It’s been years since my man was there but after getting some good feedback to some tips I gave to someone I thought I would share what I learned. At the time I didn’t know anyone else that had gone through this so I made it up as I went along. What I learned from experience was really by luck, but I would have loved to have someone tell me what I was doing was the right thing, or at least someone to talk to about it.
1. Keep Expectations Low – Everyone’s boot camp experience is different; so it can be hard to predict exactly what to expect. In my twelve years as a military girlfriend, fiance and wife I have heard many different stories. I heard from my Airmen twice on the phone during boot camp, but we exchanged many a letter. This experience can vary with branch or just whoever their drill instructor is. Maybe there’s a stupid person in their flight (Air Force term) who is causing all of them to get phone rights cut. It happens. It is just the way it is. Keeping expectations low is really important for your sanity. If your experience is less or more than I just stated then you will keep your fragile emotions better in check.
2. Your service member might go through a temporary personality change – No joke! This was probably the strangest experience. My then boyfriend/fiancee’ was a confident, sure of himself dude. He wasn’t cocky or anything, but he could handle his own. On our first phone call I heard him be emotional for the first time really ever in our relationship. When we arrived for his graduation I encountered a somewhat timid, nervous kind of dude. While always a rule follower in general, he was nervous about where we were driving to, what we were doing and how much PDA we had. By the end of our graduation weekend he was much better, but it was still a really interesting experience.
3. Cool it with the mail – This was also something I kind of learned on my own, but also tips from my man before he left. Not everyone has a super research hubby, so just in case you don’t this is important! Keep it simple is a good motto. I wrote a couple paragraphs everyday and sent him them all in one letter a week. Nothing to bulky and everything very plain. Nothing that could garner negative attention. Plain white envelopes and nothing smelly. There were plenty of stories from Mr. Air Force from guys who were embarrassed by their TI’s over mail, singled out to do a million push-ups to get it, or teased for things that were frilly. And don’t send anything but letters. I did however send him one picture at the end, but never assume that they are the only one who will see everything. Good rules to live by!
4. Keep the pressure low and follow the rules yourself (for attending graduation) – This will make your life easier, as well as his. There are rules for where they can go, what they can do and those apply to you as well. NO PDA!! Quick hug when you finally see them and that is it! Use the time in the car to hold hands, steal a quick kiss in the elevator when you can take them off base. This is really connected with ‘Tip #2″, but warrants its own number. Now sometimes you can do arm linking, but respect the nervousness of your service member.
5. Take in the experience!!! Go to Boot Camp graduation! It is an experience unlike any other. Tech School (or MOS) graduation is fine, but the Boot Camp graduation is just really neat. Go to all the informational meetings, even if you don’t think you have to. Listen to what those in charge are saying, even if you think its lame. Attend all the events, experience the local culture of where you are (I love love love San Antonio). Go to Chapel on base. This was probably one of the greatest experiences because this is the one place that a lot of the Airmen could be relaxed. They had their tops off, they were sitting relaxed, they were vocal. It is sort of like a safe haven on base and it was really special.