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So far Jessica Bertsch has created 433 blog entries.

One Final Thought

As we embark on the time-honored (and oftentimes dreaded) PCS season, I took a moment to reflect on all the “opportunities” my military spouse life gave me. In the 10+ moves we made as an Air Force family, I had the privilege of learning to wear multiple hats, many of which I am sure I would not have worn if we had lived a different life. Mostly, these hats sat on my head because of my role as a military spouse or the people we met at the various places we called home around the globe. Some I cherished, and some I’m happy I survived. One thing these hats all have in common? They’re part of what made our time in the military unique, challenging, rewarding, and life-affirming.

In no particular order, I’ve been . . .

  • A plumber
    (Full disclosure, I have an uncle who was a master plumber whom I always consulted to determine if I could handle the job myself or needed to call in a professional.)
  • A funeral-home-for-pets director
    (Yes, at one memorable duty station all the neighborhood kids came to me to properly help them eulogize and plan send-offs for everything from traditional pets to spiders they kept in a box.)
  • A personal reader and test quizzer (for all the non-confidential material in various Air Force courses my husband took)
    (There were many car rides where I would read from this or that manual while he drove.)
  • A pet boarder
  • A cultural ambassador
    (We were stationed in Japan where our children attended Japanese schools and I taught English to Japanese citizens.)
  • A house finder
    (My friends placed way too much trust in me when they were PCSing back from Germany. I mean, I even signed all their closing paperwork via power of attorney. So, they truly bought and moved to this house sight unseen.)
  • A CPR provider
    (Shout-out to every CPR instructor I’ve had since I was 12—you save lives.)
  • A locksmith
    (I failed at this and ended up calling housing since we were on post. They came out to rescue my 16-month-old who somehow locked himself in his room.)
  • A homeschooler (at certain duty stations)
    (My kids had an eclectic educational experience for sure.)
  • A day care provider (for days when school was out but the base was working)
  • A Key Spouse (one of my absolute favorite hats the military ever let me wear)
  • A DIYer
  • A (very unofficial) counselor (when friends have been struggling with a duty station, military-related life events, etc.)
  • A travel guide (for visiting friends and family and for those getting ready to PCS to a place we’d been stationed previously)

This is by no means a comprehensive list. One thing I’ve learned from an adulthood spent as a military spouse is that we can be anything we need to be, and we can do things we never thought we were capable of doing. As we enter PCS season, here’s to all military spouses who make it work at each and every duty station. We wear so many hats besides just those of spouse and (for a lot of us) parent. Wear all those hats proudly this PCS season, no matter what it has in store for you. And know that each of those hats represents another reason why military spouses are some of the most powerful, skillful people anywhere.

We’d love to hear what “hats” you’ve had to wear during your time as a military spouse. Drop us a line and let us know what your favorite, most unexpected, or most-loved “hat” has been.

Heatherlynn Akins is a proud Air Force spouse (retired), mom, and retired pet obituary author.

Did you enjoy this article? Read the full e-magazine, here.

2024-07-02T15:01:19-04:00May 20th, 2024|Powerhouse News|

Starting Out on the Military Spouse Journey – Bailey Gerrity

Bailey Gerrity and her husband, Doug, have been married for about a year and a half. They met when Bailey’s last semester at the University of Nevada, Reno was cut short by COVID. She went home to her family at Travis Air Force Base, California, where Bailey grew up and her father served as an Air Force reservist. Doug, who is in the Air Force, was experiencing his first duty station there, and the two met in January 2021. They got married in September of 2022 on the day Doug had actually planned to propose. Doug, who is from Connecticut, was waiting to propose until his parents could fly out and both families could be together. But the Air Force had different ideas, handing him orders to Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma just ahead of the planned proposal day. Because both families were going to be in town, and with only three months before he needed to PCS, the two decided that they would get married at that time instead. Bailey, a planner by nature, planned their wedding in three weeks to coincide with Doug’s parents’ visit.

That started a whirlwind period for the couple, who got married and immediately started planning for their upcoming PCS, which they handled themselves. They’d had a bit of recent experience between the two of them with a few apartment moves, so they were confident they could do it and “not have to rely on anyone else’s timetable or schedule,” Bailey says. The pair and their two dogs rolled into Oklahoma right around Thanksgiving, which also factored into their decision to handle the move themselves.

