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Fixed and Adjustable Rate Mortgage Basics

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With mortgage rates at some of the lowest levels in decades, many borrowers are considering whether a fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage is better suited for their needs. We are going to walk you through the two main mortgage options that you can select from, along with the core benefits and some of the negatives associated with each.

Fixed Rate Mortgages

With a fixed rate mortgage, your interest rate and monthly payments remain the same throughout the term of the loan:

  • There is no risk of your monthly mortgage payments changing at any point during the course of the loan. This means as long as there are no drastic changes to your lifestyle, you should always be in a position to pay the mortgage amount comfortably.
  • A fixed interest rate is typically higher than whatever the going adjustable interest rate is since you are offered more stability.
  • Throughout the term of your mortgage, there is no change to the amount applied to principal versus interest, it always takes the same course as per the amortization schedule.
  • If interest rates go down you don’t have the opportunity to take advantage of this move as you may with an adjustable rate mortgage.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages

With adjustable rate mortgages, your payment amount is determined by the initial mortgage rate fixed for a 3, 5, 7 or 10 year term, which presents some interesting pros and cons:

  • With a adjustable rate mortgage, there is the potential that you can pay much less than you would with a fixed rate mortgage, but if interest rates go up, you could also pay much more as you do not have a guaranteed future rate once your “fixed rate” period is complete.
  • You don’t have a guaranteed monthly payment amount, and you may have to tighten the purse strings on other spending when interest rates rise.
  • Adjustable rate mortgages can allow you to pay down your mortgage with more money applied to principal depending upon what interest rates are doing at any given time.
  • In order to be eligible for a adjustable rate mortgage, you may need be approved to pay a monthly payment amount higher than what you’d pay based on the interest rate at the time in a fixed rate loan. The regulations can vary by lender or state, but this ensures that your mortgage can always be paid.

Still have questions about whether an adjustable rate or fixed rate mortgage is best for your needs? We can help walk you through any questions you have to find the loan that best fits your needs.

What Are Closing Costs?

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When you’re ready to purchase home, it’s necessary to have some cash assets ready to cover the expenses that cannot be added to your mortgage. A portion of these expenses that you’ll need to pay in cash are the closing costs. While many first time home buyers may expect from watching real estate shows that they can convince the seller to cover the out-of-pocket costs, this is not always the case. It’s essential that all buyers have a general understanding of what the various closing costs are so they can be prepared. Typically, it’s a good idea for buyers to save at least 3% to 6% of the purchase price of a home for closing. Below, we’ve outlined some of the typical closing costs you’ll be responsible for paying only once, when you close on your house.

Non-Recurring Closing Costs

Non-recurring closing costs are those that you will pay once when you close upon your home, but you will not have to worry about them again until you choose to make another purchase.

Non-recurring closing costs can include the following:

  • Home inspection – This is one of the first closing costs you will have to pay as a buyer. If you make an offer on a home conditional upon a satisfying inspection, you typically have under a week from the offer date to have it completed. This is a cost you as a buyer have to pay even if you choose to withdraw your offer because you’re not happy with the results of an inspection.
  • Title insurance – This is insurance that compensates for any losses that are a result of a defective title or liens on the property that should have been revealed at the time of purchases. Losses covered include any legal fees paid to rectify related issues. Title insurance can be taken in lieu of a title search which is much more pricey and in many cases, unnecessary. A real estate lawyer will advise buyers if a title search is needed rather than title insurance.
  • Appraisal fee – Before a mortgage lender will provide you a loan, they complete a property appraisal to ensure that your home is worth at least as much as they’re going to lend you. Often today this can be completed without surveying the property as banks can look at recent valuations in the area online, but a fee does still apply and the cost can vary depending upon the appraisal method used.
  • Attorney fees – Your attorney is the one that processes all of the necessary paperwork, registers the deed, deals with the seller’s lawyer, processes information for the bank, and makes sure all necessary money gets to the appropriate bodies. For all this, a real estate lawyer charges a flat fee for his or her services.
  • Escrow fees – Some mortgage lenders may require that you put the costs related to the mortgage payment, property taxes and utilities into an account to be paid by them on a monthly basis. This helps them ensure that their investment is protected because payments are made. At closing, you may be required to deposit escrow fees for one or more months of expenses.
  • Land transfer fees – Most cities or counties (or both) require that you pay a fee to ‘transfer’ the land from the seller to the buyer. The specific costs and requirements vary greatly across the country but typically apply.
  • Various administrative fees – As a buyer you may need to pay the fees to record the sale, fees for document preparation, and any charges that surface from the need to use wire transfer or a courier to get the transaction completed.

