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How to Be an Army Wife

Updated on November 13, 2013
A magnet I received from my last FRG leader
A magnet I received from my last FRG leader | Source

Being an Army Wife is no easy task. It takes a strong woman to be able to be a mom and a dad, a cook and a repairman, a teacher and a rule setter. They have to be able to take care of the house, kids, bills, cars and family. Multi-tasking is a MUST! They have to be able to understand military jargon and how to act and handle yourself while talking to other people. They need to know how their soldier's pay works and how to change finances if needed. They have to be able to handle long periods of time alone and know how to handle the feelings of sadness, depression and fear. How do I know what it's like? I have been living it for over 8 years. I am a proud Army Wife and I love every minute of it.

Are you a new Army Wife? Do you need a little guidance on how to get through the first rough parts? Here's a little advice on being an Army Wife.

FIRST - Learn the military jargon and political correctness

I've already written a Hub about some military jargon (here) but here are some more relevant ones that an Army Wife must know.

  • AAFES and PX - Department Store shopping on post
  • ACS - Army Community Service
  • CDC/CYS - Child Development Center/Child Youth Services - child care services on post
  • CO - Commanding Officer
  • Commissary - Grocery Store on post
  • DEERS - The part of the government that gives you your benefits. If you are not enrolled in DEERS you will not be seen for anything on post.
  • Duty Station - The location of your husband's "work".
  • ETS - Expiration Term of Service - The date your husband is to leave the Army.
  • LES - Leave and Earnings Statement - Your husband's pay stub. You need to know how to read everything on this.
  • MTF - Hospital or clinic on post
  • MWR - Morale, welfare and recreation - This place always has great "going-on's" about the area and is worth checking out.
  • Orders - Always have a copy of his previous orders and his current orders on hand. Will make life a lot easier.
  • Pay Grade and Rank
  • POA - Power of Attorney - I never knew there were so many different kinds. I have 5 for my husband for when he deploys. These are so you are able to make decisions for him while he is gone.
  • POV - Personally owned vehicle
  • Relocation - To move
  • Tricare - Military's very own HMO
  • Unaccompanied Tour - A Tour overseas that you and your family are not allowed to go with your husband. (Mine did a tour in Germany for 9 months and we weren't allowed to go with)

SECOND - Get Documented

Now that you are "Married to the Army" everything has to be done on paper and filed correctly. All the right steps have to be taken in order to ensure you get the benefits of being married to the Army.

  • First and Foremost SUBMIT A MARRIAGE PACKET! - without this packet nothing else can get done. You don't get any extra pay or any shopping or child care privileges until the packet is submitted.
  • Obtain an ID card - Yes, you too get one of those special ID's that let you on and off post and shopping and all the "fun" stuff on post. As with everything that is done on post, plan on being there a while. Take a book or something to do no matter where you are headed.
  • Obtain a decal for your POV - Most posts make sure you have a decal on your car to let you on post. Even if you live off post and don't plan on being on post too often it is still best to get one.
  • Enter into Tricare - UGH, another thing that takes FOREVER but has to be done. Tons and tons of paperwork but well worth it in the end.
  • Obtain POA's - Most of the time you don't need a POA unless your husband is deploying but sometimes it's easier to get it all done and over with. There are POA's for everything! Vehicles, Taxes, Finances, Legal and even just a General one. Make sure you have everything you need because getting one while your husband is gone is next to impossible.

LES Example
LES Example

THIRD - Know how military pay works

The LES - the wonderful pay stub your husband gets twice a month to show how much he is getting paid. That's all well and good but if you have never seen one before it is quite overwhelming. All the accronyms and numbers can make your head spin. The easiest way to read it is to know what the accronyms are.

