More than 9,000 people leave the Army each year and when a soldier transitions, you transition too. It can affect every aspect of family life, from housing and healthcare to education and employment, but how much do we know about the challenges? Kate McCullough, our Transition Liaison, explains what AFF has been finding out…

Transition tales: Families share their experiences of leaving Army life behind

Louie and Laura
Louie finished a career in the Army in 2016 after 22 years’ service. He and his wife Laura had been looking forward to life after the military and enjoying more family time.

Laura said: “We moved six times during the last ten years, moving into our own home in preparation for Louie’s discharge. We bought the house a few years previously and rented it out until we were ready.”

Louie invested a lot of time securing a new job and had the comfort of knowing he had future employment before his last day in the Army. Sadly, his new commute proved too long so they decided to sell their home and buy another which was closer to Louie’s new job. This put significant financial pressure on the couple.

Laura added: “Our advice to other families looking to settle after leaving the Army is to rent initially to make sure it’s the right location for you.”

Through all of this, Laura’s job remained a constant as she worked in a role that she could move to her new home without difficulty. She concluded: “I’m grateful for the stability my job gave the family during transition.”

Andria and Paul
Paul will have served in the Army for more than 36 years when he reaches his end of service in June this year. He and his wife Andria lived together in SFA throughout his career until the beginning of his last year when Andria moved into the home they had bought as part of their planned transition.

Paul made use of the CTP provision and sought help to write his CV. He is looking for a job with less responsibility and having more time to himself after such a busy last few roles in the Army. Andria has been in the same job for many years and has been able to keep her role regardless of where the couple have moved.

Andria said: “We are looking forward to using Paul’s pension lump sum to pay off our mortgage. Paul has joined the Forces Pension Society to help him understand more about what his pension income will look like once he leaves. Early planning and investing in our property has meant we have avoided any money worries during our transition so far.”

Julie and Dean
After 31 years, Dean left the Army and relocated with his wife Julie and daughter to an area they had previously visited on holiday. The process of finding a house was long and difficult.

“We were surprised by how expensive renting a home is, especially once we factored in a deposit and an increased cost of living outside SFA.”

On Dean’s last day of service, neither he nor Julie had secured a job and were facing the prospect of living off Dean’s pension. They are both now working and Julie enjoys her new career. However, Dean feels unfulfilled in his new role and has found adjusting to life after the Army difficult.

Initially none of the nearest schools had any availability. “Fortunately, things changed and our daughter is now very happy in her new school. She has enjoyed making friends that she’ll be at school with for many years to come.”

Amongst the anxiety of the transition, they have discovered Veterans’ Breakfast Clubs – a group offering meet ups for veterans and their families. “We really enjoy spending time with people who know what it’s like to leave the military and can provide helpful advice and reassurance.”

Ruth and Tim
Ruth and Tim Gilbert were both in the Army for 16 years. They lived in several SFA before buying their own home a year before leaving the Army.

“Before relocating to Devon, we spent a few months travelling, making the most of the time together whilst the children are still young and now that we are no longer tied to the Army.”

Ruth and Tim had decided early on where they wanted to live and what kind of lifestyle they wanted. They looked for work that would fit their vision of post-Army life and both accepted Army Reserve roles, supplemented by both of their Army pensions.

“After a stint of home schooling for the children whilst we were travelling overseas, we’ve thankfully had no difficulties securing school and nursery places once we were back in the UK.”

They recommend for others to be proactive and to not be afraid of doing something different. “We’ve had a relatively smooth transition so far and did a lot of planning in advance to mitigate the possible risks.”

Neil and Becky
After 20 years’ service, Neil was medically discharged from the Army in 2017. He and his wife Becky moved from their SFA in Devon to a privately-rented property nearby with their two daughters.

“We were looking forward to a fresh start as a family after a difficult final few years in the Army.”

As well as the challenges Neil faced in dealing with his medical condition, Becky was surprised by how much there was to manage during transition. “Two years for resettlement has not been enough for us, particularly as Neil was discharged two years earlier than we had planned to leave, giving us less time to make decisions and put plans in place.”

Of all the challenges, their finances have been the most stressful. Private rent and bigger household bills alongside Neil being unable to work at that time, has put the family under financial pressure. Fortunately, Becky has been able to maintain her job throughout providing an essential income.

“I would encourage other Army families to think about transition sooner rather than later. I appreciate first-hand how much there is to think about and how expensive setting up a new life can be.”

Rachel and Will
Will left the Army in 2015 after seven years’ service. He had enjoyed his career, which included an accompanied overseas posting, and he and his wife Rachel started a family.

Will invested heavily in researching what he wanted to do after leaving the Army, working out what suited his aspirations and their family life best. He identified that his job needed to meet his development needs as well as provide a good salary and be enjoyable. “Think hard about what you want from a job beyond the pay. Networking has been really important in securing my new job.”

Will and Rachel found house buying to be a stressful part of their transition. They had chosen an expensive area and found saving for a deposit difficult. “In the end, a developer’s scheme to support first-time buyers proved invaluable to us.”

Will and Rachel were familiar with their new area having lived in SFA. “We miss the social side of being in the Army, but have made friends in our new local community by joining a tennis club and by meeting people through our children.”

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