Can I live with my Airman during tech school is the one question I seem to get the most often. It depends on a lot of factors, but first and foremost are you on your spouse’s orders?
What does that mean?
When your spouse is getting ready to leave BMT and head to tech school he or she will get orders, which is basically a piece of paper that says where he or she is going and for how long. As a dependent your name will either be on those orders or not.
How can I get my name on their orders?
You can’t. It’s not up to you. If your Airman’s tech school is more than 100 classroom days at one location, your name and any other dependents – such as children – will be on their orders. Tech school length is calculated by days actually spent in a classroom, so weekends, holidays, even teacher work days can factor into the length of your spouses tech school.
Jeremy’s tech school, for example, was 87 classroom days, but he didn’t start until more than a month after he arrived and with all the weekends, holidays, and other days, his graduation was 5 months after his arrival at tech school.
Moving On Orders
If your name is on his or her orders that means the Air Force will pay to move you and any other dependents to your Airman’s tech school and you can live in base housing.
Here’s the tricky part though. Just because you’re on orders doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get to live with your Airman. First and foremost, he or she needs to get through phase one of tech school, also known as ITP or the initial training phase. That process usually lasts about 2-4 weeks. After that your spouse can apply for SepRat, which is the process of moving out of the dorms and into a home with you.
Your Airman will be given a checklist of tasks they must complete, briefings to attend, and paperwork to fill out. These can include, but are not limited to, going to Finance, TMO, Personnel, and the A&FRC. Some Airmen may have to contact key spouses or attend finance and budget classes as well. In addition to completing these tasks, your Airman must also be in good standing, meaning his or her grades meet a certain standard and there are no disciplinary marks on his or her record.
This process can take as little as a few weeks or as much as a few months. Once your Airman completes his or her checklist it is up to the MTL. And occasionally they may not grant it at all.
Nothing is really guaranteed when you’re a military spouse so be prepared that you may move out there and it could take six months for him or her to be able to move in or they may never get the opportunity.
If your Airman’s tech school is more than 100 days and you are not on his or her orders, double check that all 100 days are at one location. Some tech schools are split between two or even three bases, which then would disqualify you from being on orders.
Moving Off Orders
Though Jeremy’s tech school wasn’t long enough for me to be on his orders, I moved on my own. Because it was such a short period of time, it didn’t make sense to rent an apartment, plus everything off base in safe areas was really expensive, so I looked into extended stay hotels. I ended up getting a room in a hotel on base and I was there for 99 days, which was the maximum stay they allowed.
Moving off orders means that the Air Force will not pay for your move, they will not put you up in base housing, and your spouse will not be able to live with you. I have heard of one exception to this out of hundreds of people I’ve spoken to, so even though it may be possible to have your spouse live with you off orders, it is extremely rare and definitely not allowed.
For a lot of people, the decision to move off orders to tech school comes down to: is it worth the cost? Because it will cost a lot. For us it was a no-brainer. I had a full time that would allow me to work from home and we missed each other. But I know this isn’t the case for everyone so take a long hard look at what you can afford and what’s best for your family.
Often times, your Airman will be able to get a 29b to stay with you on weekends. Jeremy only had his approved once, so every Friday I would pick him up after class and we would hang out until 11:30 pm when I would take him back to the dorms. I would then get up at 4:00 am Saturday morning and pick him up bringing him back to my hotel where we would hang out until 11:30 pm, I would get him again Sunday morning at 4:00 am and take him back at 5:30 pm. And that was it for every week. Sometimes he would get flag detail or have to work CQ and I would see him even less. Once or twice he had time on weekdays, but that was rare.
Jeremy’s tech school is one of the stricter ones out there, but be aware that you will most likely only see your spouse on the weekends so make sure you have something to fill your weekdays with, such as school or a job.
For us it was worth everything to be together during that time, Jeremy said it kept him sane and for me, I was just done doing the long distance thing after four years of college. It’s a big decision, so make sure your spouse and you are on the same page about what is best for your family.