This is Katie who was so kind and answered 7 questions for me and let me photograph her.
1. What is your greatest struggle?
“My greatest struggle about being part of army life is how suppressed I feel as a "dependant." That word in itself makes me feel like I have no say, opinion or control on my life and the decisions made within it, despite my husband being the one employed by the MOD, not myself. Every decision I wish to make has to work around his life, not my own and it's easy to feel like my personal goals and aspirations are limited or have a time pressure against them. I have to act a certain way to not 'show him up' or rein in my opinions of how people around me make me feel. My voice has made me who I am today and to feel like it now has to be monitored and filtered to a degree I don't wish it to be, is an everyday struggle for me. It's a very old fashioned lifestyle.”
2. What was your worst experience with the army?
“It's hard to say what my worst experience with the army has been as I initially want to say certain events that have been missed, the poor organisation and last minute calls that have lead for us to cancel things or put things on hold but to pinpoint something down I would say my worst experience has overall been the feeling of loneliness. Everyone around you claims we're all in the same 'boat' but truth be told, we're not. We deal with things so differently but we're all forced to have this one thing in common and you all have to have the same emotions as each other, heaven forbid you were to even say you felt differently. Instant outcast points awarded in the form of next days gossip because you appear to not be 'coping.' Sometimes it's ok to not be ok with the fact that this life can be an utter nightmare! Someone is always lonelier than you or someone is always having a worse time apparently, like it's some kind of sad competition. When a room is full of people it's still so easy to feel lonely, you're always careful of what you're saying, how much you want people to know about you etc because these friendships are not always natural, they're not the friendships you have back at home, it's just because they're there. The army has such a control on my husbands life that even when he is home, he's not really here sometimes. His mind is always elsewhere because he can't switch off. It truly is the worse experience of the army, and it always will be over all the day to day dramas. I can cope with a cancelled holiday or two, but not feeling alone.”
3. What are you proud of?
“I am proud of how much change I have actually dealt with. My husband joined later on, which was a shock to the system and after living a "civvie" life for a few years. Both of us have managed to keep very real about what will happen after the army and keep in touch with what life is like outside of the army. Something that I think a few around us don't comprehend or understand. When we say goodbye to the discounted housing, the schemes to help you, the opportunity to travel I feel like we will be more than ok. Keeping real so to say in such a supported system is something I feel really proud of.”
4. What is your favourite part about army life?
“I think my favourite part of army life is feeling involved in something recognised as being brave, great and dare I say, powerful. It always makes me smile when I get that little compliment off someone when I explain that we're part of the forces. That one person every now and again that shows their appreciation with a thank you, or something silly like 10% off my shopping. It's such a lovely feeling to know people appreciate the things you do and put up with!”
5. What was your best experience with the army?
“My best experience has been to enjoy Germany in its final years of being open. My husband spent his childhood here and always spoke of it so fondly. Don't get me wrong, I miss being with wonderful family and friends, perfect job and my brilliant hometown, however I get to explore Europe and travel. Something that we both sacrificed as a teenagers by heading straight in to full time work. We really seize the opportunities we have out here as we know they're not going to be the same when we go back. To experience another culture has been something special.”
6. What advice would you give your younger self if you could go back in time?
“Stay more private. Privacy is KEY. People fight to be better than one another, they will bring you down if you have an element of something they want because you have made different decisions to them. I've never known anything like it. Where I'm from people are happy for you, ask about you, care for you and want to see you succeed and do well. I find army life so selfish and competitive, some people struggle to just be happy within what they've achieved and will blame anything wrong on the army. In this lifestyle people run out of things to talk about so they talk about each other, if I was to go back I would be far less trusting of people because it's not returned. It's been a huge shock to my system but a great learning curve.”
7. Is there anything you would like to add?
“Every day is something new, living an army lifestyle is fast paced. Sometimes this is a good thing but sometimes it can be the worst. I'm constantly on edge for when my husband walks through the door, wincing when he comes in saying "do you want the good news or the bad news" waiting for him to tell me again how he's going away for another what seem likes pointless occasion for various amounts of time but I can't complain about what we have managed to do in the three years he has served. We're focusing on getting on the property ladder, all with the forces help. We own things we never thought we would, have seen some amazing parts of the world. We have a lovely time together when he is here because we never know when he's going away again, being part of the army makes us appreciate every last minute of time. I look back to where we were before the army, we were struggling. When we leave the army I'm sure we will miss it, but there's also a lot I'm sure we won't miss!”