Graduation day for OSUT (One Station Unit Training) or AIT (Advanced Individual Training) Soldiers is an amazing day! Family and friends usually come to celebrate and you feel a massive sense of accomplishment. Of course, that’s not all there is to military service. For active duty Soldiers, your career is just beginning!
As you prepare to move to your first official duty station, you probably have a lot of questions. If you’re a family member of a new Soldier, you probably have even more questions. We won’t be able to answer all of them here, but we’re going to provide you with some highlights and hopefully link to some helpful resources so you can start preparing for this big transition.
Most single new Soldiers (we’ll provide a separate blog post for new married Soldiers later) will find themselves living on an installation in barracks housing at their first duty station. This housing is provided to the Soldier at no cost and you’ll usually also be provided with meals through a dining facility. Of course there are pros and cons to the dining facility. Soldiers who receive meals through a DFAC don’t have to do a lot of cooking or buying food, but some Soldiers complain about the quality of food.
Most Soldiers living in the barracks will have a roommate or will at least share common areas with other Soldiers. Every barracks is designed differently, so there’s no guarantee here. Though living in the barracks at your first duty station won’t be as strict as your experience during OSUT or AIT, there are still some rules your leadership might have for barracks living. As with any roommate living situation, you may find yourself in situations that present challenges. Find a way to deal with things that bother you and take advantage of the benefits of having roommates - you might make some of the best friends you’ve ever had.
As we mentioned earlier, typically, those in the barracks will receive their meals through the DFAC; however, some barracks have small communal kitchens or kitchenettes, but you could also keep some of your personal snacks on hand, as long as you keep your food picked up and keep the area clean. Many Soldiers also like the convenience of living on post and living close to work. Once you move off-post and spend 30 minutes in line at the gate just trying to get on post in the morning before PT, you’ll probably appreciate that 3-minute walking commute even more.
As far as commuting to work or getting around, some Soldiers are authorized a vehicle and some are not. Typically, when you receive your orders to your first duty, it will tell you if you’re authorized a vehicle at your first duty station. If you’re unsure, just check with your NCO or commander at your new unit. If you don’t have a car or don’t take one with you to your first duty station, there are often other ways to get around. Some installations have bus service and taxis are readily available on most installations.
Above all of this daily life preparation, most new Soldiers should be working on a professional development plan to further them in their military careers. Consider beginning college courses or ask your NCO when the next promotion board will be held. Think of some ways you want to improve yourself professionally and then ask for a time to discuss your plan with your NCO. Ask for his or her input and advice on how to best map out your career and then put that plan into action. Keep study material with you at all times so you can make the most of any downtime you’ll have.
And one of the best pieces of advice we can share is that this is a small Army and a small Armed Forces family. Though there isn’t a 100% guarantee you’ll run into the Soldiers in your initial unit down the road, it is likely; and it’s even more likely that they’ll know someone in your gaining unit when you PCS (permanent change of station). Keep this in mind as you deal with daily conflict and challenges. We see people run into each other all the time at the airport - coming back to Fort Leonard Wood for training - when they haven’t seen each other in years. Those positive reunions are what makes military life so incredible and fulfilling.
Our entire team wishes you, or your Soldier, the best of luck at your first duty station! Enjoy the experience and work hard. We hope to see you at the airport the next time you’re back at Fort Leonard Wood for training or are stationed here in the future!