When my husband and I arrived at our duty station, I was focused on spending all my free time with him. He was away from me for year beforehand and we literally just started cohabiting. It was a huge adjustment and I had to get used to sharing a home with him. I loved it though. We spent a year and a half in a long distance relationship, so the constant interaction was amazing.
Then, we reached our first separation. I quickly realized that I didn’t know anybody on post and I was very lonely. Although I’ve made awesome professional friendships by networking, I still wanted to start building more local connections.
That’s when I started looking at different organizations on post. In my mind, it was the perfect excuse to meet people. I got my feet dirty by becoming very active in a nonprofit that raises scholarship funds for military dependents as well as arranging other welfare activities throughout the installation and surrounding areas.
I’m currently still involved with this organization and I’m loving every minute. There are so many different benefits that come from participating in events on post. You don’t even need to “join” a club. By just attending, it’s a great way to get exposure for yourself by being seen and heard.
Here are my top 5 reasons why you should consider partaking in events on your military installation:
- To make new friends. Honestly, the main reason I started attending events was to be around people. Right now, my husband and I are child-free and my only daily interaction is with the cat. In addition, we live off-post and I didn’t have an opportunity to meet other military spouses. Like I mentioned before, I really wanted to make friends that were local and thought that going to events was a way to insert myself in an organized situation without feeling awkward. I never realized that it would be a challenge to put myself out there, but that was really the only way I would get to know the people around me. Luckily, you’d be surprised on how un-awkward it is to participate in events. Most people in the military community are amazing and I’ve made it my goal to be as open as possible when I’m getting involved.
- To help your kids make new friends too. Even though I don’t have kiddos at the moment, I can see this being very beneficial for them as well! A lot of events are held at community centers and this would be a great time for them to meet potential friends and create strong bonds. I witness it all the time when I am on post! I can also speak as a former military child that those activities are important and I have fond memories from all those special events, especially holiday-related gatherings.
- To feel a sense of community. There is something to be said about joining together with people in your similar position. Bouncing off the point about the military community being amazing, it is also very welcoming. You are surrounded by men and women who have a good hold on how you must feel as a military spouse. I’ve attended spouse functions by Operation Homefront and the USO that really resonated with me as a participant. A fun outcome is that an on-post fundraiser that I help sponsored had a couple of ladies that recognized me from one of those events. It’s funny how your circle opens up and the feeling of community is a huge part of it.
- To practice professional skills. As you’re connecting with others at these events, it goes without saying that you might talk about your life. Maybe you’ll chat about career aspirations? Or share your expertise to gain new business? There is also a big benefit for volunteering on your installation. It can contribute to your resume and build on your professional skills. For me, I utilize the skills I’ve learned in my career to help the organizations I volunteer for. I love being able to do what I love within my military community to make an impact, no matter how small.
- To feel fulfilled. Lastly, in addition to practicing my professional skills while volunteering, it gives me a huge sense of achievement to contribute my time to the community. Even if you’re not exactly volunteering, getting involved in installation events in any way can give you a sense of fulfillment. Whether it be an ACS (Army Community Services) get-together for incoming spouses or your spouse’s company picnic, attending gives you some perspective in what’s going on in the community around you. Other attendees can gauge your excitement and it resonates. As a result, people remember you and your enthusiasm! So, whatever your reason to participate, it’s a positive for so many different aspects of yourself, from professional, relationships and personal feelings.