PCS day! All my worldly possessions were in this car and headed to my first duty station!
There comes a time in every Lieutenant's life when she finally reaches the "mythical" Fleet and begins to work (like an actual adult) after months and months of preliminary training. That time has come for me! I reported to my first duty station on April 1st and have been working in my Primary MOS as a 4402 since that time. It is such a relief to be done with school. And I think I'll be done with school for a long time until I get another itch to rack up more degrees (using my Post 9/11 Bill).
In my first few weeks here, I've formed some opinions, merely by scoping out the lay of the land and dealing with clients. For one, I've noticed how very small the Marine Corps is. Every day, I'm running into Marines I knew from Officer Candidate School (OCS), The Basic School (TBS) or Naval Justice School (NJS). All those experiences provide us with a common ground to build further camaraderie.
Next I learned there are so many resources available on base to learn a new skill. Our gym has a rock climbing wall in the middle of it; you can take an archery or car maintenance class if you want to; there's a job fair going on today for Marines that are about to EAS (end of active service). I'm using MarineNet to learn French and eventually take the DLPT (Defense Language Proficiency Test) for extra nontaxable income.
Finally, with the current market, I would caution you to ONLY buy a house in the area if you intend on returning to it after you are done with the Marine Corps. In this area, there are so many Marines who bought a house because their mortgage payment (with no money down) ended up being cheaper than paying for a rental. But they failed to think about the cost of ownership. With home ownership, all maintenance, association, and upkeep fees are theirs, with a rental, the landlord bears the burden. Additionally, once they PCS (permanent change of station) after 3 years (it is nearly inevitable), they inadvertently become landlords or decide they want to get rid of the house. But at this point, they are stuck because no one wants to buy it. I see at least a dozen "For Sale" or "For Rent" signs driving back home from work.
What are some insights you've picked up on from reporting to a new duty station?
All smiles, moments before we suffer the gas chamber at TBS! I did it twice!
Marines, just a reminder that daylight savings begins on Sunday. Make sure to switch over to your desert camis for work on Monday! Semper.
Me giving just about my EIGHTEENTH combat order of the POI (period of instruction) at MOUT town!
You and the Combat Order will become very familiar at TBS. In fact, you'll probably write over 30 combat orders in your 6 MISERABLE MONTHS in Quantico. Haha. All grouchiness aside, here is a really helpful Combat Orders Checklist
that was passed down to me before I headed to the BOC (Basic Officer's Course). Use it to double-check that you've got everything you need . . . especially if you're the Marine holding the primary billet.
Note: If you print this double-sided, you can laminate it and bring it to the field with you! But soon enough, you won't need to because you'll have this stuff memorized.
As often requested, I will begin posting all the gouge collected from TBS (The Basic School) throughout the entire POI (period of instruction). The first place to start is at the very beginning . . . the 5 Horizontal Themes. You will, at some point, have to memorize these, even recite them for the Colonel, and possibly be rewarded with a challenge coin. These are the themes you will attempt to live out during your entire career as a Marine Corps officer.
A Marine officer who is:
- A man or woman of exemplary character
- Devoted to leading Marines 24/7
- Able to decide, communicate and act in the fog of war
- A Warfighter who embraces the Corps’ warrior ethos
- Mentally strong and physically tough
You will also need to memorize your "Oath of Office"--what you swore to at commissioning and the "Oath of Enlistment"--what your subordinates will have sworn to at their enlistments.
Oath of Office
I, ____________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely; and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter; So help me God.
Oath of Enlistment
I, ____________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
Memorizing these 3 very key passages is a great place to start. Strong!
Have you heard of the Servicemember's Civil Relief Act? If not, get ready to live!! Jk, jk. It's not THAT great, but it's pretty good. Along with giving you relief to break your lease if you deploy or PCS (permanently change your station), the SCRA offers great credit card benefits.
