There was one thing that was made pretty clear to me when my husband joined the Air Force as a JAG officer…I, as his wife, DID NOT in any way carry my husband’s rank.
This was a concept I totally understood. Especially after hearing terrible tales of wives who demanded to be saluted just because their husbands were high ranking officers, or insisted on asserting their “power,” which was really nonexistent seeing as they didn’t actually wear a uniform of any sort.
After watching Will goes through months of hard training and sacrifices, it became crystal clear to me that his position was one that he had earned, and although there were, and are still, sacrifices that I make, he is the active duty officer and I am his loving wife.
With that said, there is a sort of unspoken code for spouses. I’m sure this applies to spouses in any military branch or rank, but I can only speak from my own experience.
The JAG corp is a unique group. The Air Force is a large organization, but the JAGs make up a much smaller portion, and because of it’s size, it’s common for most of the JAGs to know each other, or at least know about each other.
In other words, anything you do, generally gets around.
This also goes for the wives, or spouses I should say.
I won’t say that there is a lot of pressure on the spouses. In truth, as a spouse you can get away with being totally uninvolved for the most part, at least for the first few years of service. However, being a team with your JAG seems to go a long way. Just like any business situation, it never hurts to be able to socialize with others, especially those in higher positions with some influence. It also doesn’t hurt to be involved and help contribute however you can to the military that has provided so much to you.
In my situation, Husband’s job provides 90% of our income, which includes our health insurance (which is free, thanks to his service), our housing and living expenses, and a host of military discounts that have helped us out a great deal. Because of this, I see it as my job to not only take care of everything around the house so he can focus on his job, but also to play my part as his spouse.
To me, playing my part as a spouse means going to his work functions and showing that I fully support him, getting involved with the spouses club to meet other spouses as well as contribute in any way I can, and even lending a hand to other spouses when I can, because at the end of the day we are all in this together, and again, it can’t hurt to act as a team.
Another way playing your part as as spouse, is thinking about how your actions reflect on your JAG. No, you don’t carry their rank, however you are associated with them; you are always a reflection on them, whether you want, or intend, to be or not. This one can be a tough one. It can mean there isn’t a place for getting sloshed in the company of those that may look down on it, or enjoying your guilty pleasure of gossip, or even expressing your hard opinions on the likes of Facebook. It can mean that there are people watching everything you do, and ultimately if it doesn’t please them, it will most likely come back on your JAG, not you.
You have to keep in mind that your JAG prosecutes (or defends in some cases) people who are essentially his peers. He or she is enforcing the law and justice, and holding those in question to a certain standard of morals and law. For that reason, they themselves have to strive to maintain that standard to a “T” in their own lives. And that often starts in their own homes.
Obviously, being a JAG spouse isn’t like being the first lady, and the expectations aren’t that severe, but spouses looking to know what it’s like to be a JAG wife or spouse, should understand that there are expectations. And although you don’t carry rank, you are a reflection of your spouse and their rank. You may not be active duty, but you are in the military and it will dictate everything you do.
So far, I would consider our experience to be a positive one, and I’m extremely grateful for what being in the Air Force has allowed us to do. It’s not without its challenges, but I feel if you are able to act as an adult, and carry yourself like one, it can be an very enriching experience.