By Alexis Miller
Orders come in and what do you do? Break into your happy dance because you’re going somewhere new and awesome, or break down in tears because you’re going to that base. We’ve all been there. But no matter how you feel, one thing is for sure: It’s time to start learning about your next duty station.
But where to begin? It seems like that chore is easier said, than done. Google is a natural first step, but may yield less-than-helpful results. That’s when it’s time to get creative. The following are seven creative ways you can discover your next duty station.
Get excited about the base
Whether you want to move to your next duty station or not is irrelevant… so it’s time to embrace your base. Instead of dreaming about all the reasons you’re going to hate that duty station, start looking for all the reasons you’re going to love that base.
What is there to do? What’s a perk about living there? Begin your research process by looking into the general area or city your duty station is located in. Are there major festivals that take place there? Movies in the park all summer? An ice sculpture contest in the winter? Nearby state or national parks? Maybe the weather is mild year-round. Maybe you get all four seasons. Maybe it’s sunny over 300 days of the year! Find out what makes that area unique and what kind of activities your family can expect to take advantage of while stationed there.
Start researching the duty station. What is the base itself like? Did they just put in a new rock climbing wall? Is there more than one commissary? Is there a splash pad at the base park? Dig into the base to find out exactly what you can expect before you arrive there. That might even get you–gasp!–excited to move there.
Utilize social media
You’ve probably already joined the local spouse’s’ page, which is a great start, but take it a step further. Follow the official Facebook page for that duty station as well as the MWR, FRG or A&FRC’s page. Oftentimes they have the most up-to-date information on the base. They’re likely to post about the fun activities happening on base throughout the year too. Follow the local newspaper on one or more of their social media accounts. You know they’ll have the most up-to-date information on the area.
You’ll also want to check out the blogosphere. Many military bloggers across the web have been stationed where you’re headed next. Tap into the wealth of information they’ve already written about. You might be surprised by what you find (and the connections you make).
Make your network work
All military spouses have a network. As soon as you receive orders, reach out to your friends and family members and ask if anyone has lived at the duty station you’re headed to. If they have, they’ll be a wealth of information on the area and what to expect. If they haven’t, ask them to put you in touch with anyone they know who has lived there or is currently stationed there.
Hash it out
This one probably sounds a little odd, but hear me out. Hashtags are, well, tags. That means when someone with a public profile uses a hashtag like #FortBragg in a picture or post, you can find it in a search because it’s been tagged. To get a visual idea of what your next duty station is like, hop on Facebook or Instagram and start searching hashtags related to your base.
Some hashtags will yield great photos that give you a sense of what that area is like from the perspective of people who live there. Other searches won’t come up with much at all. Be persistent and get creative with your hashtags.
If you’re curious about the base, the surrounding area or a house in particular, ask a friend to go Facebook live for you. They can set up their video so you’re the only one allowed to view and walk you through a potential property, around the commissary, or the local outdoor mall and give you a sense of what the area is like in real-time. Pretty nifty, huh?
Maybe you already do this, but if you don’t it’s time to start. I created a board for Fort Bragg when we received orders to move there. The thought of living in North Carolina initially brought me to tears. As I started pinning and building up my board, I actually started getting excited about the many things there are to do in North Carolina.
Starting a Pinterest board for your next duty station is just one more great way to learn about the area. It’s one of the easiest ways to tap into the vast amount of information already on the web about that base. You’ll be amazed at what you find. Again, why make more work for yourself when someone has already done all the research for you?
I’ve done the PCS-to-a-base-I’ve-never-been-to-before-thing and it’s incredibly stressful. Trying to learn about an area where I had no friends or family members to rely on for information was a little scary. No matter what your situation is, whether you’ve got a contact at your next duty station or not, using these tested tactics to discover your next duty station will help reduce the stress of your next PCS.
Alexis Miller is the Social Media Coordinator for MILLIE, a website dedicated to making the PCS process easier for military families. When Alexis isn’t busy writing posts and managing social media accounts, she’s doing yoga, rock climbing, fly fishing or traveling.