Real Partners of HBS – From Military Life to Business School

“Army Wives”, the highest-rated drama series in Lifetime’s history, follows the struggles, dreams and friendships of a diverse group of wives living with their spouses and families on an active Army post. They face deployments, abuse, hostage situations, adultery, and post traumatic stress disorder, just for starters. While the series is busy depicting the lives of today’s American military families, real partners of HBS are busy experiencing it for themselves.

Over half of all military students at HBS (approximately 41) have brought their partners and families along for the two years of student life. For these military families, the HBS experience can be a real culture shock. Life here is far different than the norms of living on a military base, shopping at the commissary, seeing your husband wear a uniform, and engaging in a community of solely soldiers and families. However, HBS also provides two years of safety and security in which a spouse is not deployed to the war in Afghanistan or other locations around the globe. It can also be a transition time for families departing from the military altogether and adjusting to civilian life.

For my husband, Jon Grzyb (EC section B), and me, the transition to HBS from the military was in pursuit of a lifestyle and career change. After 9 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, he had different professional interests and we were ready to have more control over what the future held for our family. After a fun-filled RC year of carefree student travel and not pressing military uniforms, we were faced with a hard dose of reality. While in Mexico at our wedding in May, he received notice that his Coast Guard Reserve unit was next to receive orders to report to the Gulf of Mexico in support of Operation Deepwater Horizon (the massive BP oil spill). This call to duty meant no summer internship in New York City (and therefore no chance of a full time offer) and possibly the delay of EC year and not graduating with the class of 2011.

After seeking advice from a number of mentors and explaining his situation to the Coast Guard, he made the very difficult decision to withdraw from the Reserves. The Coast Guard was very accommodating to suggest and approve this course of action, however my husband struggled to choose between (1) what he saw as his duty and (2) not graduating with his class and missing the summer opportunity he worked so hard to secure. In our experience, leaving the Coast Guard Reserves was bittersweet. It was hard for my husband to give up the camaraderie, but necessary in order for us to take advantage of the HBS experience and the next phase of our lives.

Despite leaving friends and fellow soldiers behind, HBS veterans and families are not alone in their transition. The Armed Forces Alumni Association (AFAA) assists in the professional development and job search process of members; promotes camaraderie among members; and raises awareness and support for the military on the HBS campus.

Partners of AFAA members-a Navy Lieutenant, a Marine, a West Point cadet, and an Army Captain-share their thoughts on military life versus student life, accepting the HBS mission, and their outlook for the future.

A Safe Haven
“HBS has been a vacation for my heart,” said partner Colleen Arndt, wife of Matt Arndt (EC section J), “I am finally able to sleep without worry.” During his 16 years in the Navy, Matt has been deployed four times-twice to Asia, once to the Middle East and one strategic deterrent patrol (undisclosed location).ÿIn fact before HBS, he was only home for about 17 of the 42 months that the couple lived in Hawaii. During deployments, they sometimes didn’t have the ability to communicate for three months at a time.ÿ

Life as a military wife can be a constant struggle between dependence and independence.ÿ”When your husband, as the traditional provider, leaves, you suddenly have to do everything for yourself – fix the car, mow the grass, build furniture,” said Colleen,ÿ”But when he comes back, you have to figure out how to give up some of that independence in order for him to feel welcomed back into your life.ÿIt’s tricky.”ÿ

Colleen credits her faith and patience in allowing her to think positively. “We have found that the multiple deployments have helped us to stop and smell the flowers more often,” Colleen said.ÿ”It has strengthened our communication skills and has shown us what is really important in life.” After graduation, Matt will return to the Navy to finish his 20 year commitment.ÿ

A Change of Pace
Life is much easier now for Laura and Dan McCready (EC section I), previously an officer in the Marine Corps. “We have way more time together now and I actually know what our schedule is,” Laura says. In the Marines, her husband could be assigned to weekend duty or be deployed at a moment’s notice “At least here, I know his Outlook calendar won’t change. In the Marines, you never knew when he would be home so it was really difficult to plan for anything.” Laura also is thankful that her husband is safe and secure at HBS instead of being deployed to Iraq, as he was during their first year of marriage.

Because she is used to being an independent military wife, the HBS time commitment is no big deal. While Dan is busy with school, Laura is an attorney working as a law clerk from the Boston Federal Courthouse. Just how much do they enjoy their time at HBS? “We are expecting a baby in February,” Laura reports.

A New Mission
For Kim Mosher and Brendan Mosher (RC section H), a West Point graduate, HBS has given them a new outlook on life. “Having a relationship with a West Point cadet was one of the hardest, but best, things I’ve ever done,” Kim said. Cadets only have a certain number of weekend passes to use a semester and have curfews every night, needing to be back on post by a certain time. Many graduates over the last few years have gone straight into combat-a very different path than the average college grad’s. “I thought that after West Point, I would be able to handle anything,” Kim recalls. “I remember thinking that HBS is a civilian school. How difficult could business school be?”

However, Kim learned HBS asks its students to complete a different responsibility. Instead of her husband having a responsibility to his country, he now has to decide what his future contribution to society as an HBS graduate will be-how he will make a difference in the world replica breitling Aeromarine . “I feel like having that weight on his (or our) shoulders is just as intimidating,” Kim said. “We won’t be returning to the military lifestyle after HBS, but I will be just as proud of him representing HBS as the US Army.”

A Path Untraveled
Although the possibilities are endless for HBS grads, the future can be unsettling for some military families like Ashley and Micah Hall (EC Section E). “The Army creates a checklist for you,” Ashley says. “Throughout your career you know what comes next. Now that Micah is pursuing a career outside the Army, there is a big question mark.” When a path isn’t carved out for you like in the military, veterans may find it challenging to figure out what it is they actually want to do. Most AFAA members never had to write a resume replica breitling bentley 6.75, let alone a cover letter. Post HBS, Micah would like to remain a member of the Army Reserves, as it will allow him to continue to serve his country in a way that he deeply values, but this will entirely depend on the work-life balance offered by his new full-time job.

Throughout the pleasures, surprises, and challenges of student life, partners are an essential part of the HBS experience. Like the military, HBS asks for unconditional support from partners during a busy and stressful time. In return, the two years offers partners endless opportunities to build rewarding friendships and engage in unique experiences only available at HBS. In end, military partners are valuable contributors to the HBS community, bringing their warm welcome to others, strong sense of loyalty and support, and commitment to the greater good-true traits of America’s military wives.

October 4, 2010
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