After our DITY move from Virginia to Florida, I told myself I would never move ourselves again. I have heard horror stories about packers but after our experience with the DITY move, I was willing to take my chances. We scheduled our packers to come on a Wednesday with the truck scheduled to load on Thursday. We spent the week before getting organized and packing our cars with everything we needed, as well as everything we couldn’t bare the thought of losing (photo albums, computers, jewelry, etc). The biggest thing I learned from our last move was to back a “New House Box” with a shower curtain, box cutter, toilet paper, and all those other little things that you forget that you simply cannot live without until your stuff arrives!
Our packers came on Wednesday and honestly, we were really lucky. They took all day but we ended up with only one broken item and nothing at all “missing”. I have to be honest here and admit that I completely forgot to take a small baggie with $200 emergency cash out of my nightstand and I found it wrapped in paper, safe and sound, when we unpacked in Meridian. Believe me, I know I am an idiot and I know I got EXTREMELY lucky! The movers packed the truck on Thursday and again, I have no complaints. I try to make friends with the movers and think it makes things better for everyone involved!
We drove up to Meridian on Friday and moved into our new house. Our stuff was arrived on Monday so we only had to spend three nights on the air mattress. Even still, I was very excited to sleep in my own bed on Monday. I was even more excited for our internet to finally get hooked up on Wednesday 😉
After Rob found out he got jets, we drove up to Meridian to go house hunting. Meridian isn’t known for being the nicest or safest town so after looking a little, we made the decision to live in base housing. BEST DECISION EVER! I honestly am SO thankful we chose to live on base. The town is small and there isn’t much to do, but already it seems like such a tight knit community on base. We went to a block party the first night we were in town. This week I went to a cooking class at the community center, Wine Wednesday at a neighbors house, Bunco at another neighbors house, and worked out twice with a friend up the street. Our neighbors across the street brought us dinner the night our movers were here and another neighbor down the road had us over for dinner the next night. It is everything that I hoped for when I found out we were living on base and even more! I truly feel so lucky and it has made our transition to Meridian (and the lack of Target!) much sweeter. We have only been here for a week but I think we are going to be just fine 🙂
When we moved to Pensacola for Rob to start flight school, I had no idea what to expect. I was thrilled to live at the beach but didn’t know how long we would be here or what Rob’s schedule would look like. We moved to Pensacola in June and I did not take a teaching job because I “did not know if I would be here long enough to finish out the school year”. Which is true, I had no way of knowing that we would be in Pensacola for as long as we were. Hindsight is 20:20! If you have been wondering what the last year looked like while Rob was in flight school, here is a recap!
Initially, we had almost three full months of paid vacation. Rob checked into his unit but everything was backed up so other than the occasional funeral duty and check in with his unit, most of his time was free. I look back on this time so fondly! We lived less than a mile from the beach and spent all of our time together relaxing on the beach, checking out new restaurants, and exploring our new home. It was perfect and exactly the together time we needed after TBS. We were able to travel to two weddings and both of our families came to visit. Anytime we felt antsy to get started, we reminded ourselves how blessed we were to have this time together. Deployments are inevitable in this lifestyle so we tried to take advantage of every minute of this downtime!
In August, Rob started IFS, Initial Flight Screening at Jack Edwards Airport in Alabama. This school is about a month long and held off base at an airport close to your house. We lived in Perdido Key at the time which is why the closest airport ended up being right over the state line in Alabama! It is pretty much the military paying a civilian school to teach you to get your private pilot’s license to make sure you can handle the basics before they actually pay real money to train you to be a military pilot. Rob flew in a Cessna and studied or flew everyday. It was the first time he had ever flown a plane so it was super exciting for him and nice for me because his schedule was still not too intense! IFS ends with a solo flight and the cutting of his shirt tails, which I was able to go watch. It was definitely exciting!
Soon after finishing IFS, Rob started API, Aviation Preflight Indoctrination, at NAS Pensacola. This school is six weeks long with four weeks in the classroom and two weeks of survival and swim training. The classroom portion is intense. Rob would go to class in the morning, come home in the afternoon, and then study until he went to bed. It was a lot of information and a lot of work. API was the most intense portion in my opinion of all of flight school so far. I have never seen Rob study as much as he did during API! Even though he was studying every waking minute, he was still home and able to eat dinner with me and sleep at home every night. We were still able to go to the beach on the weekends and live a “normal” life. TBS makes you grateful for things like this! At the end of API, the students earn the right to wear their flight suits. They get to wear their flight suits for the first time on “Flight Suit Friday” and then have a giant party at the Officers Club on base to celebrate. It was such a fun night and another special tradition in the aviation community.
Rob finished API right before the holidays and had a bit of a wait time before starting Primary. Rob was assigned to complete Primary at NAS Whiting Field in Milton, FL. (Primary is held at Whiting Field or in Corpus Christi, TX) Whiting Field was about an hour and a half drive from our place in Perdido Key. There was no way this was feasible for Rob, especially for 5am briefs, so we made the move. Most people move to Milton but we wanted to stay closer to downtown, the beach, and civilization so we decided to move to the North side of Pensacola. The downside of the situation is Rob did not rate a PCS since Whiting and NAS Pensacola are located too close together, so the move expenses were out of our pockets. Even though it was a bit of a hassle, living in Peridido Key for the first six months was totally worth it and we both agreed that we would make the same housing decision again!
