MSG Duty. What Do Spouses Need To Know?
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  1. #1

    MSG Duty. What Do Spouses Need To Know?

    Hi everyone, I'm new, and my husband is on the list for MSG duty. He's saying it's still an up in the air thing, but he has nothing preventing him from being cleared and for us to be sent.
    Everyone I've heard from about it just says the standard, "It's awesome! You'll love it!" and answers next to no valid questions, and usually they have kids and those are the focus of the questions. Well, my husband and I are child-free, but we have pets and I'm not willing to get rid of them or leave them behind (mostly because we have no one to send them to.)
    Now, I want to know any actual information I can get about your experiences, past and present, and things you've learned through trial and error. I don't need to know anything about schools, or childcare, but pet info is helpful and greatly appreciated. Can we bring our own furniture? How much does our preference in area matter? What are job situations like for spouses with/without degrees/certifications? What were your least favorite things about it? What are your favorite things about it? Where did you live (house/apartment/etc.)? What kind of amenities were available? How did you get around? Did you feel safe? Why or why not?

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  2. #2
    Depends if he isnt a SNCO you stay here.

  3. #3
    Phantom Blooper
    Guest Free Member
    Contact this Marine he was in MSG as a SNCO for awhile.........

  4. #4
    I was a single Detachment Commander and also the MSG School Operations Chief (in 1990 - some policies have changed since then).

    Since your pets are your primary concern, I'll address that first. Come graduation time, dependents, rank, etc are factors in post assignments. Pets are not a consideration. Meaning, they are not going to consider whether pets can go to that post or not. Most posts do allow pets but some don't (mostly because of the quarters which are provided by the DOS). For instance, I lived in a 4 bedroom house in Haiti that came with its own dog (actually belonged to the gardener) but I could've had one if I wanted. Left there and went to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I lived on the 16th floor of a high-rise apartment complex two blocks from the consulate. That landlord did not allow pets. If your pets do travel overseas, they'll have to stay in quarantine for the specified time. You must also consider veterinarian care. The vet care in some 3rd world countries is not what you're accustomed to here and may be hard to attain. Same with pet food - you will not find Beneful, Pedigree, etc everywhere and will have to order those brands through the embassy commissary.

    Your quarters will be fully furnished. You can ship some things but most of your household goods will go into temporary storage stateside. Same with your vehicle. I had a Mazda RX7 sportscar but there was no way it would survive the unpaved/hilly roads of Port au Prince, Haiti. They did ship it to Brazil for me however (after the catalytic converter was removed).

    When I graduated, we submitted a "dream sheet". Did not mean anything in my case however. The DetCmdr going to Haiti had to be single (no dependents there at that time). Also, I was the DetCmdr honor grad and the Bn CO said he wanted me there - so that was that. The posts are divided between hardship (communist bloc countries like Russia, China, and 3rd world countries like Haiti, Nicaragua, etc) and non hardship like France, Australia, Brazil, etc.

    Work for spouses is post specific and does happen sometimes. You obviously would not be working in any Muslim/communist nation. Sometimes, a spouse can get a job in the commissary or with the DOS but that's a timing thing. At a small post, the commissary may only have one or two employees. Employment is not something you could count on.

    Favorite thing of course is the small unit leadership. The DetCmdr is the Admin Chief, Supply Chief, Career Planner, legal officer, Accountant, Training NCO, you name it. An officer will come to visit every 6 months. It's the only place in the USMC where an enlisted Marine signs assumption of command orders and can do everything except take pay away for punishment. Least favorite is dealing with Department of State (DOS) employees on a daily basis. Unfortunately, they are in the chain of command so no choice.

    I felt safe in Brazil. Haiti was a different story (and why there were no dependents there). We were shot at a few times, had a voodoo curse put on the embassy, and one of my MSG's saved the life of a young American girl who was stabbed in the parking lot. The threat situation is post specific obviously.

    Some references for you. The MSG FRO will answer any questions you may have and she has current info: Mcesg Fro (on FB), Embassy Duty USMC life Page (FB), website home page

    Recommended reading: "Ambassadors In Blue the Marine Security Guard Program" by Andy Bufalo available from

  5. #5
    Thank you. Yes, he's a SNCO, sorry I forgot to add that. I wouldn't be stressing so much over this otherwise.
    Now, if I for whatever reason (likely the only reason I'd decide this is for the pets) decide to just go stateside while he does this, would I be able to? He's telling me no, but I don't know if that's just because he doesn't want me to, or would I really be incapable?

  6. #6
    No. If he goes, you must go too. They don't want him worrying about you and straining your marriage with the separation for the 3 years he is on the program.

    I'm guessing his name showed up on the "B" billet list. He will have to do either MSG, DI, or recruiting duty to get promoted/stay in. To get MSG, the SNCO must be personally screened by the MSG screening team and approved before orders to school will be processed. The school has one of the highest attrition rates of all the formal schools for myriad reasons. The final week of school, all the spouses travel to Quantico for a workshop, get their passports/visas issued, and spend a day at the State Department talking to the desk officer for their post. They have the opportunity to call their post and talk to the DetCmdr's wife already there (if there is one). They can read the post report that talks about their quarters, what to bring, etc.

    Contact the MSG FRO on her FB page and ask her the current policy regarding pets and post assignments. She'll be able to tell you.

  7. #7
    I have messaged her, and I'm waiting on a response.
    Thank you so much. You've been the most valid help that didn't involve some placating, emotional response. I appreciate it a lot.