While Bailey grew up at an Air Force base and had numerous friends over the years who were part of active-duty Air Force families, the fact that her dad was a reservist meant she doesn’t feel like she had a ton of experience before becoming an active-duty spouse. “My dad was a full-time reservist. I grew up on Travis AFB, and my brother who is eight years older than me joined the Air Force and is a B-1 pilot, but I spent my whole life at Travis, except for college. So, leaving friends and family, especially having been back home for two years and it being right before the holiday season was hard. It’s been hard to adjust to a new place, but recently it’s been feeling more like home,” Bailey says.

That three-month time period—between getting married, planning and executing a move, and trying to figure out whether she could keep the job she loved in the advertising field—is the most surprising thing she’s encountered so far as a military spouse. “Definitely the biggest surprise has been getting the orders to Altus. We had three months to move and figure out how we were going to fit in a wedding and deal with everything else. It was chaos, but we survived, and we learned a lot in that time,” she says.

For Bailey, who is career-focused, the uncertainty about the job she loved created significant challenges. “Initially when I told them I was moving, the company was unsure if I would be able to keep my position due to moving to a different state. That was disheartening because I love what I do,” says Bailey who works as an associate account executive working with regional automotive clients. “But I have an incredible boss who fought for me and people at the company who helped find a solution so that I could stay in a fully remote position,” Bailey says. Knowing she could stay with her company made the imminent move a little less stressful. “The transition was tricky, but now that everything has been worked out, I’m still able to work a job I love. I know I’ll face career challenges like leaving jobs I love and having to look for new work throughout Doug’s career, but I’m glad that for now I can keep working for an organization I love and further develop my professional skills,” she adds.

While military life can be challenging, Bailey says the best thing about it is the people you meet. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many different people,” she says.

“You can really build your community no matter what, and the support of other spouses has been amazing. I’m blessed to experience that kind of atmosphere.”

She’s passionate about that experience, wanting to ensure that military spouses know about all the resources available to them. So much so that she recently became a Key Spouse.

Bailey had been helping another Key Spouse at Altus, and one day she told Bailey that she really thought she should be one herself. Bailey went for it. “There are so many resources out there for military spouses,” Bailey says. “It’s crazy how many there are and how few know about them.” For herself, Bailey has taken advantage of MyCAA, which lets military spouses take courses and earn certifications for free. “Already having a bachelor’s degree makes it a little tricky to find courses, but I’m working on my project management certification through MyCAA right now,” she says. “I also love Military OneSource and there’s so many websites out there.” For Bailey, a lot of the resources she personally loves are career growth oriented. “I have a mentor through American Corporate Partnership’s mentoring program. And I love the Military Spouse Advocacy Group,” she says.

In the short time Bailey has been a military spouse, she’s had a lot thrown at her very quickly, but she’s handled it all well. So, we asked her what advice she’d give new military spouses just getting started. “Have something, a hobby or something that has nothing to do with the military. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with everything that military life entails, but it’s so important to have something for yourself. For me here at Altus, it’s a little workout studio; for others I know, it’s volunteer work. Just find something to do that gets you out there,” she says. It’s good advice and it’s served Bailey well. If she had a military spouse motto, it might be “Everything works out.” She says, “I had a friend tell me that before we PCSed when I was stressed out that in six months Doug and I would be sitting in our house with our dogs and thinking about how that was a crazy time, but we got through it and we’re better for it. She was right.” Just remember that everything works out, and you’ll be fine.

Did you enjoy this article? Read the full e-magazine, here.

2024-07-02T15:01:32-04:00May 20th, 2024|Powerhouse News|

In the Midst of the Military Spouse Life – Halley Trembath

Halley Trembath’s husband, Ben, is currently serving as a C-130 pilot in the Wyoming Air National Guard, giving the family some permanency in their living situation, but Halley and her family have experience with active duty and National Guard life. “Ben graduated from the Air Force Academy. He always wanted to be a pilot, but like with most things in the military, he was originally assigned a different career field, Halley says. “He eventually found a way to make his dream happen with the Guard.” She’s proud of her husband for persevering in realizing his dream job, especially for the lessons that can teach their two sons, ages seven and five, as they grow up. Sometimes you have to embrace the now in order to realize your future.

Halley and Ben met in Colorado, when Halley attended the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Her roommate knew Ben from high school and Ben offered them free tickets to an Air Force football game. Halley jumped at the chance to attend an Academy game, where she met Ben and the two became great friends. “We were friends for about a year,” Halley says, “then we went on our first date at the Garden of the Gods National Park. Coincidentally, there was a wedding ceremony happening when we were there, but we both quickly assured each other it wasn’t a sign of anything. Although if I’m completely honest, I was kind of hoping it was.” The couple wed two days after Ben’s graduation from the Air Force Academy.

