group
- LES: Leave and Earnings Statement
- MTF: Military Treatment Facility
- MWR: Morale, Welfare and Recreation
- OCONUS: Outside Continental United States
- PCS: Permanent Change of Station
- SGLI: Soldiers Guard Life Insurance
- TDY: Temporary Duty
New Military Spouse Checklist
You'l find more great tips in the Essential Military Premarital Checklist from Military OneClick..
- Understanding an Active Duty LES
- Understanding a Reserve/Guard LES
- Military Rank Chart
- Sending a Red Cross Message
- Requesting Certified Copies of Birth Certificates
- PCS Entitlements
Updated by Armin Brott, August 2016