Getting the Most out of Your Time OCONUS During Peace

The Armed Forces are an unparalleled class equalizer; a structure that fulfills national objectives while also offering new opportunities for those that answer the call to serve. One of the most powerful ways in which the military does this is through broadening your horizons, figuratively in most cases but sometimes literally. The US operates on a global stage, only a few of which are actual combat areas. The rest are part of treaties, alliances, and joint operations that allow soldiers a chance to see the world and the people who inhabit it.

As much as I stress how amazing of an opportunity OCONUS travel can be, too many servicemembers that I meet never take full advantage of it. “Oh yeah, I was stationed in Germany. I went to Munich once, and Oktoberfest was wild” is a great start but it’s just that: a start. Here are a few tips I give people heading overseas for a tour:

Knowledge is Power

Cliché, but only because its trueness warrants repetition. Learn about where you’re going, both from other servicemembers but from travel blogs and locals as well., a website I’ve written about before, is the closest you’re going to get to a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in your lifetime. Map out places that interest you, read about them when you can, and check in with your S2 before you go (just in case).

Don’t Just Plan, Commit!

Istanbul was my dream trip while I was in Europe. It was going to be great; I’d get to see the border between the East and West, experience a culture and aesthetic that was completely foreign to me and get to try one of those trick ice cream street carts that dot the city. Despite all my planning, the trip never left the drawing board. I waited for the ‘right time to go’ and then that coup from 2016 happened; the trip never left the planning stage. Don’t be me when you get to your new duty station. Start traveling early and often, get all the paperwork squared away. Speaking of leave…

Use Your Leave and Take Advantage of Free Leave

Nobody should be so critical to operations that they can’t take their rightfully earned Leave or vacation days. If they are, that’s a leadership problem, and the best way to fix that problem is to take your leave anyway and let the command figure it out. There will of-course be periods where you can’t take your leave; inspections, exercises, and critical events dot the calendar, but make sure you actually take your leave throughout your instead of trying to cram it all in at the end.

Take Your Time at a Destination

There are 195 countries in the world, thousands of “must-see” cities, and countless museums, cathedrals, and national parks to explore. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re not going to get to see them all. Instead of trying to blitzkrieg your way through a continent, prioritize your most anticipated destinations and then spend at least a few days, ideally a week, savoring the experience. Sure, the Eiffel Tower and Great Barrier Reef were breathtaking experiences, but budgeting time to explore off the tourist trail makes the experience so much more personal.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Garrett Ferrara

Garrett is a writer, perpetual student, and seven-year Army veteran. Currently studying Anthropology and Writing & Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida, he's hoping to stretch the G.I. Bill all the way to a PhD. Bilbo Baggins is his favorite literary character; a character that traveled, fought battles, and finally settled into a simple life. He's looking forward to squaring away that last phase.
Garrett Ferrara

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