Guest Blogger: Ana Blanchard, "Coffee Connection"
Wouldn’t it be great… As you’re unpacking from your PCS, the phone rings. Someone from the new command says “Hi! My name is Jess and I wanted to offer help.” Better yet, they ask “Want to grab a cup of coffee?” I don’t know about you, but I would drop everything and say, “What time?!” It might not be coffee specifically, but the act of reaching out to a new team member. The feeling of being welcomed to a new locale is comforting. Let’s face it, every move means change and a bit of apprehension. I’m sure that you could come up with a list of times you wish someone had been there to start your tour off right and fill you in on the new duty station! As the years pass I have been fortunate to be taken under a friendly wing and get advice from various military spouses and colleagues. They have helped guide me to many programs which have enriched me to be a better version of myself.
I remember our 2nd PCS, arriving at our 1st Sea Duty assignment. We had a change of homeport, a 5 month old and an 8 year old that had to start school as soon as we arrived! Five days after reporting, Hubby was being flown across the country to catch the boat. That was my electro shock treatment intro to deployment. I laugh now, but definitely was not then. Here was the shining moment for me… Another spouse called and just asked how I was doing. After a few minutes of chatting, she invited me for coffee. Can I say that was a lasting impression? Absolutely! This “Welcome Aboard” gesture helped me want to open up. I had no idea the challenges that would be ahead, but now everything was going to fine. It has been a moment for which I am forever grateful and encourage others to make happen for their new arrivals. The spouse who welcomed me became a great friend and introduced me to others who have become a part of my life now.
It may not be in a person’s nature to reach out to a stranger, but we may never know how it will impact the way they embrace their new command and the demands of a Navy life. I know we can’t all have a charismatic personality. (Personally, I like to stay under the radar!) You may be thinking, “But you wrote this.” It’s because I want to encourage others to reach out. I still feel awkward when I do, but I know that my efforts to step out of my shell can change how a person perceives the Command they are joining. With ever changing policy and locations or duty stations becoming more Joint Service, reaching out and sharing information is increasingly important. We all could use refreshers. You never know when you may be asked something like my favorite, “How did the Navy become a force?” I learned that in the COMPASS Program when I went through it! Sharing the various assistance functions available through the Navy (and other Services) family support activities at your location helps with the guessing game. Yes, they could look it up, but it makes a huge difference and relieves their stress when you talk with someone new. You are not only showing that you care about making them feel welcome, but you genuinely care about them. For me it’s the “Aha!” moment of, “We are going to be ok.”
“Welcoming” someone, is developing a safety net for a person who is new, unsure of what to expect. From this gesture you may not see what or how it helped immediately. I can assure you it often it makes a lasting impression. You can learn more about how to make the most of that opportunity from programs of Naval Services FamilyLine like CORE, COMPASS, Anchors Aweigh and others as you continue your journey in the Navy life. Take advantage of your unique knowledge and share it with someone! Mentoring and Leadership Courses are crucial to our service member families. They pave the way for building future Leaders that you may never know are telling stories about you and how you made a difference in their new Navy Life.