Should You Spend The Full Mortgage Amount You’re Approved For?

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When you’ve gotten a pre-approval from your mortgage lender, you’re ready to start shopping for a home. While your pre-approval tells you how much the bank thinks you can afford, many first time buyers in particular wonder if they should actually spend as much as they’ve been approved for.

The first thing to note is that a bank takes your Gross Debt Ratio and Total Debt Ratio into consideration when determining how much money they will lend you.

Theoretically, you can afford to spend what you’ve been pre-approved for, but there are some other things you should think about when determining if you want to spend it all.

Determining How Much of Your Mortgage Approval Amount to Spend

While you may be tempted to spend your full pre-approval amount to get the best home available to you, there are some other things that you should consider when you take a look at your total expenses:

1. Would you need to make cutbacks? – Even if your full mortgage amount is under 40% in your total debt ratio, there are many other expenses not calculated by the bank. Take a look at all of your other fixed and variable expenses and determine if you’d need to make cutbacks to live comfortably with that mortgage amount. Remember, your expenses can include things like your grocery bill, the cost of children’s activities, and eating out.

2. Are you willing to change your lifestyle? – If you would need to make cutbacks to spend the full mortgage amount, take a look at what you would be willing to give up, if anything. For some, it may be worth the sacrifice to get a “better” home. For others, it may be preferable to spend less on the home and maintain status quo in other aspects of life.

3. Are your expenses likely to change? – Remember, your pre-approval amount is based on your current income level and debts. It might be affordable today, but if you have intentions to leave your job or take on new expenses, the affordability may change quickly.

Once you’ve considered all of the above factors, it’s up to you to determine how much you’re comfortable spending. Don’t feel pressure to spend it all, but if that number is a comfortable one, then getting shopping for a property of that value!

Can You Change Jobs Before Closing on Your Home?

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Some of life’s biggest changes occur at the same time, even when you don’t plan it that way. It may just happen that you get a job offer that could greatly benefit your career with your closing date looming just weeks ahead. While your first instinct may be to reply with an ecstatic “YES!”; you do need to stop and think before you make that commitment because you’re about to take on a major financial investment. The choice may be right for you, but you’ve got to consider a few things first.

How Will Your Job Change Impact Your Mortgage Loan?

You need to bring your potential job change to the attention of your mortgage lender and there are a few factors they’ll look at to determine if that may compromise your ability to take on the mortgage you were previously approved for:

  • If your income level will remain the same at your new job. If it’s higher, your mortgage may not be impacted; if it’s lower, it has the potential to change what you can afford.
  • If you’ll be working in the same industry as the job(s) you’ve held before. Your mortgage lender may consider it a risky move and it could potentially compromise your mortgage.
  • If there’s going to be a probationary period at your new job that will still be in place when you close, because then the chances are much greater that you’ll lose it since there’s zero job security.
  • The length of time that you’ll be at your new job before your mortgage closing date. If you’ve switched jobs 90 days before you close on your home, then you may have enough stability on your side.
  • Whether your high ratio mortgage is insured or backed up by a program or grant. Guidelines may differ, but some programs that allow you to make a low or no down payment  on your mortgage may choose to run a credit report and revisit your file at any time. You need to tell your lender or mortgage broker about your job change, and if this other program looks into it and don’t like what they see, they could refuse to back your loan.
  • Your loan approval amount. If you’ve got a home loan that’s far less than what you can afford (according to the bank’s assessment) and are a two income household, it may be that your loan approval would not change.
  • Your debt ratios. Regardless, your lender would recalculate your Gross Debt Ratio and Total Debt Ratio based on your new income, or based on the other household income if yours for some reason cannot be used.

Keep in mind that everyone has different circumstances and there can be compensating factors, so before you decline or accept a job offer, we can help give you guidance so that you can make an informed decision.

Home Purchase Escrow Basics: What You Need to Know

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You’ve likely heard the phrase “We’re in escrow!” before, but what does it mean? It’s always presented as though it’s positive and as though a house purchase is a done deal. Both of these things are true, but you do need to understand the process in order to be adequately prepared when the time comes.

What is Escrow?

