Every military family member at some point in his or her life has heard the words “we’ve got orders,” words that foreshadow challenges ahead. While family life is challenging for all, it is especially daunting for military-married-to-military couples for whom “we’ve got orders,” doesn’t always mean “we both have orders to the same place.”
Fortunately for family members and mil-to-mil couples at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, a 96th Flying Training Squadron Reserve Citizen Airman is using her active duty, dependent spouse and Reserve experiences to help others anticipate and navigate military family life challenges.
Former active duty C-5 Galaxy pilot and current T-1A Jayhawk instructor pilot, Maj. Hilary Foley, 96th FTS, is married to the former 85th FTS commander, active duty Lt. Col. Bryan Foley (whose change of command ceremony was May 30), at Laughlin AFB. Like many mil-to-mil professionals, they spent several years compromising on assignments to ensure they could honor their relationship, their service commitments and their missions.
As an active duty C-5 pilot for six years, Major Foley’s final two years in the Galaxy were at Dover AFB, Delaware, which put her (sort of) close to Bryan, who was stationed at the Pentagon (enabling them to both commute from their home in Annapolis, Maryland).
Although that option allowed them to spend more time together, they reached a point when sort of close wasn’t close enough. Like many Citizen Airmen before her, Foley assessed her situation, considered the benefits of remaining on active duty, and opted to pursue a Reserve opportunity.
Having served as a Jayhawk instructor pilot at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, she had the functional skill and experience that made her highly desirable to the 96th FTS, which shares and supports the mission of her husband’s former squadron.
It was a perfect fit at the perfect time for the Traditional Reserve Airman who has been on extended orders for the past couple of years.
“I am so fortunate to be here,” she said. “I want to fly and I want to teach, and this squadron offers me the opportunity to do both. As a Reservist, I also have balance and flexibility and time to devote to other things.”
For Foley, those other things include camp counselor for a girls’ aviation program, mentoring other young officers, supporting military spouses who need guidance or just a shoulder to lean on, and spending more quality time with the kids (her yellow Labrador fur-babies, Weston and Chase).
“It’s easier to be multi-faceted as a Reserve member, and with my background and experience I can provide a broad range of information to spouses, active duty aviators and Reserve members. Providing easy access to credible information is one way that I can help take care of our families,” explained Foley.
Many in the Laughlin community have come to rely on Foley for that kind of guidance, but time marches on and the mission calls. Bryan has an assignment, and like so many other families, the Foleys have orders for Maxwell AFB, Alabama, where Bryan’s senior developmental education program will include two years instructing at the Air Command and Staff College, followed by completion of Air War College.
But, there is another aspect of military life that differs for Reserve Airmen. “We have orders” doesn’t mean that Laughlin is losing Foley. While Foley will be able to offer guidance, mentorship and support to Airmen and their families at Maxwell, as a traditional Reservist, she’ll also return every month to Laughlin and the 96th for Reserve duty, where her current Air Force/Reserve/Spouses’ group family will be eagerly awaiting for her return.