  • Basic Pay - The base pay your husband gets for his rank. Every year (hopefully) you will see a small raise from the government and when your husband gets promoted this goes up with that as well.
  • BAH - Basic allowance for housing - This changes with every duty station you go to. It is what the military pays those on active duty to maintain their living quarters. Most of the time you can pay more then just your rent/mortgage with the BAH. This also changes with pay raises. The higher rank your husband is the more BAH you will receive.
  • Duty Pay - There are many different kinds of duty pay: Hardship, Hazardous, Per Deim for TDY, Special, etc. These are different for every soldier depending on if he is deployed, on temporary duty, etc.
  • Family Separation Allowance - This one I really like. Granted a measly $250 a month is not near enough to make up for my husband being gone for 30 days in a row but it does help. If he's only gone for 28 days he does not receive FSA.
  • Be able to log in to the myPay website. This is where you will see your husband's LES and be able to start and change allotments (payments that come directly out of your paycheck).

FOURTH - Learn the Army protocol

  • The first thing every Army wife should learn is the rank structure. This way if you are ever on post at your husbands unit you know how to talk to certain individuals. You don't want to joke around with his commander like you would a private. Even if you are friends with the commander you still show respect to him while he's in uniform and don't joke about things while others are listening. There is no telling who will take a conversation the wrong way and that could be a huge disaster for all involved. Know where your husband falls in rank and life as an Army wife will be a bit easier.
  • Know your husbands uniform so you are able to help him look his best. This is a link to my hub How To Wear The Army ACU Uniform.
  • A huge help in being an Army Wife is to know how to talk to people. Always behave professionally with other spouses and service members, because you never know who you are really talking to. Be polite when introducing yourself. Do not use your husbands rank as an introduction, you don't want people to try to use you to advance their service members career. Even though you might not like it, what you do does reflect on your husband.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
My husband and Chief WilcoxMy friend Kisha and her husband on our way to the ballHanging out before dinnerDinner during the ballCooper and his dateMy friend Angel at the ball
My husband and Chief Wilcox
My husband and Chief Wilcox | Source
My friend Kisha and her husband on our way to the ball
My friend Kisha and her husband on our way to the ball | Source
Hanging out before dinner
Hanging out before dinner | Source
Dinner during the ball
Dinner during the ball | Source
Cooper and his date
Cooper and his date | Source
My friend Angel at the ball
My friend Angel at the ball | Source
  • One of the most awesome parts of being an Army wife is all the "fun" stuff you get to dress up for. From Formal Balls and A Command Sponsored Dinner to Dinner at the Co's house or Spouses Meetings, there is an actual dress code. Formal Balls - wear formal gowns, nothing casual or so low cut that your breasts fall out when you dance. Don't make yourself the subject of gossip. A command sponsored dinner - Fancy cocktail dress or short formal gown. Don't wear stuff you would wear to a club or to church. Change of Command ceremonies - Evening dress for the evening but nothing with sequins. For the daytime change of command wear a floral dress or business suit. Unless the party is casual. (ask the hostess). Dinner at the CO's house - Church clothes are best. No jeans or overly casual clothes. Look responsible. For a spouse meeting - khaki pants and a casual top would suffice. If your mother would not approve, neither would the CO's wife. Remember, you are a reflection of your husband.

FIFTH - Get Involved

There are so many different things you can do to be part of your husbands work and also to set a great example for your family. These are also great ways to meet other Army wives in the area.

  • Clubs - Book clubs, work out groups, etc.
  • Play Groups - There's always a ton of play groups around a post. Get the kids out of the house to play and you can meet other wives in the process.
  • Church
  • FRG - Family Rediness Groups - A great place to meet the spouses of your husband's unit and to help set up meetings, play dates, etc.
  • Volunteer Work - There is always something needing to be done on and off post. Volunteer your time and meet new people.