The escrow process puts your money in the hands of a neutral third party to complete part of the necessary financial process for you to close upon your home. An escrow account is required by many lenders in order to ensure that you’re prepared to cover some of your home expenses once you take posession as this protects their investment.

What is the Escrow Process?

Typically, an escrow account is opened before you actually close upon your newly purchased home and at that time you are required to start adding funds to it. Typically, the costs you will need to place into an escrow account is the insurance, property taxes and sometimes the utilities. Here is the general escrow process:

  1. Around closing, your mortgage lender may require you to deposit the payments to cover at least one month’s worth of funding for the required expenses. Often, lenders ask for 2-3 months of payments.
  2. Your money will be protected with the third party that holds onto your money as they transfer it only to the lender for the pre-determined expenses on a set schedule.
  3. Once you take posession of the home you will be making flat rate monthly payments to cover your expenses (property taxes, insurance, utilities) and the lender will use the funds to pay the appropriate outlets directly. Many first time home buyers find this especially simple because it helps them manage their money. Typically, property taxes would be paid on a quarterly basis in a larger lump sum. Paying monthly into escrow means that smaller amounts of money are automatically removed from a home owner’s account, so the process is budget-friendly!

Meet Your Army: Guard officer mentors future leaders

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By Don Wagner March 23, 2017

Texas Army National Guard Lt. Col. Tanya Trout, then commander for the 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, congratulates her Soldiers on their successful mission during a ceremony Aug. 5, 2016. The signal battalion completed a successful nine-month tour in Kuwait and surrounding areas providing communication capabilities in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield.
Lt. Col. Tanya Trout throws out the first pitch at start of the Houston Astros game July 18, 2015.  Just prior to the pitch, Trout and members of the 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion conducted a deployment ceremony at the ballpark, casing their colors.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Army News Service) — Lt. Col. Tanya Renee Trout was abandoned at birth in Seoul, Korea, but adopted by a U.S. non-commissioned officer and his wife.

She came to the states at 4 months old and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1977.

Now she is the G-6 of the 36th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit headquartered at Camp Mabry, Texas, and one of her top priorities is to mentor future leaders of America.

“I enjoy mentoring young Soldiers and officers to help them reach their potential,” Trout said.

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She spends a lot of time providing professional advice for her Soldiers’ military career and or civilian careers. In return, she feels that her Solders help her become a stronger leader.

As the division G-6, she is the principle officer responsible for advising the commander, staff, and subordinate leaders on all command, control, communications and computer operations, or C4OPS, and network operations, or NETOPS, along with information management matters.

“During my command, I would have mentoring sessions both one-on-one and in groups,” Trout said. “I had several women’s focused sessions about career development and complexities in the workforce. Even after leaving my command, I have been asked my several junior officers, NCOs and Soldiers to be their mentor and continue to provide them both formal and adhoc advice on a routine basis.”

“She is a charismatic, inspiring, caring, and thorough leader,” said former co-worker Capt. Jennifer Faulkner. “She brought a parental-like love to her command, demanding high-quality performance with unwavering compassion for Soldiers’ needs.”

A self-described Army brat whose family moved often, she said that she enjoyed moving around and traveling.

“While growing up, I was a typical overachiever.” Trout said. She was a cheerleader. She played softball and soccer. She was on the debating teams. She was a hospital volunteer, and even worked as a cashier at a grocery store.

Trout graduated from Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona, in 1991. She accepted a four-year ROTC scholarship at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1996. She received a commission then as an officer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Trout was active-duty Army from 1996-2001 and transferred to the Texas Army National Guard in 2002. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in management army operations and national security from the University of Maryland.

In her civilian occupation, Trout is a director at Protiviti, a global consulting firm that she manages at the Winchester, Virginia branch. Though currently living in Frisco, Texas, she is planning to relocate to Winchester in the summer.

Trout said that while she was with Protiviti, she was the project manager supporting the company’s Executive Sponsor, Susan Haseley, in developing our company’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in 2011 and 2012. She added that she been active member in our Initiative for the Growth and Retention of Women at Work, or iGROWW and Veteran’s Network Groups. She also recently became the a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Champion’s Network for the Winchester office.

Trout said she is most proud of the opportunity of serving as the commander of the 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion. There, she was responsible for more than 560 Soldiers dispersed across 23 locations in eight countries that included Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman providing communication operations support for Army Central Command units in the Middle East.

Trout believes that good leadership is setting the example.

