Q: Did you go to/were you able to go to your husband's graduation from CHBOLC (CHaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course)?
A: I did go to hubby's graduation from CHBOLC. I highly recommend it. I actually went down for his graduation week. They had classes for the spouses, events and outings, and then, of course, graduation itself. I knew nothing of the military or chaplaincy, so it was definitely a great place to start my learning curve :-) Also the chaplain museum is there at Ft Jackson -- all chaplain families should visit it at least once to get a sense of the history of the chaplaincy since the beginning of the US Army. The Army will not pay for your flight or trip, but hubby may be in a private hotel-like room and they allowed me as his wife to stay there with mine in the room that week. It was a double/queen sized bed. I did not bring the kids with me. (They stayed with family - okay, I was pregnant so technically I DID bring one child :-) but the other stayed with grandma and grandpa). If you do need to bring your kids with you and there is no childcare, maybe you all could just plan to be there for the graduation itself. It is a momentous occasion. :-) You will circle back to Ft Jackson (home of CHBOLC) at some point during your chaplain's career, so it is good to get a feel for the post and its surroundings.
Q: Will the Army pay for/help us move to our first duty station?
A: The Army will pay for your initial move to your first duty station (as they will pay for each initial move to each future duty station). Once your hubby has orders and you are packed up and leave your current home, the Army is then paying for your housing. For the length of time that you are "in transit" to your new duty station/home, they will be paying your hubby a per diem rate. It covers hotel and food for a limited number of travel days. Some families move themselves and pocket the money that the Army would have paid to the movers (might be a good idea for those without kids or those looking to make some money in order to get out of debt?) BUT I don't recommend it with small children. It is hard and a hassle, but sometimes you walk away with $2000- 3000 in your pocket. Also, when you get to your duty station, you may be on a waiting list for housing - this is normal and occurs at almost every duty station. You can either stay in a hotel/condo on post (paid for by the Army's per diem pay for a short time) or if the wait is a long one you may have to find an apt or housing off post. We have found on-post housing is worth the wait (especially as a chaplain family)!
Q: Is it true that most officers choose not to live on post?
A: I think the saying that many officers don't live on post is a misnomer. We know plenty that DO live on post. My husband and I HIGHLY recommend it for those moving to their first duty station. It is the best way (in our opinion) to get acclimated to Army life. And when your hubby is home (not deployed), it will be nice having him near to be able to see him for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. However, I realize that saving money may be important to your family. Some families we know were able to get out of debt by living in a house/apt well below their BAH (basic allowance for housing) and it worked out well for them. If you need to do that to get out from under some debts then do what you need to do, just don’t forget the added expense of utilities. But if you are able to, we recommend trying life on post. We have lived both on and off post and I can definitely say I have been able to have a more vibrant and active ministry alongside my husband while living on post (closer proximity to chapel, families in our neighborhood were easy to open up to and minister to, fewer number of hours spent in the car going to and from post, etc.)
Q: What is an Army community like, especially for families?
A: Wonderful. When hubby deployed -- this is another benefit of living on post -- I relied HEAVILY on neighbors. They were all in the same boat (hubbies deployed or deploying) so they all understood and no one asked questions. Once my youngest spiked a fever so high I had to take her to the doctor immediately. I walked to my neighbors, told her of the fever, left my oldest with her and got in the car. She asked no questions and told me to do whatever I needed to. Of course, I knew her well by that point b/c our kids played every day together and knew I could trust her. That was a peace of mind for me that money couldn't buy. Also, our chaplain spouses group had a list of girls that babysat and we shared those names with each other. At most duty stations there is a small group of chaplain wives who band together for sharing community and resources with each other. Another option is the many childcare/preschools that are available on most posts. We have also utilized those from time to time and they are usually very professional and well run (and offer discounts if your husband is deployed).
Q: Can my husband do his duties at chapel and our family attend a church off-post?
A: The short answer is yes. However...we have chosen to be heavily involved in our chapel on post and not attend a church off post. We both feel that as a chaplain family, if we do not attend chapel and are not heavily involved with it, what kind of message are we sending to the families on that post? Chapel is not worth it? We don't feel right about encouraging people to attend chapel (one of the key elements of a chaplain's ministry) if we ourselves don't go. Sort of like saying "It's good enough for your family but not for mine." Most of the larger posts do have several chapel services to choose from and children's and women's ministries as well (please, please, please check out PWOC - protestant women of the chapel - or CWOC - catholic women of the chapel, depending on your denominational preferences :-)