Orientation class proves helpful to officer spouses in South Korea
SEOUL — Tamasine Wood-Creighton has lived in Europe and worked in the Busan area on short-term deployments. But living in Seoul and adjusting to the differences between America and Asia is a little more complicated than coming here for an exercise.
“When you fly in on exercises, you’re pretty much contained to the exercise location,” said Wood-Creighton, a retired soldier who moved to South Korea with her family in early July. “This is a big change.”
She was one of several dozen spouses of senior leaders in Seoul, Daegu, Osan and Camp Humphreys who attended a three-day orientation to South Korea last week. The orientation, held at Yongsan Garrison’s Hartell House, included sessions on ration cards, ethics, community outreach programs, non-combatant evacuations, and Korean culture.
“It’s nice to get a good sense of why people are the way they are, and how to be part of the community and not stand out,” said Wood-Creighton, whose husband is the 8th Army chief of staff.
The orientation program began several years ago for spouses of the most senior officers, but expanded to include the spouses of lieutenant colonels and above, and equivalent ranks for other branches.
The idea: Help those spouses — who often filter information down to junior officers’ spouses and troops — learn about the programs available for them in South Korea.
“Korea is as far away as you can get from the flagpole,” said Katie Bell, wife of U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell. “When you get here, it’s a real wake-up call. It’s a really huge assimilation.”
During the orientation, spouses asked questions about ration cards and legal issues, including what jobs they could do from their homes under the Status of Forces Agreement, known as SOFA. The agreement defines the legal status of members of the U.S. military community.
“I really had no idea what SOFA meant,” said Ashley Minihan, who arrived in Seoul on Aug. 7.
The orientation also gave spouses a chance to meet each other and trade stories about moving to South Korea.
“It’s really been helpful hearing how they’re going through the same adjustments, and getting the same cards and same stamps,” she said.