“I always told Soldiers if they had to do it, then I did, too,” Trout said. “I always explained to Soldiers that my job is to enforce the Army standards and policies; and having the courage to always do the hard right instead of the easy wrong.”

Trout said that the most important Army values are personal courage and integrity. She believes that these values “go hand-in-hand” but warns Soldiers that these may be the most difficult to achieve.

“Lt. Col. Trout’s dedication and loyalty to the Soldiers and mission of the United States Army is irrefutable,” former Army co-worker and current Public Health Services Commander Mellissa Walkern said. “Her love and compassion for her family and friends transcends the bond typically developed in the military.

For those who want to join the Army, Trout tells them that diverse experiences will help them be better leaders, and added that the Army provides “so many professional opportunities.”

“Many people have asked me why I still serve and I tell them that I really do love it,” Trout said. I have been so fortunate. I have been able to maintain both my military and civilian careers and continue to get amazing opportunities to grow.”

“She challenged me every day and never let me settle for less than my best, Capt. Ragnar “Ace” Jamieson one of her company commanders during deployment to Operation Spartan Shield 2015-2016 said. “Her tutelage has helped mold me into the signal officer I am today. If I am fortunate enough to become a battalion commander, I hope to lead and accomplish the mission using the example she has set. Lt. Col. Trout is an incredible leader and I was fortunate to be one of her company commanders during deployment to Operation Spartan Shield 2015-2016.”

“I can’t imagine my life being any other,” said Trout. “Being able to have this dual role as a communications officer serving my country in support of emergency-relief and federal mobilizations in support of contingency operations and also being able to maintain a career in internet-technology consulting helping companies solve complex business problems.”

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National Guard sisters in service

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By Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes March 23, 2017

Iowa National Guard Maj. Jill Finkel pins her sister, Massachusetts Army National Guard Maj. Molly Alesch's, new rank on her at a promotion ceremony at Hanscom Air Force Base March 17.
Iowa National Guard Maj. Jill Finkel (left) poses with her sister Massachusetts Army National Guard's newly promoted Maj. Molly Alesch (middle), her son and husband, at a promotion ceremony at Hanscom Air Force Base March 17.

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. — When Massachusetts Army National Guard’s newly promoted Maj. Molly Alesch spoke at her promotion ceremony, March 17, here, she echoed one of the most common stories, that her father had served in the U.S. Army. However, when it came to her inspiration to serve she turned to the audience where her sister, Army Maj. Jill Finkel of the Iowa National Guard, beamed with pride. Later she playfully described a call with her youngest sister who asked how her ceremony was, “going to go down.” Army Spc. Kristen Alesch who serves in the Tennessee National Guard, was curious as she hasn’t seen many officer promotions ceremonies yet in her military career.

“It’s an honor to me to have the three of them serve. It gives me a sense of pride, I readily put that out there… brag about it I guess,” said their father Thomas Alesch. “I think that every person, male or female, should serve their country.”

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The first of his daughters to join the service was his eldest daughter Jill. “I needed help from somewhere, I was without a lot of resources, and it turned out that the Army was the place for me,” said Jill. She found that help after enlisting in the Iowa National Guard, then went on to earn her law degree from Drake University, and now works full-time as a federally recognized Judge Advocate General Officer in the Iowa Guard’s Active Guard Reserve program.

“When Molly told me she was going to do it, I was all for it,” said Jill. “Every time I needed something, that’s what (the Army) I kept coming back to and I told Molly that she was going to need that support as well.”

It was while both older sisters were attending Drake University that Molly considered joining the military. She saw her sister wearing the uniform and paying her own way through college, which inspired her to join the National Guard’s Simultaneous Membership Program (a program that allowed her to be a member of the Iowa National Guard while completing her Bachelor’s Degree). After this she completed a 3 year tour on Active Duty, and then took a break in service.

Civilian life didn’t quite suit her.

“When I went to grad school I was with people who were freaking out about assignments and completing grad school in general,” said Molly. “I’m thinking that is nothing. People are dying overseas, I’m used to being with Soldiers who have real stuff to worry about. I missed it.” Molly found a home in the Massachusetts National Guard — The Nation’s First, first as an Education Officer and now as the state’s Sexual Assault and Response Prevention Coordinator.

Jill deployed to Afghanistan from 2010-2011, Molly deployed to Iraq from 2005-2006.

When their “baby sister” Kristen, now Spc. Alesch, graduated from basic training Molly spoke about attending the ceremony, with pride, but not without concern. She is the first of the three to have joined after 9/11.