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    • Learning in Life profile image

      Megan Sisko 5 years ago from SW Florida

      I used to see it all the time. Kids in tow and all. I felt horrible the other day because I had to go to school and the CDC was booked. My hubby was walking around doing inspections with a baby on his hip!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Learning in Life - hahaha, that is totally not what is meant by "get involved" LOL I've never seen wives actually coming to hang out but I totally agree.....are you serious?! Thanks for reading and commenting :)

    • Learning in Life profile image

      Megan Sisko 5 years ago from SW Florida

      Haha! Great hub but I would make one change to the Get involved part (But not too involved) lol I hated seeing wives come up in the motor pool just to hang out... are you serious?!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      suzettenaples - I can totally understand how being a DOD civillian can be such a headache. The triplicate paperwork would drive me insane! Amazing how that part hasn't changed at all LOL Thanks for all the wonderful comments. The Army is my family too and I'd do everything again in a heart beat if I had to. Thanks for the stopping by and the comment :) It's greatly appreciated!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      phdast7 - I'm so glad you have enjoyed my military life hubs. There is so much more I can write about, just have a hard time deciding what to do next. Thanks for the comment and the shares! It's greatly appreciated!!!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Kathleen Cochran - Wow, we are coming up on our 12 years, he's re-inlisting for his last 8 during this deployment he's on now. Hard to believe we have made it the whole time and are so close to retirement! The role of an Army Wife hasn't changed much but I do believe it has gotten a little bit easier. Thanks so much for your comment :) And my apprenticeship is going incredible!!!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Cassie: First and foremost, thank you and your husband and children for serving our country, where ever you live. Without people like you we would not have the freedoms and life we have. Second, boy did this bring back memories. I have never been in the army or been an army wife, but I worked for the Department of Defense Dependents' Schools as a teacher. It was back in the '80's and paperwork had to be done in tripicate. That, I will never forget. We were paid by the DOD, so our paychecks were very similar and I remember the housing checks. You are to be commended for doing all this and being married, a wife and a mother. It was a real eyeopener to work around the military. I have the highest regard and respect for military families. You make as much of a sacrifice as the men in the army do. Thank you again for your service!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Very well done and extremely helpful Cassie. I wasn't an army wife but I was a military brat and lived on numerous bases here and overseas. My mother was the Air Force wife.. You have done a great service in writing these hubs about military life. Thank you. Sharing with followers.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I started being an Army wife at 23 after being a soldier's girlfriend for seven years. He's been retired for 18 years now, but still works around the military so I still feel like a soldier's wife. I don't think you ever stop feeling that way. I tell folks I'm the wife he was issued when he signed up!

      This is very informative and it is amazing how much hasn't changed. God bless Army Wives of this generation for your service. We've asked more of you than we'ver ever asked of any of the wives who have gone before you. I will say the military is doing a better job of supporting your role than they ever have before, but I think it is the least they could do after a decade of deployments to dangerous places.

      Good luck with the apprenticeship. Good to see people like you in it!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      soldiersmuzzle - You are right there, I have met many wives that have needed guidance and help through the hard times but that is what us "experianced" wives are here to help with :) I love my life and my soldiers career, good and bad. We may have more bad moments with it being the Army and all but the good ones are always way more memorable and worth it! I wouldn't change it for the world!!! Thanks for the kind words in your comment. It really made my day!!!

    • soldiersmuzzle profile image

      soldiersmuzzle 5 years ago from UK

      Brilliant and useful content. Nice to see you have enjoyed the long, emotional up and down journey and are still smiling. I understand it from the other point of view and am grateful and extremely appriciative of all the army wives efforts. Some need guidance as it can be a lonely place as im sure you know, but i think this article would provide much help to any army wife who read it. Thanks

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      K - you know, I wouldn't change my life in a million years! It has it's ups and downs for sure but every day is a learning experience and I'm so very proud of my husband for everything he has accomplished in his 11+ years!!!! Thanks so much for the comment :)

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      I love this hub! My oldest brother is a career Marine and my family have all served. You are a strong woman CassyLu. I can't imagine what you go through on a daily basis. Thank you for supporting our military :) Excellent hub. -K

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Mhatter99 - I know a lot of wives who have cried a lot. It's hard to be a constant friend to someone like that but everyone needs someone to get them through the hard times. I'm glad your wife was able to help her friend. Thanks for stopping by and the comment :)

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      I have a friend, a retired submariner. his wife cried a lot. my wife's friendship kept them together. (or so they say.)

