Texting the boyfriend while he serves
November 8, 2011 9:08 PM   Subscribe

What should I expect in terms of opportunities to communicate from a boyfriend looking to enter the medical side of the U.S army in the next few months?

So, long story short, my boyfriend and I have been together in a long distance relationship for roughly two and a half years now. Due to family issues and such, he's found it rough to focus on university, and has thus decided to turn to the U.S. military and active duty as a means of achieving an education while removing himself from the reaches of certain opportunistic family members.

Him and I both live in separate countries; myself in Canada, and he's from the States. Because I'm still going to university (I work full time and attend school on line, which allows me the flexibility of maintaining my end of the relationship), we've decided that marriage isn't a doable option to keep me close to him while he serves. What I want to know is, if he does happen to get into a medical field during his 6 year term in the military, what should I expect in terms of him being able to communicate and keep in contact with me on a regular basis? On the medical side of the army, is there less chance of him being unavailable for long periods of time during a deployment?

I understand that while going to Basic, many places don't give their recruits the option to utilize cell phones or email unless it's to make an authorized phone call. I understand that I won't come first while he's away, and that communication will not be what I'm used to (on a daily basis, before and after work, etc. etc.). What I would like to know is how things will change once he enters AIT and after graduation from AIT? This is just, for the most part, to mentally prepare myself for the numerous changes I'll have to make to accommodate the fact that he won't be available.

I've searched dozens of forums and even the official sites themselves, but it's hard find information on texting, email, and other such things when I can't physically ask the recruiter my boyfriend's been going through. And unfortunately, my boyfriend doesn't always remember to ask these kinds of questions what with being so worried about enlisting. Any and all insight would be much appreciated!
posted by crackerz to Human Relations (8 answers total)
From others I've known who are in the military, once you've been assigned a post, it's a lot like any other job. I would guess that he'll have a fair number of opportunities to text/call you post-AIT. That said, the people I knew were not medical, so YMMV.
posted by zug at 9:33 PM on November 8, 2011

My friend in the marines used to call me from the weapons range to tell me how much taxpayer ordinance he got to blow up that day. He was in the infantry, not medical, but once you are out of training, you have a job and down time daily. If he is deployed as a medic, there will be times when he is in the field for days that he is unlikely to be communicating with you or the civilian world. He will be worried about helping his fellow soldiers and not having his own ass shot in the process.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:30 PM on November 8, 2011

Don't forget written letters. They can't prevent them.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:43 PM on November 8, 2011

Best answer: It really depends what his MOS is. Is he definitely Army? I'm assuming that he's Army and 68-something. If he's a combat medic, he's a 68W, which I'm familiar with. If he's Air Force or something else, he'll be treated very differently. Air Force is, in my opinion, the best way to go if you want to have a life outside of the military.

During basic, he'll be allowed his cellphone very rarely - usually on Sundays. How often he's allowed it depends on his commanders and how those in his unit perform. If he's surrounded by fuckups, he's not going to be able to call you as often. My husband and I communicated almost entirely in letters during this phrase. I also sent him photos and cough drops.

After basic, he'll go to AIT where he'll be allowed his phone and a laptop. My husband used his phone as a mobile hotspot to webcam chat, as well as using freewifi at various locations. How AIT goes depends on where he is and his unit. He'll be very busy during AIT and sometimes out in the field, which means that he won't be able to call you at all. I was in the field myself during most of my husband's training, so we usually just corresponded by email with occasional webcam chats.

Before basic, between AIT and basic, and after AIT he could be stuck in waiting. My husband spent several months waiting. While he waits, he generally will have access to his phone/computer, although it varies. After AIT, it depends on his MOS and unit, but it will be hard to stay in contact with him if you aren't married and living with him. It's one of the reasons I fight so hard for equal rights for same-sex partners. For us, it's not just a normal 9-5 job. At any moment, they can call him up and tell him to come in to work during what should be a normal day off. They are frequently sent on training exercises. Since my husband is medical, he normally stays in a place with electrical outlets which allows him to charge his cell phone during field training, but not for every mission.

After AIT, he could be sent overseas at any moment. He could come home from a week in the field only to call you and tell you that he might be in Afghanistan by the end of the month for his first deployment. Your communication level with him overseas depends on his MOS, unit, and current assignment. I know some people that basically spent their deployments playing WoW and others that were constantly in danger.

Orders in the military change constantly. Don't believe that he will be moving to a location until he has official orders, and recognize that those orders could change at any moment. Never move to a place before he has. Most military posts are not in places where the job market is good. I had to give up my career to marry my husband. I love him to pieces and I'd do it again, but it has been very hard. My aunt, who's been in over 30 years to a man who's now in the top ranks says that you are married to the military first. If you are not a conservative Christian who's pregnant before the age of 25, it can be very isolating.