Halley still sees Ben’s graduation as a highlight of their time in the military. “It’s the ultimate pomp and circumstance,” she says. “The president was the speaker that year, and just seeing the joy on all the graduates’ faces that they’d made it [is] a core memory for me, and every time I think about it, I still get all the feels.” After that great start to her new chapter, Halley and Ben began Air Force life, and Halley quickly realized it wasn’t always as great as graduation had been. They moved five different times during his time in the Air Force, and with no military experience (no one on her side of the family had ever served) Halley quickly realized how independent and resilient she’d need to be. “I’ve always been a super independent person, which helped with TDYs and deployments, but learning how to be all things was new to me. It’s Murphy’s Law,” she explains, “if it could break while he was gone, it would. I’ve been a plumber, an electrician, and who knows how many other things over the years. I even love moving. It’s fun and exciting to discover a new place.” Military life can be challenging, but Halley’s personal motto is “If you let it be yucky, it will be.” So, early on she made a personal resolution to find joy and good no matter where they were or what was going on, and as a result, she cannot pick a favorite duty station easily.

When pressed, she says it was probably the years they spent in Little Rock, Arkansas. “Absolutely because of the friends we made there,” she says. “All our husbands went on their first and second deployments together, so we were all learning this Air Force thing together. We really got to know those people so well and we still talk to them all the time.” In fact, Halley still goes back once a year to visit friends who are still in the area and to check on the rental properties she manages there.

Which brings her to what she feels is one of the most significant challenges she’s faced as a military spouse. “I’ve actually only had one job in my degree field,” she says, “at our first base. Then we were told on a Monday that we were PCSing on that Friday—the only time in Ben’s career it’s been that quick—and the company I was with wanted me to stay for another six months before transferring to their offices where we were moving. I didn’t want to be apart that long when we didn’t have to be, so I left thinking because we were going to a big city (the biggest we were ever stationed in) I’d be able to find a job there.” Spoiler alert, she wasn’t, and she attributes that directly to being a military spouse. She decided to take the year they were there to work on her skills, not just professionally but mostly life skills. “I learned about eating healthy. We were still used to eating like college students, which isn’t necessarily the healthiest lifestyle. I got involved in a spouses’ group, went to the gym, and just generally took every opportunity to work on things that would set me up for success,” she says. She adds that while she experienced some heartache over her career, her natural resiliency helped her make the most of the situation.

Eventually, once they landed in Little Rock, Halley started a job in property management, working her way up from leasing agent to her firm’s top manager. She got her Arkansas real estate license and realized she’d found a career she was passionate about. When she and her family eventually moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, Halley ran right into another professional challenge associated with being a military spouse. “I had to wait two years to restart my license,” she explains. “I had to bide my time for two years working for another firm and to get my broker’s license. It’s hard to have to start over every time you move, but I’d heard horrible things about property management in Cheyenne, and I wanted to change that, especially for military and veterans.”

Knowing Cheyenne was their last stop, as Ben planned to transition from active-duty Air Force to the Guard unit there, Halley started making plans to open her own property management business. “One of the things I did professionally was work for the Chamber of Commerce,” Halley says. “It was such a rewarding experience. I loved the work, but the hours were challenging since I have a family. I learned the roles of business in the community, big, medium, and small. My time there really shaped my ideas of business.”

That knowledge helped her a lot when she launched her company, Rock Solid Properties. “The core of our business has always been to help military families and veterans with their housing needs, whether that’s long-term purchase, rental, or even Airbnbs. Of course, we help anyone, but our experiences with the military have made us passionate about helping other military families have the best experience they can when they’re in Cheyenne,” she says. Being her own boss lets Halley achieve the work/life balance she needs, especially as Ben’s job still has him deploying and going on TDYs.

