I am a 26 year-old guy who recently entered the military. I arrived to my first duty station a few months ago and have noticed that I have become more agitated on a daily basis, and I’m not sure why that is. My supervisor is 4 years younger than I am and I live in the dorms. I just don’t understand why my life experience is pushed aside — I feel like I am treated like a toddler. What can I do? — UNDER-APPRECIATED DORM DWELLER
Dear Under-appreciated, Coming into the military is a huge adjustment for everyone, but it can be even more of an adjustment for people who come in a bit later in life. You have had a lot of time to experience life in the real world and create your own path. The level of independence you have developed at 26 can be really hard to give up. Unfortunately, the military does not always take that experience into account.
Many of the new recruits that come into the various Services have just graduated highschool, and chances are, your supervisor is one of those high school graduates who has been in the service for a while by now. Although he or she does not have the same life experience that you do, they probably have a good handle on the way the military operates. Try not to their abilities too much just because they are a bit younger than you are.
As for your own situation, I would “bite the bullet” and play the game that all new servicemembers have to play to survive in the military. You will not be on the bottom rung of the food chain for long, and your life experience and independence will make fantastic leadership qualities as you progress in your career. Being a few years older than your peers offers several advantages for you. As your peers are focusing on learning how to be an employee and becoming independent of their parents, you will be able to review the tasks at hand and set yourself ahead of your peers immediately.
Dorm life is what you make of it. Some people really enjoy the simplicity of it, while others have a problem feeling like they are being babysat. If you have a problem with some of the policies enforced at the dorms on your base, try joining the Dorm Council. There, you will be able to influence certain aspects of life in the dorms. Now, you may not be able to change all of the policies that you do not like, but, perhaps, you will have some ideas that can improve morale and make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone. Just hang in there and know that you are not alone in the way you are feeling and it will get better — sooner than you think!
I have been in a relationship for a little over a year and things have been going very well. My significant other is a civilian, and has never seemed to have a problem with my life in the military…until recently. I deployed about 2 months ago, and I feel like ever since I left, we have been fighting a lot more and we can’t talk about anything without it ending in an argument. I have tried to find solutions to the problems, and I just don’t know what else I can do. I really don’t want to lose them, but I just can’t see any other option at this point. What should I do? — DEPLOYED SPOUSE
Dear Deployed Spouse, First of all, I would like to thank you for your sacrifice! Deployment is never an easy experience, regardless of your service or the length of your tour. Being away from your loved ones and the comfort of your lifestyle can take its toll on anyone. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!
That being said, the sacrifice that you, and thousands of other servicemembers continue to make on an ongoing basis is very foreign to those who have not served in the military. Many times, civilians struggle with their decision to be in a military relationship, simply because they do not understand the demands of the position that you have volunteered for. This difference in opinion can lead to an increase in the number of arguments, and, if untreated, tends to put a major strain on the relationship. In some cases, this miscommunication can manifest as anger and resentment, which the servicemember often internalizes. These expressions are not meant for the servicemember, but are often taken out on the member for lack of a better target.
Another factor is that your significant other may be struggling with the perceived increase in your level of danger. They may not know how to support you through your deployment, especially if they do not agree with your being deployed.
Also, remember that while you are embarking on this new adventure and your life is becoming busier and more exciting than when you left, the only difference for the member at home is that you are not there. Deployers get a lot of special attention for the sacrifices they make on a regular basis. This leaves the spouses as the unsung heroes at home, temporarily dealing with the life you have left behind. Although they may not be running things the way you would, they are still managing your life for you in your absence. Perhaps some special recognition for their sacrifice is exactly what your relationship needs. Knowing that you appreciate all of their support and help through this journey can make all the difference! There are many ways that you can express this gratitude. Writing letters is a personal way to let your significant other know that you are thinking of them and have taken the time to include them in your day-to-day life. Sending a simple gift or token of appreciation can go a long way.
Try to keep these suggestions in mind when interacting with your significant other. Deployment is hard on everyone involved and it is very easy for couples to lose sight of the significance of their relationship. I am sure that whatever amount of effort you put in to reconnect with your partner, you will see an equal reciprocation.