Life As a Recruiting Duty Wife

The life of a recruiting duty wife is often misunderstood by people not connected with the Military. They typically think it’s an ideal life, where her recruiter is always home early, and free to explore on the weekends. They think recruiters get lots of vacation time and that getting kids to join the Military is relatively easy.

On the contrary, for military couples, they often hear that recruiting duty is the worst possible duty they can be assigned to. They hear their spouse will never be able to go to anything, will turn into a completely different person, and that the divorce rate is through the roof.

So what is the truth about being a recruiting duty wife? I hope to enlighten you through my personal experience over the past 2 1/2 years.

*This is an opinion, and experienced based post, of one Marine wife’s account during her husband’s time on recruiting duty. It does not claim that every spouse will have the exact same experience.

Marine in dress blues, and his girlfriend, in a teal dress, at recruiter school graduation
Recruiting Graduation Day in San Diego

Where Are We?

Okay… so I haven’t been a recruiting duty wife for 2 1/2 years. I’ve only been a wife for 7 months. But, I was a recruiting duty girlfriend, and fiancee for the rest [which was harder for me]. Unlike normal duty stations, a recruiter can get stationed in virtually any city [or town] in the country [or US territory]. It may be close to a Military base or no where near one [like us].

We are currently 2 years and 8 months into our 3 year duty. We are stationed in San Jose, California, under RS [recruiting station] San Francisco, which is one of the more difficult recruiting areas in the US.

What Makes the Silicon Valley So Difficult for Recruiting?

Many kids in the Silicon Valley grow up planning to work for some big tech company after graduation [regardless if that is a realistic goal for them]. My husband often hears, “No thanks, I’m going to work at {Google, Apple, Netflix, etc} after I graduate.”

Many of the upperclass parents say “We love the Military, but our child is too good to serve,” [no joke….my husband has heard that on more than one occasion].

And because many parents moved here from around the globe for opportunity in the tech world [which I love about this area], they don’t always understand their kid’s desire to serve in the US military.

It’s not always the kid’s interest or the parents approval that are the problem. Some schools in the area do not support the military, and do not allow them on campus to share the opportunity with students.

Those are just a few reasons that makes this area a little more difficult for recruiters.

A marine in camouflage, with his girlfriend in a black dress, posing with his promotion placard to SSGT
Hubby’s Promotion to SSGT in his office

Is It Really That Bad?

The short answer…YES!

Now, those of you who know me personally, know that I am a generally positive person. However, one goal I set with my blog, was to provide genuine insight on my experiences as a military wife. With that being said, here goes a genuine account of my experience as a Marine Corps recruiting duty wife.

I hope to share a piece of my life, with those of you who don’t know much at all about recruiting duty.

And for the current and future recruiting duty wives, I pray this will help you to be well-informed, prepared, and to develop tools to cope with these insane 3 years.

What’s a Recruiter’s Schedule Like?

One lie that many non-military friends believe is that a recruiter must have “such a great schedule and so much time off.” Oh, how I wish that was true. My husband’s normal job in the Marine Corps is Administration.

Our first year and a half of dating [prior to recruiting] we were living it up in San Diego on the weekends, and could easily see each other during the week if we wanted [we lived about 45 minutes apart].

And let me be clear, my husband loves his normal job in the Marine Corps, and plans to retire with the Marines [he’s already half-way there].

Marine in camouflage swearing in for a re-enlistment
Re-enlistment photo from this past December- 4 more years!

Recruiting Duty? Not so much. If my hubby is home before 8 pm I’m literally saying “Wow, you’re off early today!”

If the office is not making mission [meeting the number of recruits with their enlistment package signed] for the month, there are nights when he isn’t home till 10, even 11pm.

“Oh he must get to sleep in then.” Nope again.

His report time is usually around 8:30am, but if he is running PT that day [Physical Training] or has someone “going up to MEPS” [code for testing at the Military Entrance Processing Center, to see if they are qualified to be a Marine], he is sometimes waking up as early as 5:00am. And yes, he still isn’t getting home those nights until the office is done for the day. I quickly had to adjust to 9pm dinners in order to eat together.

“But they have weekends off at least right?”

I can’t even count how many times my husband has worked 21 days in a row. Sure, if the office is making mission, he MIGHT have the weekend off. But even then, there are pool functions [workout events for the recruits waiting to go to bootcamp] once a month on the weekend. These usually last about 5-6 hours.

And, since many of the kids’ parents work during the week, the weekend is very often, the only time my husband can get parental consent.

