Ah, do you hear the birds chirping and the magical sound of the school bus in the neighborhood? At last, after a PCS move, the first day of school arrived! I whimsically twirled around the house, helping kids gather their items and load them into the car.
“Are they ready for this? Will they make friends? What if they are nervous?”
As we approached their classrooms, and I readied myself to deliver a Superbowl worthy motivational speech. But it was unnecessary. The kids ran into their classrooms and began playing, laughing, and dancing. Once again, I was in shock at the resilience and bravery of military children. Chris and I confidently smiled at one another and began to head back to the car.
While we worry about our children making friends with each PCS, we also need to make friends quickly.
“Mr. & Mrs. Pellegrino, do you have a moment? We need you to fill out your emergency contact form,” the receptionist bellowed.
Normally, immediate panic, dread, and beading sweat would have set in as I scrambled to think of people to list. However, this time I was prepared! I reached into my handbag for my pre-filled list of contacts that I connected with prior to even arriving our duty station.
PCS can be completely nerve-wracking. Fear not!
My name is Athens E. Pellegrino. I am a military spouse of 12 years and have completed 8 PCS assignments. My number one recommendation for enjoying an assignment is establish a military community that you can lean on. Below are my top tips for making friends at a new duty station:
This is the first step to making new friends and often the most difficult. I cannot tell you how many times I have received invitations to social gatherings and had every excuse under the sun not to attend. I always need to push myself to get out of my comfort zone and just show up! The majority of the time, I end up having fun and am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend. Push yourself to attend more functions and say “yes” to invitations. I guarantee you will not regret it!
Joining a spouses group may seem intimidating, especially when you do not know anyone. But rest assured, you are not alone. Most spouses are eager to make friends and form bonds with others. Spouses groups are a great way to meet a significant amount of people within the same base and unit. These relationships serve as an invaluable network, especially when deployments, TDYs, and life’s hardships come into fruition.
I make it a priority to join this group at each installation. The beauty is that you can participate as much or as little as YOU would like. I have participated as a member only by attending monthly coffees; I’ve also served as a President of a 400+ member group. I have met my best friends from joining these groups and formed many friendships that I still keep in contact with daily!
Endorphins, fitness goals, and getting out the house? Sign me up! Even before I was officially a military spouse, I would go to fitness classes at the gym. As I attend the classes regularly, the members become more familiar and friendships start naturally occurring. We eventually started signing up for fun runs and races together, potlucks, and nights out! As a mom, I look forward to groups like Fit4MOM , iStroll, and boot camp classes where I can bring the kids in the jogging stroller. The friends that I make through fitness groups are particularly special to me because they help me stay accountable for fitness and self-care, which are very important for our chaotic lifestyle!
I am reminded daily of how grateful I am for life’s blessings and want to teach my children the importance of giving back to others. There are so many ways to get involved. The best way to begin is to stop by your installation’s Family Readiness Center, and you can receive volunteer opportunities on and off base. If you are comfortable with going straight into your community, look up opportunities in areas that may interest you: food pantries, humane societies, tutoring, camps, etc.
Social Media Groups
As soon as I receive notification of where our next assignment will be, I take to social media! I look up Facebook pages and groups involving the local area. I have been able to connect with members who have a lot of the same common interests or activities. These pages can serve as a phenomenal resource. For example, I planned most of our move to England with recommendations in local groups. However, I do caution to always be aware and cautious, practice OPSEC, and if meeting up with individuals, do so in a public setting.
I hope my recommendations can help you get adjusted quickly to your new duty station.
I have created the Military Child Chronicles series to serve as a resource to families to aide in overcoming obstacles within the military life style. The first book of the series, MISSION: MY FIRST PCS can be purchased on Amazon. Once you are settled and no longer feeling like the newbie, please be sure to spread the positivity forward and reach out to new spouses in the future!
Athens E. Pellegrino grew up in Ocean City, New Jersey. She attended St. Joseph’s
University and obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. She met her husband
Christopher while attending the university and married in 2009. After, she studied at Troy
University and received a Master of Public Administration degree.
Athens serves the United
States Air Force as a Budget Analyst and military spouse. She has a love for travelling, cooking, dogs, and fitness. Athens and Christopher have a son, Atticus (age 3) and daughter Callista (age 1). The family has experienced 7 Permanent Change of Station (PCS) assignments. The latest was 7 days after giving birth to Callista.
Athens is intrigued by the strength and resiliency of military families, which led to her creation of the Military Child Chronicles series. The first book is Mission: My First PCS.