Tamala Malerk

Branch: Army

Duty Station: USAG Rheinlan- Pfalz

Number of Deployments: 0

Number of PCS's: 4

Share your military spouse story:
I am currently in the process of finishing my second graduate degree as a military spouse; however, I am getting ahead of myself here. My husband joined the Army in Nov. 2014 and we got married the following year. His first duty station was Fort Benning, Ga. From there we have gone to Fort Stewart, Fort Jackson, Fort Hood, and now we are at USAG Rhineland-Pfalz, Baumholder, Germany. In that time, he has gone on two European TDY-rotations; once for roughly 6 months in 2016 and for 9 months between 2020 and 2021. He actually got back from his last rotation literally 2 months before we arrived in Germany. I began working on my Master's degree online when we were at Fort Benning. I can honestly say I worked on my MA in 3 different cities: Columbus, GA., Lakeland, FL., and Savannah, GA. We PCS'ed to Fort Stewart (near Savannah) in March 2016 and he went off on his first rotation in July 2016 and went to stay with my parents while he was gone. It was when he was preparing to go on his first rotation that I started writing about my military spouse experience: First for NextGenMilspouse.com and most recently with Militaryspouse.com. I turned to writing because it is one way I process some of the frustrations that come along with the military lifestyle. We moved from Stewart to Fort Jackson in June 2018 and we decided to live in our RV to save money. I was accepted into a Ph.D. program in Florida and so I divided my time between my parent's guest bedroom in Florida and our RV in South Carolina. We geobached like this for 18 months and also managed to PCS during this period to Fort Hood Texas in November 2019. We were reunited in March 2020 when my schooling went remote due to Covid. We had 8 months together before he took for a 9-month TDY. Fast-forward to now. We are currently in Germany and loving it. We have been here about 3 months and I am in the last semester of my Ph.D. program after successfully defending my dissertation via Teams in Nov. 2021.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I serve as the Army Branch Mentor for Military Spouse Advocacy Network (MSAN). I first joined MSAN in August 2020 as a New Spouse Mentor. During my time as a New Spouse Mentor, I provided peer-to-peer support and connection to vetted resources to new Army spouses to fulfill the 501(c)3 organization's mission statement "To create stronger military families through education, empowerment, and support." I created and promoted content for MSAN social media forum, The Hub. I also am trained to provide briefings to groups and organizations about MSAN. I was promoted to Branch Mentor in November 2021. As a Branch Mentor, I lead a team of ten New Army Spouse Mentors. I assign “mentees” to new mentors, act as a liaison between mentors and management of the organization, and create for the Hub. I have designed and implemented a social media daily posting schedule to ensure that target audiences receive topical, enriching, and informational content on the Hub.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Outside of MSAN, I write about my military spouse experience for multiple platforms as well as serve as Treasurer for the 569th HR Company here at Baumholder. I have written about finding my independence as a military dependent, living in a RV, the various ways I have spent Thanksgiving, and my myriad of experiences with spouse clubs. While treasurer is my official title for the SFRG, it's really my husband, the First Sergeant, and myself serving as a triad of leadership in our attempt to revitalize the company's SFRG. Since stepping into this role in Nov. 2021, I have created an electronic survey that was completed by the soldiers and their family members to gauge what they want from the SFRG. I have also helped plan, coordinate, and execute the holiday party. I am in the process now of planning a candy-gram exchange for Valentine's Day and a Mother's Day event.

Describe how you support your community:
I think there is so much power in knowledge. There was so much I came into the military community not knowing really anything at all and I want to empower new spouses with as much knowledge as possible. I want to tell them about programs such as MYCAA, and the free tax resources, and how different Tricare systems work. Through my work with MSAN, I do this.

What do you advocate for? Why?
To add on what I stated above, I advocate for education and knowledge. There are so many resources for military spouses and families that many do not utilize simply because they do not know about them. I want to advocate to continue to educate spouses about the resources and opportunities available to them. I have also gotten a lot of sharing my stories and adventures as a military spouse. At first, I was wary of putting myself out into the world like that, but if just one spouse can learn or laugh from my experience, then it is worth it. I hope that this inspires other spouses to share their stories.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am among the top three active members on the Hub with MSAN. This means that I am constantly creating content, engaging with posts and other members, and messaging fellow spouses. I engage both new and *seasoned* spouses with not only military-related content such as "how do you make friends at a new base," but also content asking people to interact with "what is your favorite dinosaur" and "what house did you support in Game of Thrones?" Through this approach, I can engage spouses who may be wary about asking questions by getting them to open up about something more trivial. If they can talk about House Targaryen (Dracarys for the win y'all) then maybe they'll more open to reaching out with questions about deployments or PCS'ing.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I want to use my title to advocate for new spouses. There was so much I did not know as a new spouse and I want to continue to work to educate new spouses and provide them with resources. Also, I do not believe there is any one way to be a "good" military spouse. I did not always believe this though. I read a bunch of books and articles about "how to be a military spouse" when my husband told me he was joining the Army and I thought I was going to suck at it. I do all the things that the books tell you not to do. I do not keep things from my husband when he is away, because honestly, it just builds up and then we both end of getting more upset at something small instead of working through things. I am a horrible house cleaner. I do not attend all of his work functions. We don't have kids, by choice. All of this to say, I want to use my title to show that there is not "one way" to military spouse and that there is no such thing as a "bad" military spouse.

Nominations

Tamala is the Army Branch Mentor for the Military Spouse Advocacy Network, a 501 (c)3 non-profit. Through her work with MSAN, she has mentored new military spouses and now leads a group of New Spouse Mentors. She has also served as the SFRG Treasurer at USAG Rhineland-Pfalz (Baumholder/Smith Barracks) and has helped plan and execute company events such as Change-of-Command ceremonies and holiday parties and conducted company surveys to engage the soldiers and families and learn what they wanted from the SFRG. As a writer, she has shared her military experiences through various websites and blogs.
- by Whitney Guilford