Navy spouses overcome obstacles to achieve success

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From left to right: Cameron Kline, Brian Paone, Adam Kulawy.
From left to right: Cameron Kline, Brian Paone, Adam Kulawy.

Navy spouses overcome obstacles to achieve success

by: Mark Schlocker | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: August 29, 2014

Editor’s note: Mark Schlocker is a Navy spouse whose wife, Caroline, is stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base. In an effort to reach out and build a new sense of community, Mark met three fellow Navy husbands who have adapted to their new surroundings. Mark learned a lot from them about what that takes.  He hopes to pass their resilience on to our readers by sharing their stories.

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE - It is normal to look toward an impending overseas PCS with trepidation.  It can be easy to dwell on unhappiness in your new environment.  But it’s actually time to take charge and make your own happiness.  

This is the story of three Navy husbands who left their friends, families and careers behind to follow the active-duty women they love to Yokosuka, Japan.  They each followed their own path toward self-fulfillment.

The common thread to all three of these men is passion. Each is very passionate about what they do. None of them found fulfillment sitting at home dwelling on the negatives of their new situation.  These men all took charge and created their own happiness, each in their own way.  They used their passion as a tool to fulfill a most basic human need: a sense of community and belonging.  

Cameron Kline, PCS Date: March, 2012

Living in Japan fulfills a dream for Cameron.  He studied Japanese in college and defines himself as independent. Cameron’s independence and familiarity with the language have enabled him to explore his new surroundings with confidence.

Back home he had built up a successful wedding photography business, something Cameron was optimistic would transfer over to his new home.

What Cameron was not expecting from this PCS was how difficult it would be for him to find a place in his new world.  He worked on relocating his wedding photography business and launched a job search, figuring his college degree and background running his own business would make him valuable.  

Application after application turned into dead-end after dead-end.  

“To come here and to not be able to get a job that I’m well qualified for, it’s not only insulting, it does something to the core of your being,” he says.  

The stress was intensified because Cameron and his wife Candice’s lives suddenly became so different from one-another.  One was working long hours while the other seemingly filled his time with leisure activities.

“It’s hard when she comes home from work and she’s feeling these things and I don’t get it,” Cameron says.  

Before his PCS his identity was shaped by his career. Cameron held tightly onto that concept until he had a realization.  

“As soon as I let go of wedding photography,” he recalls, “my entire world changed.”  He insists that you are not defined by your career, but rather you are a person with a particular background.  

It is not all about getting what you once had, he says, but “changing the idea of what satisfaction is.”

As soon as he let go of the notion that he had to be breadwinner, Cameron felt a huge sense of relief.  “You have to be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling and fix it,” he says.  

With his newfound sense of empowerment, Cameron set off to fix what he had been lacking, which was a sense of community.  Because a well-developed community of photographers did not exist in his new home, Cameron created one.  

Cameron has followed his passion for film photography, particularly documentary-style photography to high levels.  He founded the Film Shooters Collective, a group of about 400 individuals who share a passion for shooting film and for the images created by that process.  

The group has published a book, orchestrated by Cameron.  The project has both utilized all of Cameron’s skills and given him a community and a voice in the world.  

“To have found my own voice,” he says, “I have found a ton of fulfillment in that.”

Brian Paone, PCS Date:  November, 2011

When his wife, Stephanie, received orders to PCS to Japan, Brian had a job lined up right from the beginning.  As his wife put it to him just prior to PCS: “This will be your job, the kids.”

Brian was looking forward to spending more time with his family and more time on his fiction writing.  Writing had long been one of Brian’s main passions, but it always took second stage to his career as a police officer.  

Brian found that being “given the freedom not to have another job” was liberating.  What caught him by surprise was that raising 2 young children in itself, really was a full-time job.  

Brian admits that he under-estimated the scope required to keep the house in order and running smoothly as a full-time parent.  It took him about 6 months to get this really dialed in, until he could really focus on his writing again.  

Now Brian is “living the dream.”  He states that “I could not have asked for a better situation.”   

Brian is currently working on his third book “Yours Truly, 2095” a time-travel novel which he feels will be his best work yet.  Having regular free time has been instrumental in improving the quality of his work.  Having the passion keeps Brian fulfilled.

“If I didn't throw myself headlong into writing a third novel, I think I’d be a totally different person,” he says. “I’d be an emotional wreck.”  

Brian reminisces about short stories he was writing in the 7th grade.  Every Monday he would come to class with a new short story.  By the end of the school year his classmates were so eager to read Brian’s stories that he felt like “A celebrity in the classroom.”  

Now Brian’s audience is much wider, providing him with a much-needed sense of community.

Adam Kulawy, PCS Date:  July, 2013

Adam is a character with an undeniably positive outlook on life.  He arrived in Japan and immediately began making new friends.  

“I love talking to people,” he says.  

At base orientation, Adam’s outgoing personality helped him to make contacts that led to a job almost immediately after his PCS.  The written job description was for a data-entry type job that was well beneath Adam’s engineering skills that he was using back home.  

During the interview process, he says he was told he could those skills once on the job.  Adam saw this as a great opportunity and took the job.

As it can be in life, the promises turned into delays. The bureaucratic process of the government had Adam performing the data-entry function for an entire year before he got to put his engineering skills to work on new building construction projects on base.  

Adam still considers himself very lucky.  His advice is to “never say no.”

He knew he could use the first job to get his foot in the door and advance. Although he admits the process can be slow and frustrating, he does not see the need to dwell on the negatives.  

 “Be sad because you’re allowed to be sad,” Adam says, but insists that you need to move beyond that to look at what you have gained from the experience.  

Adam finds fulfillment in challenging himself. Beyond his career, he has taken his running to new heights.  What began as a way to spend more time with his wife, Jennifer, has turned into a passion.  Adam has set a goal to run a marathon on every continent and to run 20 marathons total over the next 10 years.  He has plenty to look forward to.

Adam insists that you have to look at a PCS as an opportunity. For him, the big opportunity has been traveling to countries he never thought he would see.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” he says.

Adam insists that while the PCS is temporary, “family is forever.”