JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Being a military spouse means being part of a culture completely different from that of civilians. It can prove overwhelming at times, but with a little extra time and effort, it doesn't have to be.

The Army Family Team Building program is offering "Military Spouse 101" for anyone interested in learning more about the military and how it pertains to their everyday life.

The class is a two-part session being held Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Army Community Service, Building 2166. It is free to anyone with access to Joint Base Lewis-McChord,

"It basically introduces the military way of life and covers what are realistic expectations versus what are not," said Christine Swift, AFTB and Army Family Action Plan manager.

The course is divided into 10 modules, beginning with expectations and impact of the mission on family life. Each module is about an hour worth of instruction and interaction.

In addition to covering the basics, the course goes in depth on topics like how to read a leave and earnings statement. It's one of the most important pieces of paperwork for a service member, yet few spouses understand it.

"It has all kinds of information, so we go through every single box on the LES and tell them what they mean," Swift said.

Although the title of the class might lead one to believe it's only for spouses, Swift said it's for everybody. As a spouse of 24 years whose husband is still on active duty, Swift said she is still learning new things and sees other seasoned spouses benefit from the course.

"We love it when we get some seasoned spouses in because they serve as mentors and role models for some of the folks, and they always come away saying they've learned something new," she said.

Enlisted Soldiers can earn promotion points by attending, and civilians who work on JBLM gain insight on how the military operates. It's also a way for people to network and be reminded that they are not alone in an ever-evolving lifestyle. Perhaps more importantly, Swift said, the course can help strengthen bonds between a spouse and service member.

"The more knowledgeable a spouse is and they show more pride in their husband or wife's job, the more it makes the Soldier feel like they care and are taking the time to learn about their career path," she said.

On the contrary, a spouse who doesn't take time to understand the military way of life could end up with unrealistic expectations and be more demanding.

"Everybody's going to complain about things from time to time, but it won't be as bad if they have a better understanding as to why their Soldier has to go away for two weeks of training or why it's 5 o'clock and they haven't left work yet."

"Military Spouse 101" takes place in a typical classroom setting, but the course is anything but ordinary. Swift said her instructors are very creative and find ways to make the class fun.

"They come up with these really neat ideas, and they love to engage the audience," she said. "It's a lot of fun."

The course is usually offered once a month. To reserve a seat or receive more information, call 967-AFTB (2382).

Laura M. Levering is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the northwest Guardian.


Military Spouse 101

Military Spouse 101 covers a variety of topics, broken up into 10 modules. Below are the modules that will be presented during the course:

"Expectations and impact of the mission on family life" explores expectations family members have of the Army and the impact of the Army mission on family life. It will also provide tips to assist in developing realistic expectations.

"Military acronyms and terms" introduces many of the military acronyms and terms most frequently used as well as the military phonetic alphabet and military time.

"The chain of command" explains the military chain of command through the explanation of rank, discussing the various branches of the Army and exploring the Army's organizational structure.

"Intro to military customs and courtesies" will review some of the customs and courtesies that are basic to the day-to-day functioning of the military and to the social aspects of the military lifestyle.

"Supporting your child's education" reinforces the importance of parental involvement in a child's education. It also provides an overview of the school liaison officer's role to assist Army families in obtaining a good educational experience for their children, particularly when they are transitioning from school to school.

"Intro to family financial readiness" introduces basic money management and financial planning techniques. It illustrates the advantages and techniques of creating a family financial plan, how to save wisely and information on credit.

"Basic problem solving" describes and provides an opportunity to practice a six-step problem solving process to help determine solutions to various real-life scenarios.

"Basic military benefits and entitlements" introduces the basic benefits and entitlements received by military personnel.

"Introduction to military and civilian community resources" introduces many of the sources of help and support available both on and off post.

"Introduction to family readiness groups" provides an introduction to the mission, structure and benefits of family readiness groups. FRGs help family members to develop a more positive attitude toward themselves, the unit, the development of the Army.