“She is an 88M (Motor Transport Operator), and I know because I am a logistics officer, that a lot of 88M’s are on the road and they’re always in the action,” said Molly.

Kristen, being a decade younger, hasn’t deployed yet. But Jill is confident that it won’t be an issue for the youngest of these sisters in service.

“It’s a little bit blown out of proportion, with women in the military, can they be in war can they not?… It’s a person issue not a gender issue.” Jill said. “While I enjoy the surprise, it really shouldn’t be surprising that three strong women want to serve their country.”

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IMCOM-Europe announces 2017 Best Warrior Competition winners

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By Mr. Stephen Baack (IMCOM) March 23, 2017

Michael Formica, left, director of Installation Management Command - Europe, and Command Sgt. Maj. Gene Canada, right, IMCOM-Europe command sergeant major, stand with the 2017 IMCOM-Europe Best Warrior Competition noncommissioned officer and Soldier winners during an awards ceremony in Ansbach, Germany, March 23, 2017. Second from left is Staff Sgt. Brendan Hagens of U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, and second from right is Pfc. Douglas Lanning of USAG Benelux.
The 13 candidates of the 2017 Installation Management Command - Europe Best Warrior Competition stand together minutes before the winners are announced March 23, 2017, at Bismarck Kaserne in Ansbach, Germany. The two winners are Staff Sgt. Brendan Hagens of U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden and Pfc. Douglas Lanning of USAG Benelux.

ANSBACH, Germany (March 23, 2017) — Today, Installation Management Command-Europe announced the winners of this year’s Best Warrior Competition during a ceremony at the Von Steuben Community Center here.

Staff Sgt. Brendan Hagens of U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden earned the title of Best Warrior in the noncommissioned officer category, while Pfc. Douglas Lanning of U.S. Army Garrison Benelux earned the title of Best Warrior in the junior-enlisted Soldier category.

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The group of competitors consisted of six junior-enlisted Soldiers and seven noncommissioned officers from the IMCOM-Europe footprint: USAGs Ansbach, Bavaria, Benelux, Italy, Rheinland-Pfalz, Stuttgart and Wiesbaden.

The competition, which USAG Ansbach hosted March 20-22, put its candidates through a series of physical and mental challenges including marksmanship; physical fitness; day and night land navigation; tactical communications; medical aid; board appearances and written exams; weapons skills; obstacle course negotiation; a 12-mile foot march; and a battery of other Soldier tasks and drills.

Michael Formica, IMCOM-Europe director, spoke during the ceremony and praised both the candidates and winners for their hard work.

“I am honored to be with these 13 outstanding competitors who represent our ready and resilient formations,” said Formica. “There’s an old saying that goes, ‘Soldiers are not in the Army. They are the Army.'”

Formica said the Army value of selfless-service is evident in the group of competitors, each of whom accepted the invitation to compete without hesitation.

“These troops representing your garrisons certainly understand what selfless service means,” said Formica. “They believe ‘good enough’ is never enough. They strive not just to excel, but to also inspire. They know that leading by example is the right thing to do.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Gene Canada, IMCOM-Europe command sergeant major, also spoke during the ceremony.

“Today, as we honor our top Soldier and noncommissioned officer, we must also remember the truly unique mission these troops perform every day, 24/7,” said Canada. “As part of the team known as ‘The Army’s Home,’ they support service members, families and civilians who call our overseas garrisons ‘home.’ They also protect our communities. That role takes on even more meaning when their fellow sisters and brothers-in-arm deploy downrange.”

Canada emphasized the need for all Soldiers to continually sharpen their skills and maintain their sense of warrior proficiency so they can fight the nation’s wars if called upon.

“It is that spirit of the IMCOM Soldier that brings us here today,” said Canada. “As we pay tribute to their professional soldiering skills and knowledge, let us also recognize their calling as community defenders and battlefield warriors.

Canada added that although only two competitors earned the title of Best Warrior, each competitor “carries a winner’s character.”

“They all have been singled out for their commitment, professionalism and service,” he said. “They all can claim to be among the best in our ranks. They all display Strong Europe.”

Hagens and Lanning both serve as military police Soldiers at their respective garrisons. This is Hagen’s second time winning this event, and last year he won the IMCOM-level competition.

