Friday, June 3, 2011

Resource Thursday: LINKS classes

Yesterday I went to my first LINKS class. I had heard of these for years, but thought they were for "new" military spouses. Considering myself somewhat seasoned at his point, I figured I already know how to handle deployments, find my way around base, etc. But there was a group of spouses from my husband's company taking it together, and they provided childcare on base, so I thought, "why not?" I am so glad I did!!!

LINKS stands for Lifestyles, Insight, Networking, Knowledge, and Skills. The class I took was for spouses and lasted most of the day, but they have shorter workshops for parents of Marines, children, fiances, etc. The program started 20 years ago during the 1st Gulf War, when spouses who had become used to the "peacetime" cycle of the military suddenly had to handle deployments to the Middle East and learn to navigate military life without their husbands. Each military base offers its own version, and you would get maximum impact if you attended a class when you were new to a base, but even after being here almost 3 years I still learned a lot of valuable info!

The class covers 6 main topics: The Corps (structure and explanation of ranks), Local Services on and off base, Understanding Pay and financial opportunities, Deployment, Military Moves, and Community involvement. I had some experience with most of these topics, but learned a ton of new things in each presentation. Plus, participating with other Marine wives helped me see that my experiences were not unusual or weird, especially when it comes to deployment. There was a sense that "we are all in this together, so let's make the most of it and help each other." So it was a really fun and positive day!

Some of the highlights of what I learned:
-- the infantry at Lejeune is all part of 2nd Marine division, and I now see exactly how my husband's job fits into the hierarchy
-- what to do during Colors on base each morning or evening
-- lots of acronyms and jargon!
-- phone numbers for all kinds of services on base
-- apparently I need to renew my ID card since my husband was promoted last year!
-- details about the base movie theater which I have never used
-- Disney World has a military resort with special military rates!
-- how to get price matching discounts from the Commissary and PX
-- MyPay has a "limited access" option so I don't have to use my husband's login info
-- the RUC code you need for a Red Cross Emergency message is located on the LES
-- how to read and interpret the LES
-- how to use Split Pay
-- the Savings Deposit Program gives you 10% interest during deployments!!!!!
-- there are 6 stages of the deployment cycle, each with its own distinct challenges and emotions
-- you can request a military Sponsor when you move to a new duty station!
-- a dislocation allowance is free money you get for moving: you just have to check the box!
-- how to contact a chaplain besides the one in husband's unit
-- career advancement and education opportunities available to the Marine

Plus I even got a certificate and a goodie bag afterwards! The class was free, the on-site childcare was free... I would say it was a great day! I highly recommend the LINKS class to anyone who hasn't taken it, regardless of how long you have been in the military!

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