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I’ve met two ladies in the Sisterhood who had husband’s overseas working as contract firefighters or EMTs. To be honest, I didn’t really know they existed.  Did you?   It’s a different side to the fire service that I wanted to share with everyone, from their point of view, what I’ve learned.

What are contract firefighters and medics?
A contract firefighter provides fire services to military and government compounds. They’re all over the world and they basically do the same thing as firefighters back home, just in a very different environment. Contract medics are employed by a US company and provides EMS oversees. This usually means staffing an ALS/BLS ambulance within the confines of a US military base, but will respond to help any US assets anywhere within the country.

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Meet Tracy and Chris Turner.

Tracy and Chris are from Mechanicsburg, Ohio. She recently welcomed Chris home after he had been a contract medic in Kuwait for two years. The weather is hot, dry and averages 120 in the summer and 45 in the winter. Tracy has faced numerous medical issues during his time away, all while being #firestrong.   Tracy is a licensed EMT but isn’t able to work at this point in time.  This December will mark their 10th wedding anniversary and they are planning to start a family soon.  Tracy give me a glimpse into her life.

 

 

How did you meet Chris?

I replied to his yahoo personal page. It was right after 9/11, I saw that he was a firefighter working in the same city that I worked in so I replied since firefighters were popular in the main stream due to 9/11. We talked online for about a month before we decided to meet in person.

What are facilities and living quarters like?
Off duty he lived off base in a suburb of Kuwait City. It’s a bit of a ‘slum’ but overall a fairly safe area. No specific crime worries. The apartments are shared with other company members and are fairly nice. They are well maintained, but all the buildings lack craftsmanship. Aesthetics are low priority. There are a few small restaurants within walking distance, but the area (and entire country) is one big rubbish bin. Trash is everywhere and everything is dirty. On base, our stations vary widely. He had everything from a permanent brick fire station to a rustic trailer, to a tent. Power outages were frequent, more so in the summer. Again, things were not very clean because the environment wouldn’t allow it. When the winds were up, dust could be wiped from surfaces hourly.

 

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What is the biggest danger?
Traffic.  They have traffic laws but they aren’t well enforced, so they drive however they want at whatever speeds they want.

Do you send him packages often?
In the beginning I sent a lot but toward the end he could not think of things that he wanted and we didn’t want him to have to ship a lot of items home so there wasn’t a lot shipped to him. He was able to buy most anything he wanted over there but he couldn’t get his brand of deodorant so he asked for that a lot.

What did you do to build support system for the time he has been overseas?
We live within a 30 minute drive of both my entire family and his family so I had a ton of people only a phone call away anytime I needed anything. The biggest obstacle has been dealing with all of my medical issues alone.

Do you worry, what do you worry about and what do you try to do when worry?
Of course I always worry about him I just have to trust in his training and him in general.

What did you do to build support system for the time he has been overseas?
We live within a 30 minute drive of both my entire family and his family so I had a ton of people only a phone call away anytime I needed anything.

How often do you communicate and how?
Daily, by internet instant messaging while on duty, telephone and Facetime while off duty.

Tracy says her best piece of advice for anyone currently living this life or possibly going to be making this transition is to build up a support system for you both and communicate as often as possible.  Talking every day kept them connected.

This is the Bouldin Family.  Brenda, Cory and Joseph.

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Brenda Bouldin is from South Carolina, is married to a Fire Inspector, Lt. Cory Bouldin and he is currently in the mountains of Afghanistan. Cory comes home every 3 to 4 months for visits and will be coming home for good in March 2014. They recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary and their son Joseph’s first birthday, with an ocean between them.  Brenda is currently studying to become a teacher. They have adapted to a different life of the fire service. See more in her own words.

How/when did you meet?
We met in 2010 through eHarmony. I actually was riding along with one of the EMS units in his area when we got stationed at his FD. I was around him for a good 30 minutes, hiding my face as much as possible since I didn’t have make up on or look good after a crazy night, without him knowing though my preceptor tried his hardest to make him know it was me. It was a fun story to tell him on our first date.

