How to meet new people and make connections at a new duty station is the most notoriously asked question in spouse groups. The answer seems simple: just do it. However, it is not that easy. I’m inclined to believe that meeting new friends is one thousand percent harder as an adult than it is for the children. Even for the most extroverted person, it can be daunting to throw yourself to the wolves and hope to make a connection out of it.
I know this feeling because I was in this position a couple of days ago. We arrived at our duty station one day and I planned to cover my first USO event 36 hours later. I took the leap before household goods arrived, before my bags were unpacked, still living in a hotel and before I recovered from the car ride.
Kids tend to throw themselves out there, you send them to school nervous to meet new people and they come home later that evening with amazing classroom stories and three new best friends. As adults, it can take months and months—and a mandatory FRG meeting—for us to even attempt to meet someone new.
Sometimes, you just have to do it!
I was up bright and early at 9 am to attend the event. Fort Leonard Wood’s USO hosted a Coffee Connection and it’s just what the name suggests, drink coffee and make connections. What better way to meet others than over coffee? What I didn’t expect was how awesome the experience would turn out. What sounded like a social hour was really a place to receive event information and a structured networking event. As a bonus, I was welcomed with open arms.
The event started with snacks, coffee and conversation while we went around the room to introduce ourselves and what we all do for the military community. Although the group was intimate, there were people from different organizations and with different talents, but we all had the passion for serving in common. From FRG leaders to business owners, the Coffee Connection was the perfect time to not only plug your business but to make lasting friendships and connections to get you involved in your military community.
USO events like these are also great for receiving information about the community. The Fort Leonard Wood USO has done an amazing job of partnering with local businesses and organizations. At the Coffee Connection, we received resources to share with other families on post. The number one reason that spouses report feeling lonely and discouraged when moving to a new duty station is because of lack of involvement and information about events. FLW USO’s works to boost the morale of military families by offering outlets for them to meet with others in the area. After all, military life is so much better with friends.
So, how can I get involved on my military installation?
Before you even arrive at your new duty station, there are plenty of avenues to get involved and begin making important connections. In the age of social media, there are so many spouse groups ranging from general to super specific. As soon as you have orders, take initiative to join the groups, introduce yourself and ask questions. In this military life, it’s common for relationships formed over the internet to last a lifetime.
Use your community resources
The quickest way to feel lonely is to stay secluded in your home. Organizations and offices like the USO, ACS and MWR were created to combat those feelings and provide military families with plenty to do in their communities. Take the time to search the websites or visit the buildings in person to get information about events local to your area. Sign up and attend events regularly to gain a sense of community.
Don’t run away from FRG or Spouse Club
FRGs and Spouse Clubs don’t get the greatest reputation in the military community. However, you never know until you try. Even if you’re not willing to commit to your group yet, at least consider attending one meeting to know the people who work closely with your spouse and their families.
Arriving at a new duty station can be a scary experience that relives itself over and over again, but you have the tools and know-how to master being the new person on the block. My best advice is to do it scared. A lot of times, we move to a new duty station and put off connecting with others until we’re READY. Truth is, you’ll never be READY. Do it scared, do it before the boxes are unpacked, do it while it’s fresh. The reward is an ASAP community and two-to-three years full of experiences that count. What can be better than that?
To find Coffee Connection events in your area, visit the USO website.