Her favorite deployment trick is surviving the first two weeks however you can. “It’s the time when they first leave and you realize that you’re it until they’re back. Give yourself time to make that transition, that adjustment. Then, start planning things to make the time go faster,” she says. Halley says that having little things to look forward to helps. For her children, she involves them in planning things that are just for the three of them. “We’ll go to the zoo; there’s a great one not far from us. Or we’ll take a short trip somewhere an hour/hour and a half away.” It helps that Denver is within that time frame and offers lots of opportunities. “You don’t have to take a vacation or go anywhere expensive or that requires a lot of planning on your part. Just find things to do that you can look forward to and plan them for different times throughout the deployment,” she says. She also suggests making the most of the holidays when your spouse is home. “For us, Ben’s deployment schedule always seems to mean he’ll be gone for Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, we don’t create traditions or expectations around those holidays,” Halley says. “Instead, we’ve adopted St. Patrick’s Day as our big family holiday. I know it sounds strange, but Ben is almost always home on March 17th, so we do it up big. We have the food and the beer and the friends and make it fun.” It helps that there’s a lot of Irish in her ancestry, but more importantly, it’s a holiday the family can usually count on being together.

What’s surprised her the most so far about military life? “How small and how big the community is at the same time,” she says. “The C-130 community particularly feels small, but it’s really big. Still, I feel connected to people all over the world. Everything feels intertwined.” Resources like the Family Readiness Center and opportunities like MyCAA, which lets military spouses get professional certifications for free, also help you feel connected and offer great resources for military spouses.

Her best piece of advice is to “join a spouses’ group of some type wherever you are—a traditional spouses club, a book club, whatever. Just join one to meet and get to know other military spouses. It helps a lot. Also, always check out your Outdoor Rec center. They can be a great resource and people don’t think about them.”

Halley’s motto for military spouses is “Take it and run with it.” “Don’t let it run you,” she cautions. No matter where you are or what challenges you’re up against, face them head on and always, always focus on finding the good things about wherever you are. It makes all the difference.

Did you enjoy this article? Read the full e-magazine, here.

2024-07-02T15:01:53-04:00May 20th, 2024|Powerhouse News|

Tales of a Veteran Military Spouse – Kimi Taylor

Kimi Taylor has been living the military life since 2007 when she married her husband, Brandon. They married right after Brandon’s West Point commissioning ceremony, which Kimi attended as his fiancée. “The West Point graduation ceremony is phenomenal,” Kimi says. She adds, “Most military ceremonies start to run together after a while. They’re so similar and you attend so many over the years, but Brandon’s graduation from West Point is something I’ll always remember.”

How Kimi and Brandon met sounds like one of those serendipitous, meet-cute stories that Hallmark movies are based on. Or so Kimi has heard countless times over the years when she recounts it. “I attended Seton Hall for college. I had a partial academic scholarship and played soccer there, but after two years I transferred to the University of Hawaii, where I received a half academic/half athletic scholarship. That first year in Hawaii I was missing my friends from back in Seton Hall so much that my parents gave me an airplane ticket to New York as my Christmas present.” Kimi goes on to relate that she flew to New York in early January that year and had a great time with her Seton Hall friends. She’d been telling them that she wanted them all to go to New York City for a day, but when that day came all her friends bowed out. Kimi, not to be deterred, went by herself.

At New York City’s iconic Penn Station, Kimi stepped onto the up escalator and Brandon stepped onto the down escalator. Their eyes met and they stared at each other the whole ride. Once she reached the top, Kimi stepped off the escalator and a few seconds later heard a voice talking to her. It was Brandon, who had turned and run up the stairs as soon as he got to the bottom to catch her before she could disappear from his life forever. After explaining that she lived 6,000 miles away, the two exchanged phone numbers and somehow managed to make the long-distance thing work until they could be reunited post-college. The rest, as they say, is (military family) history.

In the 17 years the Army has been moving her family around, Kimi has endured multiple deployments. “My husband’s battalion deployed one day after our first son was born,” she recalls. “They gave him two weeks at home and then he had to leave to join his unit.” He deployed again when their second son was just under one year old. For their third child, Brandon was there, but the family PCSed from Arizona five week later.

For Kimi, whose father was a police officer, the idea of service, protection, discipline, and sense of duty that we associate with military members wasn’t too difficult to adapt to, but everything else about military life came with a steep learning curve. “Both of my grandfathers served in the military, one in the Navy and one in the Air Force, and my uncle was in the Marines, but all were retired by the time I came around,” Kimi explains. “So, I had no concept of what military life was like. The acronyms alone are like learning a foreign language!” Still, the most surprising thing for Kimi has been that the military moves you wherever you state you don’t want to go. “You fill out your wish list of where you’d like to go next,” she says, “and if you’ve listed your top 40 choices, the military comes back and says we’re sending you to your 41st choice.” It’s consistent, she adds. None of the seven duty stations they’ve had so far has been one of their top choices.