Here at Naval Justice School, we learn a lot of useless things about the law that don't really apply in the moment . . . the SCRA is a BLESSED exception.
Through invoking the rights provided by the SCRA, an ACTIVE DUTY member can notify all credit card companies of her status in the military and receive lower interest rates on her credit card (CapitalOne provides a 4% interest rate for credit cards AND car loans, while AMEX and VISA provide 0% interest), waived annual fees (I've eliminated almost $300 in annual fees with a simple phone call), NO LATE FEES, NO FEES on cash advances, and NO FEES on foreign currency transactions, among PLENTY of other advantages.
What does this mean? Well, for me, it means I STILL have to be responsible with my credit cards and payments, but it also means loads of FREQUENT FLYER MILES without paying a frequent flyer mile card fee! Which, in turn, translates to me seeing HOME a lot more often! Yippee!
All most credit card companies need is your date of commissioning, your EAS (end of active service) and your social security number to apply the savings. Most companies will even REFUND you the amount they charged you in fees while you were active duty--which is pretty amazing. Other companies will need a written letter or an email of relevant commissioning documents, plus a copy of your military ID, etc. It's not such a hassle when you think about all you'll be receiving. Let me know if you have any questions about how to do this!
And obviously, don't just take my word on it. Do some research on your own. You can also check out www.creditkarma.com
for your free credit score!! Keep it above 740 AT ALL TIMES! And remember to be financially responsible with this awesome power you now wield! :D Semper!
TBS (The Basic School) is backwards day! Your staff intends for you to be frustrated. And you are meant to be stressed to the point of constantly and fruitlessly asking yourself, "WHY????" in the most exasperated tones. Just forget the "why" and do what everyone else is doing. That may not be the path to good leadership, but it's the way to graduation!
After all, TBS is a place where smart people are treated like they're stupid, where grown adults are treated like children, where things that make sense are abandoned in favor of the NONSENSICAL. It's maddening. Haha. Most importantly, it is ultimately a place where you are measured by your ability to conform to a "standard" that is arbitrarily ascribed to. (See how I did those annoying quotes!?) With that in mind, here are a few tips:
1. Don't even read your peer evals! They are meant to screw with you and they're filled with juvenile comments totally unrelated to being an officer!
2. Don't share how well you're doing. Marines are competitive. They want to know what everyone else got on the test in order to gauge their own abilities. Just respond that you did, "Okay" . . . for EVERYTHING.
3. Don't confide in your SPC. Sure, you should ask your SPC (Staff Platoon Commander) for help on tactical principles, but don't confide in your SPC about your struggles, hardships, or failings in the POI (period of instruction). Better yet, don't trust anyone on Camp Barrett with those things. TBS is a dog-eat-dog world . . . especially with hundreds of lieutenants competing for a specialty they will eventually have for the next 3 years! Anything you say just might end up as fodder for a review board to recycle you to another company.
Reading these may seem dreary, but the light at the end of the tunnel is that TBS is NOT the Marine Corps. The real Corps is actually heavy on the camaraderie, light on the backstabbing, more mentoring-based and less self-centered. You WILL get through it and become a good officer, not because of it, but despite it!!
Here's the gang in Newport, Rhode Island for Naval Justice School.
I just checked into to Naval Justice School (NJS) in Newport, Rhode Island, where the weather for the next few weeks is always guaranteed to be below 0! Great! We have a "Pain before Breakfast" 5-mile run tomorrow morning which is said to be "voluntary." But really, if you don't go and freeze your buns off in an exercise of shared suffering, you will be mercilessly ridiculed. :P
Anyways, NJS is a 10-week course where we delve lightly into all aspects of military law including civil, criminal, and administrative. We'll be doing mock trials, client interviews, and administrative boards as we're competing for the top 20% of the class.