Tell him to make sure that he has whatever options he wants in his contract. If it's not in there, he's most likely not going to get it. Better that he has it in. For example, if he wants to go airborne, he needs to have it in his contract. If he wants to go medical, he should sign a medical contract. My husband had to wait several months to get his 68W airborne contract, but it was worth it.

If you can, go to his basic graduation. My husband is a bit of a hippie and not for formal ceremonies, but basic graduation is a huge deal and it meant a lot to him that I could come.

If you have any questions, feel free to metamail me.
posted by avagoyle at 11:21 PM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm a former Army medic.

On the medical side of the army, is there less chance of him being unavailable for long periods of time during a deployment?

This is basically impossible to answer. "Medical side" includes soldiers who work in dental or pharmacy or radiology, who would be more likely to stay in less austere environments with greater means and opportunity to contact home. It also includes straight up medics (68W, "health care specialists") who could end up with the chance to call home once a month. Much of this depends on his MOS and his unit, and then what it is that unit is doing in Afghanistan (or wherever). I deployed three times during my initial enlistment, but I went to AIT with soldiers who worked at hospitals stateside the entire time. Crapshoot.

I don't know what's done now, but when I went to basic (2004) there were no cell phones or email. We wrote letters. AIT started with restrictions, which eased as the weeks passed. After AIT, I had much more routine access to cell phones and the internet, unless training or deployed. And once again, the nature of training and deployment can differ depending on actual MOS and assignment.

The longest period of time I went without any phone or email contact with the outside was basic training, if that helps.
posted by lullaby at 11:32 PM on November 8, 2011

Best answer: I was at Ft. Sam Houston a year ago for a class. Ft. Sam is where most of the medical side gets trained for AIT (Not 68A's, maybe a few others.) What I can tell you os that things have changed a lot from the first time I went there.

First, remember that even in the medical side, there are two worlds. There are the 68Ws, Combat Medics, who's AIT isn't that far away from BCT. They are trained to feel like they are in a combat unit, cuz they might be in a few months, and they're training reflects that. they get cell phones very late into their training cycle, if at all.

And then there's the rest of us. Those medical MOS's that for the majority, AIT consists of powerpoints and classroom settings. When I went through in 2004, we got cell phones, laptops, etc after a few weeks. Can't use them in the school house, but after 5, they're all yours.

Every class is different, and all of this is at the Drill Sergeant's discretion, but for the most part, your long distance communication will be back to normal after basic and a few weeks of AIT. he'll just be more tired.
posted by Risingfenix at 7:54 PM on November 9, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help; it's more than I've ever recieved on any of the forums floating around on the internet. Looking over my initial question, I probably should have gone a little more in depth about what it was he was looking for. He was taking university classes to become a sonographer, so we agreed that a Radiology Specialist (68P) in the Army would probably be the best choice for him if he wanted to continue pursuing something that was similiar to what he'd originally been wanting to do.

I think I've been doing all the research, because bringing up the subject of a Combat Medic brought me a blank stare. I don't believe he wants to do a lot of field work, and I've urged him not to consider it a viable option if A) he wants a decent amount of communication with me, and B) if he's not interested in being in a combat unit. The look I recieved after explaining that to him pretty much confirmed he's not interested.

I'm glad to hear that things should be somewhat normal though; I was preparing for the worst. I guess I'll just have to wait and see which medical MOS he actually ends up recieving; I've taken the advice of making sure he gets exactly what he'd like in his contract, but I can't be there to physically see it happen, so I'm hoping he remembers and asks to get what he want. And then we'll just have to play it by ear. Thank goodness for already having plenty of long distance experience!
posted by crackerz at 11:48 PM on November 9, 2011

68P is an excellent choice because he should make excellent money once he leaves the service. Depending on where you live, you can be earning 70k+ after a few years out of the military with just the associate level degree you earn in the military. It's also a job that allows part time work. My friend who has that certification completed his BA with the GI bill while also earning extra money doing contract work.

Stress to him that recruiters can and do lie. If he doesn't have 68P in his contract, he could end up anywhere in the military. My husband, who stubbornly wanted an airborne contract, had his paper worked mixed up while he was going through processing, and they tried to tell him that his vision was too poor for him to go airborne. Because he was so damn stubborn about it, he asked them to recheck it and they found that his folder or whatever had someone else's details put inside. If hadn't had that airborne contract, he never would've gone to airborne school when he did. Yes, they told him at recruiting that he'd most likely get to go after AIT if he kept his grades and PT up, but from his graduating class, only those with contracts got in and, amongst those, many of them dropped out because they were forced to wait two months under miserable conditions.

With 68P, he may not ever go overseas and, if he does, he'll probably be in a location where communication with you is frequent. I actually wanted my husband to go 68P, but he's such a Gryffindor.
posted by avagoyle at 7:53 AM on November 10, 2011

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