If the office isn’t making mission? He will be working a normal workday on Saturday, and at least half a day on Sunday.

When he does happen to have a weekend off, he is still on his phone following up with interested students, checking in on his recruits awaiting bootcamp, and driving them to the hotel they stay at the night before they ship out.

What About Vacations? They Can Still Take Leave Right?

Yes, and no. Yes, there is still technically leave. But, it isn’t always approved.

Typically, leave requests just sit there until the week before, and are generally approved or not approved based on individual and team performance that month.

We had to cancel a trip to New Orleans a couple weeks before we were going to leave [elect for trip cancellation always!].

Even worse…I didn’t know if we were going on our honeymoon until 3 days before my wedding!! No, seriously! Talk about a bridal meltdown.

Yes, there have been times my husband has been able to go with me to a couple weddings. But, anything more than the weekend, is verrrry difficult to get approved, and often held over their head.

We have been lucky, that his office has done pretty well around the holidays, and he has had most of them off, but that’s not always the case for every office. I still don’t really get why someone would agree to talk to a Marine on Christmas Eve, but what do I know.

How Has It Affected Our Everyday Life?

Besides the crazy schedule, I have seen a huge change in my husband’s personality. He was always so patient, sweet, easy going, and he loved to go out and explore.

But, since recruiting duty, he comes home very stressed out, is more irritable, and is almost always too exhausted to go anywhere.

The job itself is very demanding. I could not imagine doing it day in and day out.

When I think back to when I was 17, 18, 19 years old. I had no dang clue what I wanted to do with my life [I mean I still don’t]. I was so wishy washy about everything, not always making responsible decisions, and was more concerned about my friends and having fun.

Now that is exactly who recruiters are dealing with on the daily. People don’t show up to their appointments, without even calling [that happens like almost every day]. They say they are totally committed and take up weeks [or longer] of a recruiter’s time, just to decide they don’t want to do it anymore because of their new girlfriend.

Sometimes, they get disqualified at the last minute because they decided to smoke with their friends one last time, and now can’t pass the drug test.

This is the kind of stuff recruiters deal with all the time. It is no wonder they are always so worn out.

Is There Anything Good About It?

Absolutely! I believe good can be found in any situation, and have definitely found things to be grateful for during this season [this is a little different than your typical, negative, recruiting duty post].

Probably the most comforting part of recruiting duty is that it is a non-deployable duty [whew!]. I have peace of mind knowing that I don’t have to worry about my husband’s safety and that he will come home to me every night [although we shouldn’t take anyone for granted because tomorrow is never guaranteed].

Because he works in a small office, and not on base, we live a fairly normal life. Since we are newly married, it will actually be an interesting and exciting adjustment for me, to be living near a base, and be able to meet a lot of military wives!

Besides moving to a new city, my lifestyle hasn’t changed much. Although I keep myself busy, and don’t visit as much as I would like, I’m pretty much welcome at the office anytime. Definitely a perk!

Another positive, is that my husband actually got his first choice of where he wanted to recruit [this obviously isn’t guaranteed]. Yes, we had no clue how difficult this area actually was [or we may have made a different choice], but we chose the Bay Area because it is close to both of our families and many friends. He grew up here, and me, just a little over an hour away.

Because recruiting duty is a difficult duty, and my husband has done well at it, we also got to choose our next duty station! We are so very excited to explore all the History and sites near Virginia.

What Is There to Look Forward to?

Even though recruiting duty is often far away from a base, there are still some things to look forward to every year.

For families with kids, the recruiting station puts on an awesome family day and annual Christmas party [For those of us without kids, we typically show up to say hi, and take off with the other non-parents to the nearest bar].

A marine and his fiancé wearing matching snowman ugly Christmas sweaters at the recruiting station Christmas party.
Matching ugly Christmas sweaters, at the RS Christmas Party

And the Marine Corps Birthday Ball? It still happens. And to me, the recruiters ball seems way more fun than the average. Both the recruiters, and the spouses [who have to deal with them all year] are extra ready to let loose and have an epic weekend. It’s always a good time.

Excited Marines surrounding a newly engaged Marine and his fiancee at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball
The excitement after we got engaged at the ball in Lake Tahoe.

What Are Some Positive Outcomes?

Recruiting duty can be a career boost for your spouse [if they do well]. Many recruiters get promoted faster, and there are extra opportunities to get awards that will add to their resume.