It's quite a change from TBS (The Basic School). We now live in a hotel--complete with a Keurig, free laundry, big screen TV, queen bed, and MAID SERVICE! And with New York, Boston, and Connecticut around, there'll be lots to see. This weekend, we're touring Breaker House (the Vanderbilt's summer home). It's free for active duty military so that'll be a treat! We should also be able to have enough time for PT (physical training) given the drastic change in our workload compared to our previous training enviro! I'm excited to get my body back in shape after it's been torn up from TBS (The Basic School).
Just to remind everyone . . . I am extremely accessible either by phone or email. If you ever have a question, just type it in the contact form and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Here's one reader's query:
My boyfriend just started, zero week, I guess it is at TBS. His date to report was January 15th. I haven't talked to him or heard much from him since he arrived and I was wondering.....How mentally challenging or culture shocking was it to arrive at TBS? Were you overwhelmed? What can be expected from the end of the civilian instead of the end of the LMO (little marine officer)?
My Response - Culture Shock at TBS:
That's a great question! There seems to be great culture shock at TBS, especially for the males. Since everyone's pretty much a TYPE A personality, it gets to be very competitive and stressful in the LATER stages.
However, Zero Week is a breeze; you are merely completing administrative paperwork and getting a brief introduction of what will happen in the months to come. During my time at TBS, more specifically during Zero Week, I was able to go out and enjoy 2 to 3-hour long dinners with my friends EVERY NIGHT (Note: It's a much different story when training actually begins! A lot of times, he will not be released from work until the late hours of the night and after, he is so tired he may not feel like talking. Don't take this personally. These next 6 months will require a lot of patience from both ends).
Right now, your boyfriend is probably just taking the time to meet his colleagues and get settled into what is probably his first experience in a completely militaristic atmosphere. These are very important things for him to do.
It's been 3 days . . . he will eventually call you once he gets organized. And pretty soon you will have to go 4-7 days without talking since he will be sleeping out in the forest for field exercises. It's difficult, but it comes part and parcel with being a military servicemember or servicemember's significant other. Take heart! You can make it work!
Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland--a chilling example of the Nazi war machine's brutal efficiency. It is estimated that between 1.1 million and 1.5 million Poles, Russians, and Jews were murdered here. The main camp gate reads, "Arbeit macht frei," or "Work will set you free."
Hello, everybody! I'm currently on my "Happy Graduation from TBS tour" of Scotland, Poland, and Ukraine. On a whim, I chose Scotland for New Year's and as it turns out, Edinburgh's Hogmanay (New Year's Party) is the biggest winter festival in Europe! For Scots, the New Year is a more important holiday than Christmas! So Hogmanay is a huge street festival with rides and hundreds of fireworks set to music, and over 200,000 people manage to show up. It's a grand time.
Just a side note, any Marine traveling abroad must fill out a COUNTRY BRIEF (typically available from IPAC or the person who approves your leave). The country brief is a month long approval process of getting leave out of the country. It includes letting your command know where and when you are going, taking a bunch of MarineNet Courses (including SERE 100, or Survival Evasion Rescue Escape . . . be advised, this class is pretty long!) and finally creating an APACS profile (Aircraft and Personnel Automated Clearance System) for your trip. After, you'll be given the various travel advisories, if any, for each country that you plan to visit.
Cheers and many thanks to my CO (commanding officer), XO (executive officer), OIC (officer in charge), and legal chief who signed off on my Christmas and New Year's leave last minute to make this trip possible! Apparently, generals from various European Commands had to be called to permit myself and a fellow Lieutenant to travel into Eastern Europe. So I owe all the aforementioned Marines a very expensive bottle of Scottish whiskey or Polish vodka!
A note for you Marines planning a trip abroad . . . don't be a boot lieutenant and think you can just go anywhere in the world without approval from your command (like me, haha)! Another good idea would be to register with each countries' US Embassy (easily completed online), which we have done for all 3 of our destinations. Happy travels!
At the entrance of Edinburgh castle, professional warrior, William Wallace, made famous by the movie "Braveheart."