I’m going to just be honest here. As much of a people person as I am, I do not go for, or rather have not participated in groups or clubs meant for socializing and connecting, successfully or consistently. I joined a book club once, read the book, attended the meeting, drank too much wine, and never went back.
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the fellowship, the girls were awesome, it was just that “having” to be somewhere at a specified time, to connect with people I don’t know very well, can often times feel like a chore. Especially if it’s been a long day or week at work, and there are a plethora of to do’s awaiting me at home.
If there is one thing to know about life in the Air Force, it’s that joining the clubs, the get-togethers, the organizations, the whatever-you-want-to-call-its, is pretty essential.
Unless you are blessed with a large welcoming squadron or collection of people in your particular office, it’s near to impossible to meet people without the help of these groups.
Beyond the general necessity for friends, there is also the little dilemma of the often confusing induction to Air Force life that is speckled with an obstacle course of hoops you must jump through to find the seemingly unavailable information you need to simply function; such as establishing doctors, or getting an ID so you can actual get onto and move around the base.
A couple of Fridays ago I spent a good three hours just trying to make a doctors appointment. As an Air Force wife you are insured through Tricare. Through Tricare you are required to have a PCM or Primary Care Manager, through which you have to obtain a referral if you ever need to go to a specialist. I learned this fact from a lady at a doctor’s office here who then politely told me they not only don’t have any PCM’s at their office, but they also aren’t taking any new patients. Toward the end of my search, after all but accepting that I would never receive medical care during our stay here, I finally found an office, with a PCM, who was accepting new patients and Tricare.
I found out that night that I was actually assigned a PCM, located right here on the base for my convenience. I was also given a set of phone numbers for all of the places I might need to contact.
This type of situation is why Heart Link exists. In the Air Force (and most likely the military in general), there are a number of protocols to follow, unconventional ways of doing ordinary things, and lots of unwritten rules you need to know. You aren’t going to find this information on the base website, or on the recruiting pamphlets. It comes, for the most part, from fellow Air Force members, and spouses who have been there and done that.
I initially wasn’t excited about attending Heart Link, again, the whole being told when and where to be, and the forced atmosphere of a group of people who don’t know each other from Adam is not very appealing to me, but I learned it really isn’t, or shouldn’t, be considered optional.
In Heart Link you will learn things like:
Establishing medical and dental care, and how your insurance works
Proper etiquette for military functions from formal dinners to office get-togethers
How to deal with the constant change and stress of military life
Contact information for applicable organizations or vendors you will need/want (fitness center, spouses clubs, counseling office, etc…)
Base-specific rules (speed limits, gate/commissary/fitness center/BX hours)
Recreational activities in your area
The chain of command, leaders and key spouses that are in charge at the base, as well as your go-to contacts for everything from emergencies to general questions
And a million other little things I can’t bring to mind at the moment. Whether you are new to the military or just new to your base, Heart Link is the survival guide to making your assignment successful, and to getting established in your new home so you can function normally, or as normally as you can given the crazy awesome new life you have just begun.