The other challenging aspect of military life (besides multiple deployments, countless TDYs, and never going where you hope to go) has been finding gainful employment. “I have to work,” Kimi says. “Everything is so expensive, especially where we’re stationed now in Hawaii.” For Kimi, freelancing has become so much easier today, but it’s still hard to consistently find remote work. Kimi herself has basically started a new business each time they’ve moved. She’s worked as a graphic designer, a photographer, an illustrator, and a seamstress for customized baby carriers and wraps, plus she has taught herself to weave. “I bought my first loom and taught myself how to weave baby wraps. Sometimes I still look at the pieces I’ve kept for myself and marvel that I made them. I love creating with my hands and weaving just seemed like a natural fit.”

Since moving to Hawaii, Kimi has sold all but her most beloved loom. It remains in storage in the continental U.S. since Hawaii’s climate is too humid for it. Plus, given how expensive the cost of living is there, they don’t have space in their house for it. Which means Kimi is reinventing herself professionally once again. “Since moving to Hawaii, I’ve started another business, Fate Whispers Graphic Design. I work with authors and the bookish community. It’s both a full-service graphic design business and a nerdy bookish merchandise shop through Etsy where I am licensed by various authors to create merchandise using quotes and ideas from their books.” The business allows her to use her graphic design skills and love of literature in new, creative ways. It’s just another avenue Kimi has found to create professional opportunities wherever the Army sends her family.

While military life brings significant challenges to professional life, Kimi adds that making friends is challenging as well. “Most of my friends live inside my phone,” she says, meaning it’s rare that her close friends are physically present in her life. While technology makes it easier to maintain connections over long distances, there’s nothing like having friends who are right there. Instead, Kimi has seasonal friends. Friends who come into her life because they’re stationed together or because they have kids in the same activities. She adds, “It’s hard to find like-minded people even when you’re all military.”

It’s not all bad, though. Her family is close, and Kimi’s favorite memories of military life are all wrapped up in the family moments: “I already mentioned the West Point graduation, which is a highlight of military life, but my favorite memories are the Christmases we’ve all been together as a family. The best memories are the small ones. The ones that are ‘just us’ being together as a family. No guests, no other people, just our family hanging out together.” Speaking of Christmas, Kimi’s family doesn’t have many holiday traditions they insist on, instead letting where they are and whether they’re all together or not dictate their plans, but they do have one tradition that Kimi misses and hopes to start again. “Somewhere along the way, we started going together to a movie on Christmas Day. We stopped during COVID, but I’d really like to start up again. That, and my husband always insists the tree go up the day after Thanksgiving. Those are probably the only traditions we really try to make happen every year.”

When we asked her what advice she’d give new military spouses, Kimi doesn’t hesitate: “Be flexible. You have no choice. Be as flexible as Gumby.” Something will always come up. Plans will change. So don’t plan, she adds. Or if you do plan, expect that there will be changes.

Kimi offers another piece of advice for milspouses: “Always ask if a place has a military discount. It might be awkward, but ask even to the point of being weird about it. You never know when it might work.” She also recommends the Veterans Transition Association. You have to apply via an Eventbrite application, but they offer free Coursera courses to military spouses. Kimi has taken advantage of that opportunity as well as the seven free Coursera courses military spouses can access through Hiring Our Heroes. Coursera can help you stay relevant, whether it’s in a career field or just new avenues you want to explore.

Finally, when asked what her military spouse motto would be, Kimi laughs and says, “’Yep, sounds about right.’” She adds, “I’m not sure how many times I’ve said that over the years, but it’s a lot. Although, it’s probably better to say, ‘Just roll with it’ for a motto instead.”

Kimi participated in the Empowering the Homefront 2023 Entrepreneur Cohort hosted by Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch and has recently joined the Powerhouse Planning freelancer team. We’re excited to have her on board and look forward to all the amazing contributions she will bring.

Did you enjoy this article? Read the full e-magazine, here.

2024-07-02T14:38:41-04:00May 20th, 2024|Powerhouse News|

New Powerhouse Team Member

Christine is delighted to join the Powerhouse team and share her skills as a grant writer and content creator. Christine, her husband, and their two awesome teen daughters currently reside in North Carolina, where they enjoy a lake-centered life with lots of paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming, and boating. A native New Yorker (without the accent) and an Army spouse of nearly 20 years, Christine has an undergraduate degree in communication from Cornell University and a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

When she’s not spending time with her family, you’ll find Christine sewing. She is an avid quilter, specializing in English paper piecing, impro