As a Navy “intel wife,” I often lamented that we didn’t have as many social opportunities as couples in other military communities such as surface, aviation, submarines and special ops. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish to disparage my husband’s 28-year dedication to his chosen field. To the contrary, I have nothing but respect for the incredibly bright military service men and women who specialize in information dominance.

However, I must tell you: The intelligence community isn’t known for its parties.

Two years into our marriage, my husband, Francis, and I were hanging out with Chuck and Karen, another “intel couple” with whom we often engaged in husbands-vs-wives banter. It was Saturday night, and we were playing Monopoly in Chuck and Karen’s base house on Fort Ord, Calif. Karen and I were both pregnant at the time, so while the guys drank cheap beer, we sipped mugs of hot cocoa topped with Cool Whip.

“It’s not fair,” I said, licking Cool Whip from my thumb. “Aviators’ wives get to wear necklaces with little wing charms, but what do we get? Bupkis.”

“Yeah,” Karen chuckled. “We married intel geeks, so we’re screwed.”

“Your turn,” Francis said to Chuck, ignoring us. Chuck rolled a seven, landing his miniature silver shoe on Oriental Avenue.

“Read it and weep,” I smirked playfully across the table at Chuck.

“The rent for that slum? Chump change,” Chuck bantered back, counting $24 in yellow, pink and white bills into my outstretched hand.

“We should get necklaces for being intel wives,” I declared while rolling the dice.

“But what would the pendant look like?” Karen pondered.

“Easy,” Francis offered, “a magnifying glass.” Karen and I wrinkled our noses.

I moved my tiny iron nine spaces to Chance. “‘Pay poor tax of $15!”

“I know!” Karen piped up, giggling, “The intel wife pendant could be a gold pair of glasses with tape around the nose piece.”

“Ha! Or a little gold pocket protector!” I added. Karen and I threw our heads back, laughing hysterically.

“Very funny,” Chuck snapped. He and Francis were not amused.

During Francis’ next tour of duty at an all-intelligence command in rural England, my gripes about the social challenges of the intel community persisted. Francis worked at Joint Analysis Center, Molesworth, inside clandestine, windowless, grass-covered, WWII berm buildings. Spouses weren’t allowed access or information, making it difficult to get to know coworkers and their families.

Although we formed a small cadre of good friends during that tour, the command’s social scene was abysmal. In fact, the annual holiday parties had been so poorly attended, the base commander made them mandatory. Furthermore, without the presence of fleets, the organizational hierarchies among the various intelligence divisions within the command were too tangled to run like teams or squadrons. Therefore, hails, farewells, dining ins or outs and squadron parties were almost nonexistent.

After moving to Norfolk, Va., I looked up a fellow intel wife, Natalie, whom I hadn’t seen in years. Her husband was assigned to an airwing staff aboard a deployed carrier.

“Hey Lisa,” Natalie asked, “meet up with me and the squadron wives tonight.”

“Finally! I’m gonna have some fun!” I thought, while nervously searching for something to wear.

At the designated trendy bar, it was immediately apparent that my outfit was all wrong. The other women wore body-hugging velour dresses with platform mules (all the rage at the time), while I donned LL Bean khakis and an androgynous denim shirt as if I was only there to sell them State Farm Car Insurance.

That night, I realized two things. First, living in rural England for three years had obliterated my sense of fashion. Second, by connecting with spouses from other communities, I could find the camaraderie that was lacking in intel circles. During the years and tours that followed, I successfully hitched my wagon up to army, navy, air force and marine wives in all sorts of communities when I wanted friendship and social connection.

No matter what military community one is in, there’s no reason to miss out. With patience, perseverance and a little parasitic ingenuity, even intel spouses can have more fun.

Read more at and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email:

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