Deciding whether to bring a spouse to Quantico, VA, while attending The Basic School (TBS) can be a sensitive and challenging topic. I got married about 6 months prior to TBS with the intent of dragging my wife across the country to Virginia. However, we eventually decided that it would be best if I left alone. At the time, it didn’t seem right for me to make my wife quit her job and leave her family for the short 6 month period. Not to mention the unknown MOS school to follow and eventually my first duty station. Possibly three moves within the span of a year didn’t sound all that great.
All of the decisions we made were based on conjecture. Although we ended up being happy with the decision, it should not dissuade you from bringing a spouse to TBS. There are several factors to consider which I hope to address here.
TBS is a unique place to be because married Marines get a room in the barracks and BAH. This means that geographically separated Marines (geo-bachelors) will have a free room in the barracks while still drawing Quantico BAH rates (~$1800 for a 2ndLt). If your spouse is back home living with parents, or sharing a place in college, you can save a significant amount of money. If your spouse accompanies you, then you can get a place out in town while still having a room in the barracks. Depending on the size of your company, married Marines with accompanied spouses may only get a bed in a room already occupied.
Couples should also consider how far apart their going to be and how that affects travel costs. Saving on housing is great, but if your spouse is flying out to Quantico once a month it could leave you worst off. Ask yourself how often you would want to see your spouse if separated. Think about holiday periods, 72/96 hour liberty periods, and special events. In addition to travel costs, consider the hotel rates in Washington, D.C., which is where most people end up staying.
Here is a simple formula that may help you decide whether it’s financially beneficial not to bring a spouse to TBS.
BAH RATE + SPOUSE INCOME (IF WORKING) – MONTHLY TRAVEL COSTS – SPOUSE
RENT AT CURRENT LOCATION = POTENTIAL SAVINGS BEING SEPARATED
Simply put, if your spouse does not work, is planning on living somewhere expensive if separated, and wants to visit a lot, your probably financially better off having them move to Quantico. It’s a
dumbed down way of looking at things, but hopefully offers some perspective. Because my spouse worked and was paying $900 in rent, we were able to save money not having her accompany me.
Geo-bachelors will NOT rate separation pay. It is only available when the separation is involuntary, because you are allowed to bring a spouse to TBS you won’t rate it.
Expect 30+ Nights Away From Home
There’s a reason every TBS student gets a room in the barracks. Students are required to stay in the barracks during certain periods of training. For instance, during range weeks you will be required to sleep in the barracks M-Th. Sometimes training won’t be done until 0200 and the next day starts at 0600. Those days you will probably stay in the barracks even if it’s not required.
On other days you might be in the field for weeks at a time. The longest field exercise is going to be “War” which usually lasts 10 days. The rest are 3-5 days long with some being 2 days.
It can also be unpredictable when the day is over. Although the schedule may end at 1600, it’s common to end up with several hours of additional random tasks to get completed. As the cover photo for this article depicts, we once worked until 2200 scraping wax off the floor. Spouses shouldn’t rely on the schedule too much, and Marines should never make promises as to when they’ll be home.
Liberty Periods Are Normally Yours To Keep
On the plus side, most weekends and liberty periods will be yours to enjoy freely. This is where having a spouse with you makes the biggest difference. I didn’t have any family in the nearby area, and most of my platoon mates had other things going on. This was often when I missed my spouse the most and wished we weren’t separated.
The reasons you would lose a Saturday or Sunday are because of duty, or remediation for failing land navigation.
If your wife is pregnant and giving birth while your at TBS, you will likely get PTAD to be there whether separated or not. You may not get the fully allotted time, but I saw most students get at least 5 days.
Affects On Performance
I can’t speak on this personally, but I know others who did exceptionally well and had their spouses with them. There’s plenty of time to study for tests between daily scheduled events. However, most students don’t take those opportunities to be productive.
Anyone who blames their commute, kids, or spouse for poor performance is just making excuses.
Choosing Where To Live
For those who decide to stick together, be smart when finding a place to live. Fredricksburg may sound great, but the 30 minute commute won’t be enjoyable at 0400 in the morning. There are plenty of places to live right outside the gate. Take the time to do some research and look at potential traffic patterns on Google Maps.
Every situation is unique, and I can’t offer definitive advice to anyone. Think about what your spouse is currently doing at the location they would stay versus in Quantico. Do they have family in
the area? Are they going to stay home and watch the kids, or find a job? What’s going to be best financially? Will your spouse be understanding of the long hours and unpredictable schedule?
Students have been making their relationships work for decades. Have a serious conversation with your spouse and consider some of the things discussed here.