  8. #8
    No problem - curious to know what she says. If you can think of anything else I'll try to answer. If your husband has questions about the school he can PM me too.

    Couple quick points. If he does make it to school, you'll need to have your birth certificate available for your passport application. MSG's travel on a diplomatic passport but don't know about dependents since I didn't have any. You'll need to make sure your dental is up-to-date (MSG's must be class I dental) - some 3rd world countries you don't want to go to see the local dentist. We were flown to the US Naval Base, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico for dental cleanings while in Haiti.

    Short cute story about pets. Like I said, my gardener in Haiti kept his dog at my house because it was surrounded by a tall stone wall and had a local security guard at the front gate. Of course, the gardener was illiterate and spoke Creole (I had to get the embassy receptionist on the phone and have her translate for me anytime I needed to talk to the gardener, cook, or maid). When we ordered dry food goods from the Navy Base, we had to order in case lots (like 24 boxes of cereal instead of just one). I ordered a case of dog biscuits for the dog and when the shipment arrived, put them in the pantry. The gardener knew they were for his dog so I never thought anything more about them. After a few days, I noticed the dog was getting thinner-and-thinner and I saw the boxes of dog biscuits were being used. After talking to the receptionist, I learned the gardener thought it was dog food (not a treat) so all the dog was getting was a couple dog biscuits a day for his meals! We got it squared-away.

    Came home one day and the cook was crying, the microwave was in the corner on the floor smoking, and there was a can of soup stuck on the kitchen ceiling - she did not know she was supposed to open the can before putting it in the microwave. This is where a wife would've come in handy - I didn't have the time to teach her about modern conveniences.

    Another reason the DetCmdr's wife must accompany him to post. She serves as the surrogate mom to the MSG's there.

  9. #9
    Thanks again. I'm pretty young, early 20's, and so the idea of being "surrogate mom" to a bunch of Marines is a little daunting. I often still feel like a child, especially with certain eventualities, like this MSG duty coming up, being completely out of my control.
    Thanks in large part to your responses - the MSG FRO still hasn't responded to my message sent a week or so ago - I feel worlds above more prepared for this than I did.

  10. #10
    Surprised to hear she has not responded. My impression is she is very good at answering people's questions with current info. What about the Embassy Duty USMC Life FB page? If you join that group, you should be able to message current wives on the program.

    There is an organization that boards dogs for free for active duty members while deployed. Don't know if that would work for you for 3 years but you can search

    Depends on the wife, post, and how much they want to get involved, but some DetCmdr wives are active and prominent members of the diplomatic community on post. When I was on the program the first time as a watchstander (two different embassies), all my DetCmdr's were married. I just remember some of the wives were more accessible to us than others (all of them had young children with them). We did always spend Thanksgivings and Christmases at their residences for home-cooked meals.

    What is the status on your husband's screening? Does he have orders to the school yet?

  11. #11
    You will hear the term "Post Specific" all the time - and it's true. Your questions fall under that category.

    What you have available to you (and what you need) in a third world, communist, or high threat post, will be completely different than a modern, noncommunist, low threat post. Simple fact is, most decisions cannot be made till you know your post assignment. You will not be riding bikes at a high threat post. You'll have time after that, to decide what goes in temp storage and what is shipped to post. Remember too, you'll go to two different posts. So, what you need at your first post, may be different than what you need at the second. What I needed in Haiti (3rd world country) was completely different than what I needed in Sao Paulo, Brazil (the New York City of South America).

    The quarters provided by the State Department will be fully furnished, including appliances, dinnerware, etc. You should take any photos you want to hang on the walls, sit on tabletops, etc. Take your laptop/desktop PC. You may need to take your TV but remember, any programming will be in the local language (French in Haiti and Portuguese in Brazil). You'll need your DVD player to watch movies with. You will need alarm clocks. I did not need universal outlet adapters but you may - Post Specific. We only had electricity for certain hours of the day in Haiti. When the public electricity shut off, the gas operated generator outside (provided by DOS) automatically came on. It was noisy but necessary. Did not have public water. The embassy sent a water truck once a week to fill up a large cistern and tap off the swimming pool (which my gardener maintained). There is a program where American TV shows and movies are sent to post for a few days and then sent onto the next post on the circuit. Used to be VCR tapes but most likely DVD discs today.

  12. #12
    If your husband has any questions about school or the program. He can send me a PM. I was the school Operations Chief for a couple years (basically, responsible for making sure things ran the way they were supposed to).

    Also. I was the Honor Grad for my class. Out on Post, I won the "Detachment Commander of the Year Award" for 1987.

  13. #13
    MSGBn included all the detachments around the world (127 in 1988).

  14. #14
    All Instructor/Advisors, Operations Chief, and Chief Instructor are former Detachment Commanders.

    Typically, spouse training is ran by one of the I/A's wives. She has been out on post, so can relate to the student's wives better. When I was there, the I/A's spouse was a Portuguese national. They met when he was posted to Portugal. She is usually assisted by the MCESG FRO and Chaplain. Being single, I never got involved with spouse training week. Saw them around the school when they were there, saw their schedule, etc but that was about it. Saw lots of smiles (they were probably heading to Paris) as well as some frowns (probably on their way to Afghanistan). Definitely a mixed bag of opportunities.

  15. #15
    Guest Free Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Providence County
    Outstanding Top !!!

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