What has been the biggest obstacle, besides the obvious distance?
Trust and Communication. There’s a lot of infidelity within the contractor life.  Communication is hard because he doesn’t want to tell me things that are bothering him over there but as his wife I know something is wrong and I want to fix it (that’s what us wives generally like to do!). I don’t always want to tell him things that are going on here because I want his safety to be on the front of his mind, not our son being sick and in the ER or me being hurt.  Cory and I have survived some rough stuff but somehow we always work through it and come out stronger. We have to move holidays around (Thanksgiving, our son’s September birthday and our anniversary will be celebrated in October, Christmas in February) but hey, we get to leave the tree up longer than anyone else!

To help build trust and communication, you have to be realistic with your expectations going into contract wife life. You have to know there’s going to be times you may not hear from him for days, and it’s not because he doesn’t want to talk to you, but it’s simply because he can’t. You have to take a deep breath, make yourself busy and stop watching the phone until he calls. With trust, be open and honest with your spouse, when you worry, talk to them. If you have concerns, talk to them. Invest yourself into your marriage through care packages, letters, cards, and emails. I send a daily email to my husband with pictures from our day with my son so that he is still included in life back at home. Keep the passion alive and the trust will work itself out.

Do you send him packages often?
He gets one about 2 times a month though he’s gotten 3 this month within the past week. I love making care packages, especially ones with a theme. It’s like I’m taking care of him even though I’m 8000 miles away.  Things he requested the most were Gushers, he loves those, and Spaghettios since he says the food there is disgusting.

How do you stay connected: How do you stay focused?
We constantly talk. And that’s how he tells me we stay connected. He’ll send me flowers and gifts and I send him surprises in his care packages. We communicate what’s going on at each place and we facetime so that our son stays connected with him. That’s one of our big fears, that our son will lose his connection with him since he’s so young. I was scared to death the first time he came home from R&R that our son would scream and cry if I handed him over but instead he grabbed on to his daddy and wouldn’t let go.

Do you worry, what do you worry about and what do you try to do when you worry?
I worry all the time. I worry that when we get home, we’ll have a hard time adjusting to life together again. I worry that he’s going to get hurt or killed over there and I worry about life after contracting, I pray that we’re both able to find jobs to support our family in this economy. I try to stay busy so that I stop worrying or I communicate my worries to him so that he can reassure me on things. I also try to listen to the advice of my sisters so that I know how to prepare or to calm down from such things.

Contracting life has new challenges as America pulls out of Afghanistan. The base my husband is currently at is on the list to close within the next year and a half (due to OPSEC, I cannot specify the specific time). This means the services at his base are shutting down, which includes the post office so I can’t send care packages as much as I have been. This means his living conditions are getting rougher and meals are being cut back so it’s added stress on him. I have to be there for him and understand what’s going on in his world. Sometimes he may seem disconnected and its not us, it’s what’s going on around him.

Brenda’s best advice is to be prepared for a roller coaster of emotions and reach out to the circle of friends you have. Try to stay busy and find time to go out and take care of yourself.

 

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I
 thank both of these ladies for sharing with us and providing pictures.  As you can see above, the stations and living arrangements are very military structured.  I hope you’ve learned something and can appreciate the lives contract wives live.  If you are reading this and you’re a contract wife (girlfriend or fiance) or if your firefighter/EMT is looking into it, I hope you find some useful information and know that the Sisterhood has women who can cope and share your experience.  Just when I think a few days of back to back shifts are hard, I realize they go months without even being able to touch, hug or kiss their husbands.  I’ll take my 48/24 any day.  Keeping your marriage strong while so far apart is a hard job, but very worth it and admirable.  I am so proud of how hard these two work to keep things going and wish them the best!

  

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Jessie -

Administrative Assistant at FirefighterWife.com
I'm a work from home, 30 something, small town, Southern Georgia girl. I have two daughters, one in high school and one in primary school. I am the wife, biggest supporter and BFF to my country Firefighter/EMT husband of 8 years. When I'm not juggling life, I like cooking, crafting, gardening and just enjoying life.

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