With each duty station comes its own unique benefits and challenges. An unaccompanied tour causes separation from family, and some duty stations have transportation, budgeting, and language challenges.
But independent duty is the only duty where you are separated from the Fleet Marine Force and many of the benefits that come with living on a Marine installation. Additionally, independent duty can put other stresses on a family because the Marine works long, stressful hours.
In a recent Key Volunteer Network meeting, spouses and family readiness officers expressed that lack of family time was the number one concern while on recruiting duty, said Sgt. Benjamin Birk, Recruiting Station Indianapolis family readiness officer.
Birk said the KVN members had several recommendations to overcome this shortage of time. The members recommended bringing family to poolee functions, a bring-family-to-work day, and volunteering lunch breaks at their children’s schools among others.
However, it is not only the spouses that feel they don't have enough family team.
Sgt. Mario Lute, a recruiter at RS South East Indianapolis, agrees that the largest hardship of recruiting duty is the lack of quality family time, which causes couples to grow apart.
“A spouse can feel not wanted or loved because they aren’t the object of your time,” said Lute. “(Working long hours) also creates a lack of communication; communication is the number one thing in a relationship.”
Lute said he had much more free time working as a Marine postal worker. His weekends were free, he was home at a decent time every day, he wasn’t overly stressed and he never brought his work home. In contrast he said the work can consume people on recruiting duty.
“If you don’t have the right foundation, it can definitely change you (for the worst),” he said.
But Marines and their families can adapt and overcome in various ways.
According to Lute, to overcome this lack of free time, Marines have to put their family in their Scheduling and Results sheet and be creative. He recommends meeting family at the mall or a public place and screening potential applicants at the same time. Also, he recommends allowing spouses to work on their projects there while the Marine canvasses.
“Allow her to be a part of recruiting and let her know she is the most important part of it,” Lute said. “People are resistant or don’t talk when they are not a part of what you do.”
Birk also recommended the KVN to spouses. Spouses can call the SNCOICs of substations and their spouses to get an idea of what recruiting duty will be like, he said.
“Spouses will see it is not just their family going through the (transition),” Birk said. “[The KVN] gives spouses a way to meet others and share what others are doing to improve life on recruiting duty.”
Independent duty can also separate Marines and their families from the benefits of services like Marine Welfare and Recreation, Marine Corps Community Services, the post exchange and commissary.
Because they’re living in a base-free community, Marines must find ways to balance their budgets and locate the support they are accustomed to.
The two hardships Gunnery Sgt. Mayra Creque, logistics chief, RS Indianapolis, faces on independent duty is the difficulty in buying uniform items and the lack of a gym or workout facility, she said.
While stationed on a Marine Corps installation, Marines can purchase their uniform items and have them tailored at the same place, said Creque.
However, on independent duty, Marines often must order these items online and explain to a new tailor how to make specific uniform alterations. She often has to have her tailoring corrected because the tailors don’t always know the Marine Corps uniform regulations.
To help alleviate some of these difficulties, Creque recommends either purchasing items online at various sites, such as www.nexnet.navy.mil, or asking a Marine that will be traveling to a military installation to buy uniform items.
Creque also recommends asking Marines where there are gyms that will allow them to use the equipment for free.
During the summer, people can go outside and go running or do some other exercise, Creque said. However, winter weather is often more of a hassle, and Marines have to find indoor facilities that offer activities like aerobics, weightlifting or swimming.
“Here, you have to find somewhere that has all of that between your house and work,” Creque said.
One solution is that recruiters network with a lot of people and often will know someone in their area that will offer these services for free opposed to the expensive yearly $720 family memberships, she said. She and other Marines often use the facilities at a local high school and sports facility for free.
“Think about it,” said Creque. “You have to pay for these services here. A single corporal or sergeant out here who has kids–how can they find the support they need? They don’t get extra pay to offset that.”
However, the Marine Corps Recruiting Command offers ways for families to adjust to an independent duty. According to Birk, family readiness officers can provide information about the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society, who will provide budget training to any Marine that needs assistance. The family readiness officer also has training slides to teach Marines how to budget.
“The Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society will train a Marine how to set a budget, live by that budget and how to save money,” Birk said. “They will also provide monetary assistance if needed.”
While diminished family time and lack of support services are just a couple of the hardships that may be found on independent duty, the main way Marines can overcome the hardships is to speak to fellow Marines at their duty station.
“Marines support each other,” Creque said. “Other Marines have gone through the same situations as you. Use their knowledge and experience to improve your time while on independent duty.”