ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Overseas assignments, kids, deployments and TDYs -- these experiences can all be part of the marriage package for a military spouse.
For Shari Campbell, wife of Tech. Sgt. Jason Campbell, 28th Maintenance Operations Squadron NCO-in charge of material control, and mother of three, they are nothing new.
"I grew up as an Air Force brat," she laughed.
Shari was born in the Philippines, raised in Japan, Germany, Turkey and England, and intimately understands the dynamics of military life. She lived it for 18 years and thrived on it. Ten years later, when Shari married Sergeant Campbell, she knew what she was getting into.
"We went to high school together in England," she said. "He was my first kiss."
They lost touch after high school, but once her family retired to Washington state, she reconnected with her old friend. They exchanged letters a few times while he was in Korea, and "the rest is history," she laughed.
Now, as a stay-at-home mom, she has already lived in Germany for almost three years and South Dakota for two. These international moves could have been daunting, but Shari sees them as adventures. She is teaching her children, ages 1 month to 7 years, to see them in the same way.
"It's not scary," she reassured them about their last move. "And now, they can't wait for the next one."
It is just as well, because Shari said she is getting, "antsy right about now," and ready for the next adventure, "anywhere!"
Wherever her family moves, Shari prefers to live off base, in order to be more integrated into the local community. This is something she learned from her mother, who was "gung-ho" about exploring their surroundings wherever they lived. Shari encourages other spouses to immerse themselves, too.
"Go out and get lost," she says. "Bring a GPS so you can get back, but go get lost. You have to keep an open mind when you're married to the military."
Shari confessed, however, that being a military spouse is not always an easy job. While stationed in Germany, her husband was working a very difficult work schedule, which only allowed the family to see him every other Saturday.
"Family time was kind of difficult with that schedule," she admitted, "but we looked forward to Saturday, so we could spend a day with dad."
She also stressed the importance of flexibility.
"The schedules are going to be crazy, the hours are going to be crazy, and they're not going to stay the same for any period of time," so she said she takes advantage of opportunities when she has them.
Community and the support of spouses has been a huge part of Shari's ability to remain flexible. Here at Ellsworth, most of her support comes from her church, but she has also found kindred spirits in the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group on base, which she helps to coordinate.
"You can come and talk to moms that have gone through a lot of the same stuff you have," she said.
MOPS also gives moms resources and help they need, Shari said. Inviting guest speakers to discuss deployments, finance and even fitness, are all ways that Shari tries to meet the specific needs of the spouses in MOPS.
Shari also tries to find family, even if they aren't blood relatives. Often, she explained, that means getting out of the house.
"The longer you stay in billeting or moping around missing your last base, the longer it's going to take to acclimate to where you are."
For her, the place she starts is the Airmen and Family Readiness Center.
"When you're PCSing, trying to find a house, or pretty much anything. They are a good resource," she said.
"Wherever you go, you have some place where you fit in," Shari said, reflecting on her experiences as a military dependent. "It's the two of us doing this now. And it's really nice to have someone with you through it all."