Military Spouse 101 Classes: Do They Really Help?

By: Jenna Lang, Legislative Coordinator

Becoming a military spouse can be full of happiness, frustration, anxiety, excitement, and host of other mixed emotions. It’s becoming more common for new spouses to look for information and resources about military life through internet search engines or social media. While these may be great methods for researching and connecting virtually with others who have walked the milspouse path, there’s just one missing element to this formula: face-to-face connection! There’s just nothing quite like learning from people living the same life as you!

There are many ways to find in-person connections—and one of our favorites is to attend any of the free classes offered through your installation. These classes range from resume building to parenting a military kid, and they can be quite helpful in navigating the military lifestyle. For the brand new military spouses, we suggest the classes delivered in a “Military Spouse 101” fashion. Each service has their own take on these classes, and taking them would be well worth your time. Not only would you leave with those must-have nuggets of information, but you would most likely leave with a few new friends as well!

Army Family Team Building (AFTB) has a program designed to help soldiers and family members better understand Army life. The Army One Source website states “Army Family Team Building (AFTB) is a Family training and readiness program that provides participants with a better understanding of Army culture, as well as the skills and resources needed to become resilient, self-sufficient and self-reliant members of the military community.” AFBT is not just for active duty Army families, but Reserve and Guard, as well.

When we asked Army spouse Pikwaan Boston if she thought this program was worth a shot, she answered with a resounding “Yes!”

“I drank the AFTB Kool-Aid early,” she said. “I knew absolutely nothing about the Army when I got married. I took these classes with other newbie spouses, which was a blast, and learned so much! I think these classes truly help set the course for realistic expectations when it comes to adjusting to military living.”

Boston shared that interacting as a class, with the instructors, and with other volunteers involved with the program made the experience one she’d recommend to anyone.

“There was so much information and resources,” Boston explained, “you come out smarter than your Soldier!”

Compass is the Navy’s spouse-to-spouse mentoring program that not only serves as an introduction to Navy life, but military life in general. At Compass, you’ll learn how to read a Leave and Earning Statement (LES), and find help navigating the endless Navy acronyms, among other things. Snacks are usually provided and there is often free childcare if you need it! The Compass website states that it offers military spouses “the opportunity to establish a peer network, acquire knowledge and develop skills necessary to successfully meet future challenges of military life.”

Navy spouse Rebecca Poe attended a Compass class a little later in military life than most, but that didn’t stop her from learning something new!

Poe recalled, “I attended Compass after being a Navy spouse for over 17 years. I was amazed at how much I learned that I didn’t know. I fell in love with the program so much, I felt inspired to become a mentor!”

L.I.N.K.S is a program that falls under the umbrella of Marine Corps Family Team Building. The acronym L.I.N.K.S. stands for Lifestyle, Insights, Networking, Knowledge, and Skills. This Marine Corps 101 class is offered in English, Spanish and Japanese, and caters to several different types of participants. They offer L.I.N.K.S. for teens, kids, Marines, spouses, couples, and even has a modified class for extended family members! Throughout the class, you’ll learn about Marine Corps history and traditions, local installation resources, communication styles, investing in your community, military pay, and so much more. The best part is that the classes are taught by other volunteer military spouses! There are also segments where Marine Career Planners and Chaplains facilitate and answer questions, as well.

Marine Corps spouse, MJ Boice thought she knew it all after being a Marine Spouse for 18 years, and has attended several L.I.N.K.S. classes throughout those years.

“You’ll always learn something you didn’t know before…ALWAYS,” she shared. “Especially since things change so often! Not to mention, chances are you’ll run into someone with the exact issue that you just learned about and you’ll have the info they need at exactly the right moment.”

The Air Force 101 is known as Heartlink, and is sponsored by the Air Force Aid Society. The program is open to new and seasoned spouses, and is designed to provide the opportunity to learn all about Air Force life, while connecting with other military spouses. At Heartlink, you will learn about Air Force history, customs, and traditions, local community services, TRICARE, and so much more! This program will vary by duty station, so we suggest contacting your local installation’s Airman and Family Readiness Center for more information.

Candice Smith has gone to several Heartlink classes throughout her 10 years as an Air Force spouse, and she agrees that the format of each class has differed each time.

Smith said, “It’s great because it shows that these classes can be delivered based on the needs of each installation. This is helpful because each duty station serves a different mission and Heartlink caters to those needs. And I’ve met some of my best military friends in these classes!”

Social media and Google searches can certainly answer the endless questions we have on our military journey, but we encourage you to consider signing up for a branch-specific “101 style” class and see how you like it! You never know—you might be sitting next to your new best friend!

Have you taken any of these Military Spouse 101 classes? We’d love to hear about your experience!

Posted May 5, 2017


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