“It was definitely challenging,” said Hagens, who encourages other Soldiers to participate in Best Warrior Competition events. “The competition itself is, fundamentally, doing the Skill Level 1 Warrior Tasks. Everyone should be proficient in this. They should want to do this. It’s challenging, and it will really test your skills and show you where you’re at.”

“It feels amazing,” Lanning said of his win. “It’s been my goal since before I got promoted to PFC. So, almost a year now, and it’s always been something that I really wanted to do.”

Junior-enlisted competitors:
• Spc. Jorge Brackett, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz
• Spc. Charles King, USAG Italy
• Pfc. Douglas Lanning, USAG Benelux
• Pfc. Anthony M. Spencer-Tafoya, USAG Bavaria
• Pvt. John Roberts, USAG Ansbach
• Pvt. Joshua Young, USAG Stuttgart

NCO competitors:
• Staff Sgt. Jay Cortner, USAG Stuttgart
• Staff Sgt. Brendan Hagens, USAG Wiesbaden
• Staff Sgt. Ryan A. Theobald, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz
• Sgt. Bryant Alexander, USAG Italy
• Sgt. Darion Oliver, USAG Benelux
• Sgt. Michael Rhine, USAG Bavaria
• Sgt. Seth T. Wilson, USAG Ansbach

Hagens and Lanning are slated to represent IMCOM-Europe at the IMCOM Best Warrior Competition, scheduled for May at Camp Bullis, Texas.

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Army wives in the running for 2017 Military Spouse of the Year

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By Sean KimmonsMarch 23, 2017

Rhiannon Knutson poses for a photo with her family on the back of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Knutson, who won the National Guard's military spouse of the year, and Cassaundra Martinez, who is representing the regular Army, are in the running with other branch winners to be called the 2017 Military Spouse of the Year. The winner, which was chosen by online voting earlier this month, will be announced May 12 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Cassaundra Martinez is seen here with her husband and six children. Martinez, who won the regular Army's military spouse of the year, and Rhiannon Knutson, who is representing the National Guard, are in the running with other branch winners to be called the 2017 Military Spouse of the Year. The winner, which was chosen by online voting earlier this month, will be announced May 12 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Army News Service) — When Rhiannon Knutson found out a group of her friends and co-workers had nominated her for the National Guard’s military spouse of the year, she burst into tears of joy.

“It made me cry to know that people took time out of their day to do that,” said Knutson, a 31-year-old mother of four.

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Leading the family readiness group of her husband’s unit in the Minnesota National Guard, Knutson organizes events and assists families in obtaining their benefits.

“I love being able to help other military families,” she said of her group, which supports the 211th Aviation Regiment’s Company B, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion. “It’s like having a second family.”

Knutson ended up winning the Guard category — and along with Cassaundra Martinez, who is representing the regular Army — is in the running with other branch winners for the honor of becoming the 2017 Military Spouse of the Year. The winner, which was chosen by online voting earlier this month, will be announced May 12 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

“I’m completely honored and humbled to be in this position,” Martinez said. “It’s tough being a military spouse, but through programs like this we can share our stories and bring light to the unique needs and challenges of military spouses.”

‘MOMPRENEUR’

Juggling a busy routine with six children, a full-time internship and volunteer work, Martinez also finds extra time to connect military spouses through a monthly “Girls Night Out” event at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Martinez, 30, started the networking event last year as a way to give “mompreneurs” a space to learn and share resources on running a successful small business, particularly businesses involving direct sales. The free event has gained popularity and now has over 500 women taking part in it.

Asked why so many women sign up, she said, “There’s no support for them. You really have to struggle to build that network when you have those types of companies.”

Another challenge Martinez hopes to tackle is helping unemployed military spouses, who often have to take jobs for which they are overqualified. As a former Army military intelligence sergeant with a master’s degree who has worked in government consulting, she has struggled with this.

When her husband received orders to work for the Army Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir, she had to quit her job as a consultant and start from scratch.

“The transition was a wreck. It was really hard on our family,” she said. “Despite me having a master’s degree, Army experience and all of the above, it didn’t matter.”

While Soldiers get assistance when moving to a new duty station, Martinez suggests there should also be a military family transition specialist to help guide spouses in landing a job, among other things.

“We don’t want to be part of the problem, we want to be part of the solution,” she said.

Prospective employers should also realize that many military spouses make highly skilled employees, she noted, even if they may not be there for the long term.

