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Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Great Big Korean Adventure, Day 0: The Back Story

For those of you who have been keeping up, my Sweet Baboo has made it to South Korea. Right around this time last year (actually, it was around 11 months ago or so) The List came out. What is, The List, you ask? It's the long list of potential duty stations each Soldier receives when his turn to PCS (move) to the next duty station is nearing. Every body in Sweet Baboo's MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) gets the same list of potential duty stations, and good Soldiers take The List home to share with their spouses to discuss the next big move. Hours of looking, researching, and weighing the personal vs the professional benefits of the next big move are spent. Negotiations between husband and wife begin, and the fun gets started.

We found many gems on last year's list. Sweet Baboo and I have a specific way of handling The List. He calls me the instant he can to inform me it has been published. I will immediately work to clear the schedule for the evening, if possible, so we can hover over all of the possibilities. When he brings it home, I immediately make two copies. One stays unmarked so he can make the final decision and send it to branch. One goes to me, and the final copy goes to him. I mark the crap out of my copy. Highlighters, colored pens, pencil marks... I unashamedly use them all. I scribble, make notes, and even draw simple smiley faces to quickly annotate my immediate thoughts on the area. Then I rush to the computer to look up exact geographical locations, homeschooling laws, and other details to see if we would enjoy living there or if it would be simply "surviving the duty station". (To date, we still consider ourselves to not have had to "survive the duty station".)

Sweet Baboo, on the other hand, grabs a pencil and sensibly marks his page according to what would be the best next move for his career. He does take into consideration the happiness and ability to adapt on behalf of his family, but he also knows that he has a house full of adventurers who get hungry for action. He takes the list to several people in his MOS to discuss professional development potentials, and seek any first-hand wisdom they may provide. Then, we come together with our lists to compare notes.

Most of the time, we have at least one thing in common in the top three. In the top ten, we generally share at least four desires. We laugh, drink a glass of wine (or beer... depending on what we have at the time), and make big plans for the future. We negotiate... he always gets to pick the top three since he's the guy in the boots. But he's a good man, and asks me what I would put up there. He always sneaks at least one of my wants in his top three list.

During last year's negotiations, we agreed that a trip to Korea would be fantastic. He had already done a tour in Korea; we hadn't even met yet. He has been itching to get his family there since the day we married, and with Korea on The List, we finally had a chance! So it went at the top of the list. Months went by with no word on where we would move. Branch has a lot to do during PCS season, and we have to learn how to sit and wait. But eventually, we got word that we got Korea! And Sweet Baboo and I celebrated... until the next day, when we were told that the tour would not be command sponsored. Basically, that means that the girls and I could move to Korea, but we wouldn't be officially recognized by DOD (either financially, or in the event an emergency happened and the family members of troops would need to be evacuated). It also meant our 2 year tour would be changed to become his 1 year tour. We would stay behind at our current location.

For the next couple of weeks, I was in a fog of denial; I would spend hours scouring the internet for information on the command sponsorship freeze in the hopes to find some loophole that would allow us to continue with Sweet Baboo. I thought I had found it one time, but the information was so outdated that I didn't trust it was pertinent. Finally, a friend in Korea told me that she had heard about the possibility of an exception to policy. "Give it a try", she encouraged.

The closest thing to a family portrait we have ever had: our two dogs, two kids, and Sweet Baboo photobombing me (on purpose) on a mini vacation.
We thought about it. But by that time, the girls had come to grips with the idea of daddy going to Korea for a year without us. There was much to do, and for the first time in our marriage we had plenty of time to do it. In fact, we had a full 6 months to accomplish everything! (Before this year, I've been lucky to get 6 weeks to prep and move our family to the next duty station). So I filled my calendar with volunteer opportunities to help pass the time, and Sweet Baboo applied for (and was accepted into) his second Graduate School program to help him pass the time.

The day the packers came to take Sweet Baboo's stuff to Korea... and leave our stuff at home.
About a week before he left, I lost it. I started crying at absolute nothing, and wasn't eating. My temper was explosive, and my sensitivities were very tender. He pulled me to the side and asked me what would make things better (aside from the obvious, of course). And that's when I realized it: we weren't trying to stay together. When we first wed, Sweet Baboo and I made a promise to each other: we would always live together unless the Army gave us no other option. We've endured many deployments and long TDYs in our marriage, and we did well with each of them (under the circumstances). There are no exceptions to policy that allow a wife and kids to join a Soldier in battle. So taking those separations didn't hurt my heart nearly as badly as now. But with this PCS to Korea we just accepted that the tour would be unaccompanied and didn't pursue the exception to policy. And part of me felt like we were giving up as a result. Part of me felt like I was choosing to stay in a city that I have grown to fall deeply in love with rather than fighting to stay with my husband, a man who I have never fallen out of love with. So we decided to pursue the exception to policy.

The day Sweet Baboo left for Korea. Our farewells aren't sad... until he's out of sight. But we had a glimmer of hope in our back pockets to hold on to...
We did it secretly, only letting a select few people in on the information. We didn't tell the kids because we didn't want them to decide that we were going to go and have hurt hearts all over again if we were denied. The paperwork we had to fill out for the exception to policy was excruciating. EFMP packets for each of us, med records reviews, a look into our homeschooling curriculum and plans, etc... the list was extensive. I stayed up well after midnight working to get everything in order. And then we submitted the packet.

And we waited. And I heard nothing. And I waited. And I asked my husband if there were even whispers to hint of what we could expect. Nope. So we waited even more. My calendar was full of activities for me and the girls; between those activities and our homeschooling we were very busy during the day. But then night came, and Korea was awake and I couldn't sleep. So I waited even more.

Then one night, as I was dozing on the couch, Sweet Baboo called from Korea: our packet was approved! I was half asleep and dreaming of our family being together again, so when I awoke the next morning I wasn't sure if the call was a dream or not. My inlaws were staying the night with us so I didn't check my email until late in the morning. The orders were at the top of my inbox's unread messages!

My dream was about to become a reality, but not without a whole lot of insanity first. This is our Great Big Korean Adventure. Hang on... it's going to be a stressful ride!


  1. WOOO HOOO! On to the next chapter and adventure, I can't wait to read along!

    1. Miss Zoot,
      I can only hope to keep up a blog for longer than a month. Haha. I'd like to continue it... here's hoping! Glad to see somebody is excited about reading it.

  2. YeeeeeeeeAaaaah! I'm so happy for my favorite family!!!

  3. And more adventuretastic fun begins!

    1. Yes it does! You'll have to plan a vacation out there, you know. Or come up with a great excuse to have a long TDY...