Making the Most of a New Duty Station When It’s Only Temporary



When my husband received orders to San Antonio, Texas, we knew it was only temporary. It happened to be one stop of many for his training. But because it required nine to twelve months of training, the Air Force allowed the boys and I to accompany him.

I can’t lie. My mind flirted with thoughts of treating this permanent change of station as a vacation. We had been at our last duty station for five years. So my mind toyed with the idea of treating this place as a rest stop on our way to our real duty station.

Yet, we are still here a year later and have about six months to go. We’re close to moving on but not quite done yet. Military life can be like that sometimes.

I wanted to treat this place as a temporary assignment. No long-term friends. No huge commitments. Lots of sightseeing. It would be a year of adventure and fun. After all, we were only supposed to be here for one year. TOPS!

But here we are. Still in San Antonio. And this isn’t the first time we have been on a short assignment. The first time my husband cross-trained, he trained at a base for eight months (Anything over six months and the Air Force authorizes us to join him). Our current location is one of several duty stations he will go through before he’s finished. And I know several spouses, with and without kids, whose spouses are going through the same training. They have chosen to go with the military member along each leg of the journey. Even though one leg lasts for only four to six months.

In these types of situations, we have two choices. We can treat it as a temporary duty. Because in all reality, that’s what it is. Even if it happens to be extended, allowing the family to come along. Or, we can dive all in, temporary or not. After failing to treat our stay in San Antonio as a temporary assignment, even though I knew it would end, I am all in. 

Most of us know how to embrace a new duty station. Or at least, we have a few ideas on how to make friends in the latest place we call home (if that’s not you, I have suggestions HERE.).

But what if you know from the start that you aren’t putting down roots? Of any sort. What if you know your time is limited to just over six months?

Giving that some thought, I started considering how those spouses might involve themselves in their communities when their time is only temporary.

Reluctant as I was to settle down in San Antonio (thinking I had only nine to twelve months here), I found ways to occupy my family outside of sightseeing, allowing us to take full advantage of all San Antonio has to offer.

Open Play

My youngest son and I regularly attend open play time at a local gymnastics facility. You can find one in most cities and they are usually reasonably priced. Ours costs five dollars per one-hour session. My child will play with anyone. So he gets peer to peer play (since he isn’t in preschool) that he wouldn’t get otherwise — particularly, if I closed myself and him off to this city because it’s only temporary. I’ve met other moms, too. We may only meet at open play, but we talk about our lives and we get adult interaction.

Parent/Child Room at the Gym

Nobody wants to be the lurker in the gym. But the parent and child room at the gym is a great place to meet other parents. When my husband attended his second technical training school, it lasted only six months. That was just long enough for the Air Force to PCS our entire family to that training location. My first born and I joined him. I was pregnant with my second child at the time, so I went to the gym to stay in shape during my pregnancy.

Even though I knew my husband would receive a set of orders to some other place when he completed his training, I met another mom there. She had two children and went to the gym daily. Just by virtue of seeing each other every morning, we forged a friendship. She was there only temporarily while her husband completed his training. Her situation was identical to mine. Our kids played together, we ate dinner together and went to movies together even though we knew it would end. But everyone’s time was way more enjoyable because of the relationship we formed.

Squadron Events

We also attend squadron events. If your spouse moved because of training, then his or her training squadron prides itself on developing ways to keep spouses busy. I’ve gone to squadron playgroups, spouse socials, and holiday parties.  I always meet people who understand. Our oldest son joined the base youth center. He goes there and hangs out. And it has definitely made his time here more enjoyable.

 Have you joined your spouse on a temporary duty assignment or short permanent change of station? 

If so, how did you bide your time?