Legal Quandary

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mail Call!

An Anonymous Poster asks the following questions about husbands and pets:

My husband (an accountant) would like to continue to have a professional life, how difficult is it for JAG spouses to have civilian careers considering that they also have to pack up and move with you every 2-3 years? I really don't want him to end up dragging him to strange places where he will have to sit at home all day and watch paint dry...

My pet (a dog) is pretty easygoing as long as we're around but I know that some countries have restrictions on importing pets and impose quarantine requirements. It sounds cheesy but dog is definitely a member of our family and quarantining her for 2 months in a strange European kennel would be like quarantining a child (ok, not that bad, but close). Regardless, the whole quarantine thing is expensive and I don't expect to be rolling in the dough working for JAG. So, do JAGs have pets? Does the AF try to send you places where it's possible to bring your entire family (including dogs)? (Note - coincidentally I adopted dog from a rescue that found her abandoned on a military base, so that's prety much my worst fear, that she'd be abandoned or lost again b/c I was transferred somewhere strange.)

Let's deal with the husband question first. This is sort of a tough one because it all sort of depends on your husband's field. Let me say up front that I know absolutely zero about how the accounting world works. While it would seem to me that an accountant would be able to work almost anywhere, you (and your husband) are likely to know more about whether this is the case, and whether it's possible to have any sort of upward mobility if you're switching jobs every few years. I would ask around in the accounting world to get a feel for this. You could also check what kind of career opportunities some of the larger defense contractors have for accountants - you might be able to find a company with multiple locations, so that your husband could move with you AND stay with the same company for more than 3 years. I've known several AF wives who have been able to make this sort of arrangement work. A couple of them have even been able to continue working from home when the company didn't have locations near their husband's base.

Civil service might be another option for your husband. You can find out what jobs are available at A lot will depend on your husband's background and experience level. I believe that military spouses are usually given a higher priority for hiring. In the interest of full disclosure, I also have a friend stationed at a small base in Japan, whose husband has extensive business experience and an MBA. He's currently working at the Hobby Shop on base, and is fond of saying he's the most highly educated picture framer in the Air Force. (That said, I'm pretty sure he's also taking and teaching classes, really likes his job, and loves living overseas.)

Most of the married JAGs I know have spouses who are either 1) other military members, or 2) stay-at-home parents. That isn't to say that military spouses aren't able to have careers - some are quite successful - but the reality is that there's a certain amount of sacrifice to make it work. Of course the same is true of the "mil-to-mil" couples, where one spouse's career usually takes priority over the other's.

As for your pet question - LOTS (most?) of us have pets! I have two cats. Another JAG in my office has two dogs. Many of our paralegals have various pets. My boss has two dogs and a cat but I think she'd have an entire menagerie if her husband would only let her! My friend in Japan has 2 dogs but I think she did have to go through a fairly extensive quarantine process to get them there. Even though the Air Force does ask for your input for assignments via your "dream sheet," there's not really any sort of emphasis on being able to bring your whole family. Keep in mind that as long as we have bases in Korea, England, and Japan, there will have to be JAGs at those bases, so ultimately, it will come down to the "needs of the Air Force." Most times you'll be able to be assigned with your family (human and furry members), but there may be times you won't. Overseas assignments aren't really as common as they used to be, but at least for Korea, you probably won't be able to bring your husband either.

Hope this helps - feel free to write back if you need more clarification on either of these questions!

I'm enjoying your blog. I'm trying to go AF JAG, just had my interview, fingers crossed for board selections.

Can you try to describe social life on base? I'm a little concerned about moving every two years and not making many friends in sleepy places like Arkansas or Dayton OH where I don't know anybody. I may be married going in, to a nonmilitary spouse, and wonder what it will be like for her too.

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