How I mastered life as a military spouse

Tips on relocating, raising kids and self-care

Jennifer Kendall, her daughter Imara, and her parents take a walk. Kendall, whose husband is a captain in the U.S. Army, sometimes flies her parents in from Kenya to help her care for Imara.

Life in a military family takes lots of support — and lots of good advice.

Here, Raytheon Technologies employees who have lived that life share their experiences — and what helped them through deployments, relocations, raising families and building their own careers.

Find your flock.

Make making friends part of your move-in checklist every time you relocate. For Kirstin Hockert, whose husband serves in the U.S. Air Force, that meant taking kettlebell classes at the local gym and volunteering at a cat shelter.

“I learned very quickly that with all of the relocating we were going to be doing, that if I were to continue being an introvert, I would be very, very lonely,” said Hockert, an operations project specialist at Collins Aerospace, a business of Raytheon Technologies. “I really tried to find something to do that would help me find people with similar interests.”

Making friends outside the military is a must, said Jennifer Kendall, a Collins Aerospace engineer who has moved five times with her husband, a U.S. Army captain. When she moves, she tends to find new friends at church or the gym.

“The military is a very tight community, and I feel like I need to retain my separate identity, being an individual,” she said. “Someone who enjoys activities, rather than someone who’s just labeled as a military spouse.”

Get yourself a ‘battle buddy’.

Another reason it’s so important for military spouses to make friends: They’ll help you get through deployments and especially busy times on the base.

“There is a saying in the military when you go through training: Have a battle buddy,” said Josephine Lewis, a former U.S. Army human resource specialist and military spouse who led retreats for returning veterans and their husbands and wives. She now works in human resources at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business. “The same goes for military spouses. As part of the training, we encourage them to have a battle buddy. This is your deployment buddy when your spouses deploy — your support team, your mentor, your chaplain. It is someone that you can lean on and know that you are not alone.”

Got kids? Plan everything to the last detail.

This one’s especially important for spouses with multiple children, said Randi Hacker, a Raytheon Technologies human resources manager who cared for four kids during her husband’s Army deployments to Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and South Korea (and, during one of those deployments, was pregnant with a fifth.)

“With me, I literally have to write everything down. I’d get up at 4:30 and then start planning out the rest of the day,” she said. “I’d plan out meals, plan out time for homework, plan out times to get the kids outside for walks. I have to plan everything down to the second.”

For those times when someone didn’t want to go along with the plan, Hacker said that wasn’t really an option, especially on school nights.

“There was no deviating from that list. It was posted on the refrigerator. Dinner every day is at 5 o’clock. Homework starts at 6. Done by 7:30. Bath at 8, go to bed,” she said. “I didn’t care how old you were. Junior high, elementary, the baby — everybody goes down at the same time.”

Don’t put your own plans on hold.

That starts with everyday events and weekend outings. In Hockert’s case, it means hitting the hiking trails on her own whenever her husband’s unpredictable work hours force him to cancel.

“Basically, I’ve found I have to not let his schedule dictate my schedule, within reason,” she said. “If we’d planned a trip, were flying somewhere and staying in a hotel and he finds out he won’t be able to make it, we’ll cancel – I’m not going to Hawaii by myself. But small local stuff where, if we had concert tickets, I’d just find a friend to go in his place.”

The same idea goes for big life changes too. For Hacker, it meant continuing the graduate courses she'd signed up for even after her husband deployed to South Korea.

“I couldn’t just drop out of school, because I had already started. I had already paid,” she said.

So, every Tuesday and Thursday evening, she dropped the kids off with another military spouse — her “battle buddy” — and headed to class right on the installation.

Today, she holds master’s degrees in human resources development and management.

Job hunting? It’s OK to say you’re a military spouse.

When Kendall transitioned to military life halfway through her career, it took some time to get comfortable sharing her military connection. But she found that being transparent about her mobility restrictions allowed her to stay with the organization through numerous Permanent Changes of Station, or PCS moves — the military's way of saying "relocation."

“As a female, you never want to come forward with a bunch of restrictions tied to you,” she said. “But I think I was looking at it the wrong way. The company really is interested in promoting military spouses, and I’ve found that to be really true throughout these last eight years.”

See how Raytheon Technologies supports military spouses, including initiatives to help them build or restart careers.

This portrait shows Josephine Lewis during her time in the U.S. Army. (Photo credit: Stacy Pearsall)