Answering Your Questions, and Thanking You For Your Support.

Okay, first of all I just wanted to thank everyone who sent me comments, emails, tweets, and Facebook messages supporting my big decision. I really, really appreciated every single one of them.

To answer all of your questions…

You realize you won’t actually have a lot of choice in where you are stationed, right? Yes, I do realize that. I don’t mind that, because I don’t have anywhere in particular I’d like to move, but taking Caroline too far from her father is an issue. Which I will discuss in a moment…

Who will Caroline stay with when you are deployed overseas? All branches of the military require something called a Family Care Plan before any single parent can sign up, so I had to have this figured out before even starting the process. (Side note: I was surprised to discover that being a single parent actually disqualifies you from enlisting as a soldier, though apparently not as an officer.) Caroline will stay with Tyler, since we have joint legal custody, and if he needs to travel while she is with him (which he no doubt will), she’ll visit my parents or his parents. I actually even had a good friend offer to take Caroline during my deployments after I told her of my decision… one of the most selfless and touching offers I have ever received, and proof (not that I needed any) that I have the best friends anyone could wish for.

Do you have to complete the same boot camp as everyone else? Yes and no. There is basic training for officers (the length and location varies based on the branch), but by all accounts it is a somewhat watered-down version of what enlisted soldiers go through. I’d totally do it even if it weren’t, though. I am badass like that, you guys.

How will you handle all the traveling/being away from Caroline? The Army often extends deployments months beyond what you were promised, and can even redeploy you within a year. This was concerning news to me… I had believed the recruiter when he told me that deployments were only 90 days. It may be different for a dentist than it was for the people I talked to who were pilots, etc., but is still a sticking point for me, as you can imagine. All of it sounds great until I think about being away for my daughter for as long as a year– I’m just not willing to do that, I don’t think she could handle it, and from a purely practical standpoint, I don’t think I’d be able to nail down childcare for that long. Multiple people told me I should consider the Air Force because their deployments are shorter and less frequent, so I am currently looking into that. I’ll keep you all posted!

I was surprised that no one asked if I was legally allowed or willing to move Caroline far away from Tyler, because that really is the biggest issue with my entire plan. He may not take his full visitation that he is entitled to, but he has been doing really well with seeing her often, and they’ve formed a pretty solid bond– much better than it used to be. Both of us are worried that moving Caroline far away from him will damage that bond. I do have full physical custody but I can’t imagine how I’d feel if he proposed moving Caroline out of state away from me, so we are trying to come up with a plan together. We haven’t figured out the details just yet, but I’m confident that we will.

So, this week I’ll be meeting with an Air Force recruiter to check out that avenue, and then get the process started with one of the branches once I figure out which one will work best with my single parent status. I’m incredibly excited about this new chapter. Thanks again, everyone, for all your support!

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  1. by ashley

    On January 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    hi! i dont know if you considered it but you could look into the air national guard. its a branch of the air force but you stay where you are and they dont move you around. you can still be deployed and you have to go through training just like the regular air force but you stay stationed where you are. also, its not full time its just a weekend a month. just a thought. good luck with your decision!

  2. by Molly

    On January 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Ah, the first thing to know is the best way to get lots of laughs it to preface ANYTHING with: “But my recruiter said…” Second, I’m currently an Army dentist and the shortest amount of time any of my colleagues (past or present) have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan is 6 months: until recently, deployments were routinely 12 mos. with a year where folks were involuntarily and unexpectedly extended to 15. (Downrange tours may very well be less for Air Force dentists…I don’t believe deployments in excess of 6 mos. are common for Air Force, but the Army is a different animal entirely.) Sure, you might also be deployed to somewhere like Bosnia for less, but it’s (much) more likely to be a longer deployment than what you mentioned in your post.

    You should be able to find current and former officers, maybe even some alums from your D-school. Talk to them at length, ask tons of questions. It’s a great experience, but it’s hard to anticipate the kinds of challenges that you could face, especially as a single parent…hearing it from others may spark more (and better) questions to ask before you raise your right hand. Good luck to you whatever path you choose.

  3. by Oli

    On January 16, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I’ve read your blog for some time now and this is so exciting and scary at the same time! I don’t have kids and I’m not single but I love reading about you and sweet Caro =) This is an awesome turn of events for your life and I can’t wait to see where this takes you both!

  4. by Lori

    On January 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Have you looked into other opportunities for dentists to travel and work or is the mission of the military most enticing to you? Also, when deployed overseas for long periods, and Caroline stays with Tyler, how could this potentially effect future custody agreements?

  5. by Julia

    On January 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you, ladies! Yes, I have looked into the reserves and other travel opportunities, but active duty appeals to me the most for a variety of reasons. If it doesn’t work out I will certainly be doing something in a similar vein… I’ve also looked into the National Health Service Corps off and on for years. Private practice has never really interested me.

    As for custody, yes, it could be affected if I were gone for a very long time (not that I’d want to sign up for that anyway), so I’m going to talk to a lawyer before enlisting in any branch.

    Molly, is it ok if I contact you using the email you listed in your comment? I have a lot of questions for a female Army dentist!