Rob classed up in Primary at the end of January was part of the VT-3 Red Knights. He started out with ground school, knight school (classroom/studying portions), and lots of waiting around. He flew in the simulator and did the practice simulator at home a lot before flying his first real flight in March. It seemed like Primary would last forever! Some weeks he would get scheduled almost every day and some weeks he wouldn’t go in to work at all. The schedule was posted around 5:30 every night for the next day so we quickly learned to live by that schedule. It was hard to plan anything in advance but we still were able to spend a lot of time together and take a few spontaneous getaways (within 300 miles of course!) The schedule was really unpredictable and things were always changing due to weather/maintenance/etc. Once I let go of the expectation to plan anything based around Rob’s schedule, the schedule just became a normal part of life!
Once Rob flew his first solo flight in June, it seemed like things really started picking up. The first phase of Primary (Contacts) took longer to complete than the whole rest of the syllabus. VT-3 took the planes and the students to Michigan for two weeks and this knocked out a ton of flights for Rob. He came home almost completely finished with Primary. Selections are scheduled for Thursdays and the students have to be finished with all events by Tuesday in order to select that week. Rob selected at the end of August and had a little over two weeks before he had to report to Meridian for intermediate/advanced jet training. Supposedly intermediate and advanced should take around a year so I guess I will have to save that recap for Flight School 2.0 next year once he finishes!
Last week was equally exciting and nerve-wracking as we anxiously waited for Rob’s selection on Thursday. After being in Primary (this phase of flight school) for almost eight months, Rob finally was finished and ready to select which type of aircraft he would fly — jets, helicopters, C-130s, or ospreys. He selected his preferences and then based on his grades and the “needs of the Marine Corps”, he would be selected for one of the four options. With that selection would also come the location of his next school (and our next home!)
All week long we were anxious. Rob seriously worked so hard in Primary and we knew he was good enough to at least have a chance at his top choice but there was always the possibility that there may not even be a slot available that week. By the time Thursday came around, we had pros for every single option and were just ready to find out!
Selection for VT-3 is held in the squadron bar. All of the students selecting that week sit at the bar in front of the CO and another instructor pilot. They go around and say what they are hoping for, then the first person starts. They make a toast to the bar (the first one always goes to the Red Knights-the squadron), take a drink, and pull a chip out of the cup. The chip contains the name of one of the airframes (or sometimes joke ones like UFO). They hold it up and the CO tells them that yes, they got that or no, they did not. They continue making toasts and pulling chips until they get a “yes”. It’s really fun watching other people but my hand was definitely shaking a little filming Rob select! When it was finally Rob’s turn, he selected……
I seriously could not be more proud of him! He worked his butt off and it paid off! We are officially moving to Meridian, Mississippi next month so Rob can start jet school. (But that is another post for another day!)
After he selected, Rob actually had his tie cutting, which is totally out of order. Tie cutting is supposed to happen after your first solo flight however due to schedules and the detachment to Michigan, Rob and a lot of the guys had their tie cutting after they selected! They sit on this tiny plane and tell funny stories with their on-wing (the instructor they learn to fly with) and then the on-wing cuts their tie and they tack it to the ceiling of the squadron bar. Rob and Nik both had the same on-wing (they were also roommates and TBS and both were selected for jets in Meridian!) so of course their stories were goofy and kept us laughing!
We headed to McGuire’s to keep the celebration going! We have been joking about ordering the “grand burger” to celebrate when Rob got jets since we moved to Pensacola so, of course, when it happened we had to actually do it!! It was totally worth it and a fun “Pensacola” way to celebrate Rob’s accomplishments!
Military moves are never easy but are an inevitable part of this lifestyle. (See: DITY Move in 1 Week) My friend Joy gave me advice before she moved to Texas about creating a moving binder to keep things organized and easily accessible during a move. I thought it was a great idea and wanted to adapt the idea to work for us. Taking the time to do this in advance saves so much time and stress later. All I will have to do is update new/changes in the binder. I love to-do lists so these lists are perfect for keeping me sane during moves!
To make my moving binder, I used a 1/2 inch binder and put everything below inside plastic sleeves. (That way I can use wet erase markers to cross items off the list and then just wipe it down after the move) My moving binder contains:
– To-do Lists for “Before Order Arrive”, “Orders Arrive”, “1 Week Before Move”, “1 Day Before Move”, “Day of Move” and “Arrival”.
– Copies of all important documents:
-Social Security Cards
-Military Ids and Drivers License
-Power of Attorney
-Military Moving Forms
-Serial numbers for all big items (electronics, furniture, etc.)
-Photos of all big items (electronics, furniture, etc.)
-List of abbreviations the movers use
-Addresses and phone numbers for hotels/stops along the way
-Moving box color code sheet
-An empty sleeve for weight tickets, receipts, etc
Working on the moving binder helped me realize that while I may not know where or when we will be moving, there are plenty of things I can work on ahead of time to get prepared. The lists are pretty customized to our life/belongings (ie. no pets, our amount of stuff, etc) but might be a great jumping off point for you to get started. Feel free to email me if you want a copy of my PCS binder pages!