Most of all, recruiting duty is an opportunity for character building. [Yuck!] I know that is a word we don’t typically like the sound of.

But situations that build on character, help to make us better people, teach us to be thankful and empathetic, and make us stronger on the other side.

Being a recruiting duty wife has tried my patience [majorly] and improved it. It has given me thicker skin, taught me how to deal with disappointment, and taught me how to be a rock for my husband to lean on.

This has been a huge character building experience for him as well. Although he is counting down the days until he can return to his normal Marine Corps life [4 months, 12 days], I know he has learned many useful skills, and is becoming a stronger person through it.

Although difficult, it is rewarding to help young people have a brighter future than they may have had without the military. He is helping them to create a better life, for themselves and their future families.

So the answer…YES…there is so much good that has come out of recruiting duty.

What is Your Best Advice, for a Future Recruiting Duty Wife?

As we are nearing the end of recruiting duty, I feel I have lots of advice for recruiting duty wives, and significant others in general. Whether you are married or not, your mindset needs to be in the right place in order to have a successful relationship during recruiting duty.

It is soooo important that you are understanding of their new reality, and are able to accept that the next 3 years are going to be a lot different than you are used to.

It is important to accept that you have to be the strong one during this time, and expect to be pouring more into the relationship in this season.

I know that may be hard to grasp [relationships are supposed to be 50/50 right?]. Let me tell you…the way this job is laid out, they do not have the capacity to give you their 100% [plain and simple]. Expect them to be too tired to do much of anything, and take full advantage of when they actually have the energy to do something fun!

A marine and his fiancee visiting Sutter's Fort in Sacramento, CA
Exploring Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, CA one Saturday

If you find yourself really struggling, one concept that has helped me immensely is to remember that [although 3 years may seem like a long time], it is ONLY 3 years in the span of an entire lifetime together.

Reflect on how your significant other used to be before recruiting. Remember that things will go back to normal, and they will be happier again.

Something that has been soooo huge for me, [and I know will help you too] is…Do your own thing.

Initially, I wouldn’t make plans in hopes that he would be off that weekend. I can’t tell you how many of those weekends I ended up sitting around by myself, bored and wishing I texted a friend to make plans.

When I first moved to San Jose, I found myself waiting around for him to get home most days, and found myself getting upset when he just wanted to lay around in a vegetative state. I figured out quickly, that relying on him as my main source of happiness, was not leading down a healthy path.

I’m not saying to constantly be gone every weekend, but make trips to see family and friends, and get some at-home projects going. Make an effort to make new friends in the area. Get involved with your church, workout classes, weekly girls brunch dates. Maybe get a job [even if you don’t financially need to], whatever.

But do keep yourself busy and focus on creating your own happiness. Set up your life so when your man does get home early [like 7pm] you’re saying “Oh wow. You are home already?!”

The Reality Is…

We truly cannot understand exactly what our recruiting spouses are going through, but it’s important to try our very very best. We have to put ourselves in their shoes, and try to be empathetic.

They will try your patience, they will snap every once in a while [and you are going to be like “who the heck even are you?”], and their personality will probably change a lot, and not for good.

But always cling to the hope of the future. All those good times will be back again, filled with lots of love, fun, adventure and a rejuvenated husband.

Sure, there may be more negatives when it comes to being a recruiting duty wife, but cling to the positives, and I know you and your person can make it through to the other side!

Engagement photo with Marine in his Camoflague
Engagement picture by Alexandria Vail Photography

Thanks so much for reading about my current life, as a recruiting duty wife! I hope this has been enlightening and encouraging for you!

Leave a comment and let me know what you thought, and what you would like to see here in the future! I look forward to hearing from you!

MMW

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Annie
Annie
1 year ago

Beautiful, raw, and heartfelt post, Emily! I learned a lot about what it’s like to be a recruiter and a recruiter’s wife. Kudos to you both! Counting down the days with you!

Hazel
Hazel
1 year ago

This is so well-written, Em! I had no idea about the lifestyle you and Alex have right now. Such an honest, but still positive, perspective. It was great to read!

Ashley B.
Ashley B.
1 year ago

This was such an interesting read! I had no idea the challenges you both have to face while on recruiting duty. But I feel your confidence and power seeping through your words that I feel can lift up so many who are going through the same challenges! I wish you both happiness and fulfillment on this journey!

VanessaCeliiina
VanessaCeliiina
1 year ago

Amazing! So proud of you sister! Living this life is probably the most difficult thing, but soon it will end!