Love thy Duty Station

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Oh My God, I hate it here.
This is the worst place ever.
Do you know how far I have to go to shop?
The schools here are horrible.
How long until we can PCS out of here?
We live in the freaking middle of nowhere.
This place makes me completely miserable.

Admit, you’ve said one of the above things once or twice if you’ve ever PCS’d.  Maybe you’ve said them once or twice a day.  We’ve all been there, stationed some place that you’re pretty sure the army engineered just to make you miserable and test your loyalty.  I’ve been there too: homesick, heart-sick, lonely during deployments and shoveling more snow than should ever fall in one location (hence the above picture which was taken during Jason’s last deployment.).  Welcome to *insert hated duty station here*.  Mine is Fort Drum.  You know what?  It’s what you make of it.

When we first got orders here I have to admit that I was slightly appalled.  I was happy to be close to family, but all I had ever heard about Drum were stellar comments like “it’s the armpit of the army.”  Fantastic.  How do you make a home somewhere everyone hates?

Simple:  You make a decision to stop hating it.

So you, sitting there, lamenting your rather stark existence at Fort Irwin, or homesick in Germany, just Stop.  Stop focusing on the bad, and learn to love your duty station.  Think of it as the 11th commandment, army style.  For every negative thing, come up with a positive.  I promise, no matter where you live, there’s a positive.  Oh, and all you people in Hawaii?  Yes, your milk is overpriced and you’re stuck on an island, but no complaining.  Capeesh?  You live where most people save to vacation.  😉  But no really, there’s no duty station that’s immune to the “I hate it here” blues.

But really, for me, there’s always been a moment when the hubs comes home with orders that my heart sinks and I think, “we’re going WHERE?”  No, seriously, where is that???  We’ve lived in Germany, so far from my family that my heart ached, and I nearly jumped ship to move home.  But instead, we traveled, we grew closer and stronger as a couple, and I found a new-found appreciation for the time I could spend with my family.  When my sister and my parents stepped through the door in our little home in Hutten (outside Grafenwoehr), I really knew what it was to be grateful for those whom I love.  If we hadn’t moved so far away, we never would have learned to stand on our own as a small family, our kids never would have strolled through the Louvre (literally in a Graco stroller), and our third little boy wouldn’t have such an awesome birth certificate.

When we PCS’d to Rucker, in Southern Alabama, culture shock hit me with the force of a death-row inmate.  I’m sorry, to what purpose are there pickled pigs feet next to the coffee machine in the gas station?  The weather was hot, and I couldn’t stand the heat. Jason was in flight school which meant long hours, stress at home, and 5&9 books left forgotten in the refrigerator.  The man slept-talked “less weight equals more lift.”  I kid you not.  When Brody was born, Jason was back on the flight line six hours later, and I brought him home from the hospital with my mom.  Oh, and how about those tornadoes?  What.  The.  Hecklo.  But you see, if not for Rucker, Jason wouldn’t be a pilot.  I met some of my best and truest friends ever while Jason was in flight school. I learned that I could handle four little boys.  We were an hour from the beach, and I found time to go back to school so I could graduate with my bachelors.  Alabama has stunning sunsets to go with those poisonous spiders, and sweet southern accents so thick it’s almost like a foreign language.  I was sad to leave Rucker.

Enter Fort Drum.  I had never heard one single positive thing about this place.  Ever.  But you know what?  Other than the obscene distance from my family, I really love it here.  This place is exquisitely beautiful in the summer, which makes up for its pristine white color all winter.  Yes, there are some crazy factors which can make this duty station a little hard on the average person.  But we live in a tiny town that reminds me of Norman Rockwell every time I drive down the street, and I’m in love with our house, our village, and our general life.  Sure, there have been moments when all I’ve thought is “I want to go home to Colorado,” but really, over-all, this place is great.  And that’s coming from a girl who survived a 3rd deployment from here.

Why is great?  Because it’s what we’ve made of it.

I’m not saying that you can’t have moments where you hate where you’re at, your house, your kids’ schools, your husband’s job.  But how much energy is that hate taking out of you?  How many hours can you not get back from whining?  I’m not saying don’t whine.  Vent, get it out of you, and then Move On.  Find the positives.  Find your niche, your friends, your go-to gang.  Seek out the community centers, and the playgrounds, the libraries, the volunteer opportunities.  Spend as much time falling in love with your duty station as you do hating it.  As crazy as it sounds, we have no control over where we live if we want to live with our husbands.  Yes, some times it stinks to know that we’re not the ones driving the train.  So give up on hating the lack of control, and instead, try to look at it as this fabulous adventure that someone else is planning for you.  We might not control where we live, but it’s still our life!

So love it.  If you can’t find a reason to love your duty station, then find a reason to love something about your house, your car, the small flower box you just planted.  Remember how much you love that husband who leaves boots on the floor and calls to say he’s running late.  Again.  There is something to love, something to enjoy, something to take the focus off what you don’t like about it.  After all, love brought us here, and love will over-shine every small fault you can find with your duty station.  

You can’t get these years back, no matter if you’re stationed at Fort Huachuca or Fort Iriwn, there is something not only to be able to live with, but to find your utter joy in.  The places we live cannot make us miserable, the army cannot make us miserable, only we can allow ourselves to be miserable, and only we can bring ourselves joy.  So go ahead and wallow and vent and cry.  Then pick yourself up and throw yourself in, because being “all in” is the only way to live our way of life.

It’s what you make of it, so make it great. Oh, and if you’re moving to Fort Drum… buy a snow-blower.  😉

2 Comments on “Love thy Duty Station”

  1. Lady Bud

    Love it! I'm moving to join my hubby at Fort Drum next summer, once our daughter graduates, and I sure hope to meet you! I definitely want to surround myself with people who think the way you do.Cheers,Donna Budjenska

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