“We should be valued even more because of our mobility. That lends to flexibility, perseverance, [and] resiliency,” she said. “Those are all things that companies value [and also] affect the bottom line.”

GUARD FAMILY READINESS GROUP LEADER

Without the resources typically found on an active-duty base, Knutson holds monthly family readiness group meetings to inform local Guard families of their benefits, such as health care and referrals to financial counseling and home maintenance when their loved ones are deployed.

“That’s why I take the [family readiness group] leader role so seriously and reach out to them constantly when things come up,” said Knutson, who has led her current group of about 80 families for the past five years.

She recalled helping one spouse get her home’s air conditioner fixed during a heat wave last summer. On another occasion, she set up a video teleconference for a pair of newlyweds, one of whom was deployed at the time, so they could see each other on their anniversary.

“It’s the little things, the milestones that are missed during deployments,” Knutson said. “So to be a part of that was great so they could feel like they were at home.”

She also volunteers at her children’s school and helps organize yearly events to connect families in her family readiness group.

Networking is helpful, especially when deployments roll around and spouses basically turn into single parents. Because they’re adaptive and share similar experiences, Martinez said, military spouses can easily become close friends.

“Military friendships are very synonymous with family,” Martinez said. “We just have each other’s back without even really knowing each other.”

(Follow Sean Kimmons on Twitter: @KimmonsARNEWS)

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Women generals recall turning points in their careers

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By David Vergun March 23, 2017

Air Force Lt. Gen. VeraLinn "Dash" Jamieson, deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (left); and, Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, director, Cyber, Army G-3/5/7, were among the participants in AFCEA Washington, D.C.-sponsored "Women in DOD: Agents of Change," March 22, 2017, held in Arlington, Va.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) — Many in the Army can identify a turning point in their lives when service to country became deep and personal. For many, that moment was Sept. 11, 2001.

For Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, the moment came earlier in her Army career, during the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nov. 9, 1989. Frost spoke Wednesday at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association-sponsored “Women in DOD: Agents of Change” conference in Washington, D.C.

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At first, Frost said, she wasn’t really set on a career in the service. She joined the Army to travel, to Europe in particular. Thanks to her service, she did indeed get to travel to Europe.

When the Berlin Wall came down, she said, she was able to watch families who had been separated by the wall finally reunited.

“That was the turning point for me — when it just hit me that this is what it’s all about: service,” she said. “I thought that there will be challenging times ahead, and I want to be part of it.”

Frost is currently the director of the cyber directorate within the Army’s G-3/5/7. The most rewarding part of her 30-year-Army career, she said, has been the people; the people she has led, the people she has learned from, and the people who have challenged her.

Her husband, she said, is also a general officer, which over the years has made for some challenging times, particularly when it came to raising their daughter. When their daughter was two, she and her husband both deployed. Her parents took care of the girl for two years while they were gone.

The takeaway, she said, is that it’s possible for both parents to have an Army career, but it’s incumbent upon Soldiers in such a situation to seek help. For her, she said, she was lucky to have her parents around. She said Soldiers shouldn’t be shy about asking for help.

With regard to her current job, she said there are challenges and a lot of moving parts to integrating cyber, electronic warfare and military intelligence, as well as to affecting that culture of change. But the sooner it’s done, the greater the benefits will be for the Soldiers on the front lines.

Frost is due to get her second star in three days.

LTG JAMIESON

Air Force Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said her father was drafted and served in World War II, though he never talked much about his service.

The person who most influenced her the most, she said, was her grandmother, a nurse, born about 1890. Her grandmother practiced nursing nearly her entire life, making house calls right up until her death at age 92. She’d talk and talk about nursing to Jamieson, but she never shared the heroic part of the story.

After her death, the family was going through her personal effects and found a citation of gallantry from the French government, Jamieson said. Unbeknownst to anyone, during World War I, she had served in the Red Cross as a nurse.

Evidently, her work as a Red Cross nurse took her into the trenches with the U.S. Marine Corps, where the fighting was the thickest. She was, Jamieson realized, a national hero.

For Jamieson, that was the first turning point, she said. The second came during Desert Storm when one of Jamieson’s colleagues, a pilot, was shot down in a situation that could have been avoided had he received intelligence of an enemy threat in the area.

As an intelligence officer, Jamieson said, that incident affected her deeply and shaped her behavior. Even today, she gets emotional talking about it. From that day forward, she strived to ensure that on her watch, no one else would die from a failure of intelligence.

(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @vergunARNEWS)

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