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How to make friends at a new duty station

Tips on how to connect when you don’t know anybody

The author, Marguerite Cleveland, enjoys coffee with new friend Jennifer Bowen who she met at a Lewis Community Spouses’ Club event. (Credit: Gwyn Nielsen)

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You can say I am an expert at PCSing, as I have completed 30 moves and experienced these adventures as a child, servicemember, and now a spouse. Each has its own challenges, especially if you tend to be more introverted. Just remember, for military spouses, we are all in the same boat when completing a move and are open to meeting new people. Here are a few tips I've learned over the years.

  • Join the Spouses' Club. This is a great way to meet people in a friendly environment. The Lewis Community Spouses' Club at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) has very active subclubs where you can meet new friends who will share your same interests.
  • Facebook Groups. There are neighborhood groups for those who live on the base as well as others that cater to a military audience. On the neighborhood pages you will often see posts for people hosting neighborhood events or wanting someone to workout with. Get outside your comfort zone and go to these events and make an effort to meet one new person.
  • Go to a Gym. Working out is a fun and beneficial way to meet new people. Try a fitness class and talk to people on the breaks. Ask someone to get coffee or a smoothie after class.
  • School. If you have children, you can meet other parents at school meetings and activities. Your child's new BFF's mom may be a good friendship fit for you. Arrange a play date and ask her to join you for coffee.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people while supporting a group or cause. The Thrift Shops on base always need volunteers. There are also specialty things like Santa's Castle here at JBLM, which can always use help.
  • Attend coffees, social events or FRG meetings with your spouse's new unit. The Hail and Farewell lets you know everyone who is new. Make a point to reach out to the first-timers as you know they are feeling the same way you are.

Even though I am often not confident when reaching out to new people, I pretend that I am. One technique that works for me is to look at the group and find someone who is new and seems uncomfortable. I make a point to reach out to that person and talk to them. If they have a question, I will help them find the answer. I have learned if you approach your fellow spouses with "Excuse me. I am new . . ." people will introduce themselves. Ask questions about where is the best place to workout or get coffee. It will open up a conversation and may lead to an invitation.

It is your choice when arriving at a new duty station as to how your experience will be. If you make the effort to meet new people, you will have fun having made new friends and exploring your new location. Learning the best coffee shop, lunch place or cool shop is always more fun with a buddy.

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