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Thanks Riverfish24 - You can never be over prepared :)

    • Riverfish24 profile image

      Riverfish24 5 years ago from United States

      Great Hub and very very useful for somebody going to be an Army wife.

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      lindacee - Thanks so much :) I always appreciate when someone knows how much I actually do in a day supporting my husband and all that he does. It makes me laugh how many people actually think my life is "easier" because I'm an Army Wife. Granted, I do think I have it pretty easy but that's only because I've learned all the in's and out's along the way. Thanks for the comment and I'll be sure to tell my husband thanks from you :)

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      Super Hub! I can't add much more than has already been said, except...please thank your husband for defending our country and keeping us safe. And thanks to you for being strong for your family. Military families rock!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      greatstuff - yup, Multitasking is a must being an Army Wife. I don't know how many times I've been juggling a million things at once and somehow seem to get it all done and figured out! There is a lot to being an Army Wife, I'm glad I've had the opportunity to be one. Thanks for reading and the comment and votes :)

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Robert Erich - I'm glad you enjoyed my jargon :) There's so much more out there, I might have to do a follow up hub (or two) LOL Thanks for the comment and votes!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      moonlake - My three kids are super close in age (7, 6 and 5 years old now) so I don't get much help LOL I love military life though. I wouldn't change it for nothing! Thanks for the comment and votes!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      alwritetea - AH! I can't believe I didn't spell check that before I posted LOL Must have been in a hurry to get them out since our fellow Hubaholics are going crazy getting so many out at once LOL Thanks for the heads up and I changed it all :) Thanks for stopping by and the comment :)

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Simone - Thanks so much! Coming from you, that means a lot. So glad you stopped by and thanks for the comment :)

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 5 years ago from Malaysia

      It didn't dawn on me that you have to multitask until I read your article. Its awesome and amazing, with all the responsibilities and having to learn all the army protocols. Ow! This is a great article and well written. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      I loved all the jargon you've shared! Even though I will never be a military wife, this is certainly great information to learn. Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      This is great. I was an army wife for a very short time. I was an army brat all of my life. My mother was an army wife hauled five kids across the ocean without any help except for me I was the oldest. I think the oldest in all military families have to be the helpers with the younger children.

      Voted up on your hub.

    • alwritetea profile image

      Lisa Sumner 5 years ago from Vancouver

      Wow! Very thorough and informative! Great job fellow Hubaholic teammate!

      Not to be the grammar police, but you may want to run your spell checker through this to catch several misspellings. : ) Voted up and useful!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      This is an incredibly useful Hub! Gosh, there's so much to learn about and adjust to as an army wife- and there is SO much vocabulary to learn! What a great primer on all these things. This Hub rocks!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      marlynpumphrey - I'm so glad you learned a few things from this hub! There's always room for more information when it comes to us Army Wives :) You are very welcome for the tag. Thanks for stopping by and the comment :)

    • marlynpumphrey profile image

      Marlyn Munoz 5 years ago from Honolulu, HI

      Thanks for tagging me in your hub. I even learned a few new things in your hub as well. Awesome and definitely Useful

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      leahlefler - The documentation is a bit rediculous but well worth it. My only advice is to make sure you always have something to do with you, a book, games on your phone, something to write in, because it WILL take forever! Thanks for the comment :)

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Chemistry Book - It was interesting to write indeed. I wasn't sure how to start it but I'm glad it turned out good! Thanks for the comment.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      This is absolutely fascinating. I had no idea about the documentation that would need to be submitted and how military pay worked. This is fantastic!!

    • Chemistry Book profile image

      Chemistry Book 5 years ago

      WOW! saw the title and couldn't imagine the content. Turns out to be a powerful piece. So interesting!