In my 14 years as a military spouse I’ve held down the homefront through 15- and 12-month deployments respectively, a yearlong hardship duty tour and no less than a dozen assorted TDYs.
Facing deployment can be daunting, but it is absolutely possible to come out on the other side stronger than you’ve ever realized. There is power in planning.
Facing Your First Deployment? 4 Practical Steps You Need to Take Today Before Your Service Member Leaves Tomorrow
Prepping for Your First Deployment Step #1: Update Your Important Papers
Pre-deployment is the time to make sure all your “emergency” paperwork is in tip-top shape. Discuss your expectations and wishes together. The big 3 focuses should be:
- your wills
- powers of attorney
- insurance documentation
Your spouse may be the one deploying, but you both should be current on everything and aware of one another’s wishes.
The wills: These can be created or updated on most installations at the J.A.G. office. You can also visit a lawyer or opt to use software to create the wills yourself. Just remember there must be witnesses or a notary to validate it.
Powers of attorney: Although your spouse is the one deploying you both need to discuss and think through how you’d like to designate any special or general powers of attorney. If you own property or have children, to whom else will you entrust to make decisions in the event either on or you are unable to decide?
Insurance: Homeowners, life, renters, car, medical…be sure all insurance paperwork is accurate and current. The necessary documents should be stored in an organized fashion. A fireproof safe or filing cabinets will ensure they can be easily accessed in case of an emergency.
Prepping for Your First Deployment Step #2: Review Your Budget and Financial Goals
Expenses and income invariably change during deployments. Be sure to discuss your long- and short-term financial plans with your spouse. Setting realistic goals will help keep you focused during your time apart.
The budget: Determine your projected pay and expenses for the deployment.
Will child care costs increase?
Will you take any trips or pick up any new hobbies?
What “fun money” will you allocate for one another to help beat any deployment blues?
Remember to think of likely occurrences and be willing to adjust as you go.
Short/long-term goals: If you would like to pay off your student loans, consumer debts, save for a cruise or invest in the stock market look at the numbers and make a plan.
You may not be able to hit everything on your list, but achieving one or two goals will be immensely gratifying. Consider what is most important to the two of you and set yourselves up to succeed.
Prepping for Your First Deployment #3: Discuss Communication Expectations
Everyone has different communication styles and ways in which to handle stress. Thinking through how contact will flow for your family can help alleviate some pre-deployment concerns.
Your boo: Is it reasonable to expect regular phone calls?
Will email be a way to update one another?
How likely are Skype or FaceTime calls?
Do either of you prefer snail mail?
Some service members are able to make contact with the homefront daily, others cannot. Be clear and honest about schedules, time zones, and personalities. Understand these may also change depending on life events. But most importantly, know your partner’s preference for reaching you.
Children: If you have children, care and consideration should be taken in how they will connect with their deployed parent. While the above questions still hold merit, there are measures that can be taken pre-deployment to provide warmth to little hearts and minds.
Talk with your partner about taking pictures, writing letters, mailing post cards and recording audio and video messages in advance.
Discover what method works for your team and start preparing to ensure they can still “see” mom or dad throughout the separation.
Extended family: A pre-talk is a must. Your partner’s family may very well have deployment concerns as well. Think about how information and communication will be passed along and to whom.
If your partner is able to connect with extended family while deployed, great!
If not, discuss the plan and if possible be sure other family members are aware of your operating procedures.
Prepping for Your First Deployment Step #4: Update Your Support System and Self-Care Routine
If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It is crucial to know how to get to and find your happy place over the course of a deployment. There will be times of uncertainty or stress, so pre-planning your self-care strategies prior to deployment will be a godsend in the heat of the moment.
Family & friends: Who should you or your spouse contact in the event you need immediate and serious assistance during the deployment? Who will be in your corner and encourage healthy outcomes for your family? Be aware of your safe place to land.
Consider planning at least 1 to 2 breaks for you in the form of relief, visits or support from loved ones. Know your squad.
If you do not have one, brainstorm your options of support with your partner. Bouncing ideas off of one another will give you both the confidence that the homefront will be alright.
Military community: In what ways will you and your spouse access the resources available through the Armed Forces network? Sites like Military OneSource offer information about marriage, finances, deployment and mental health support. Peruse your options together and discuss what may work best for your family.
There is no way to plan for everything for your first deployment and you don’t have too. Updating your life in times of calm sets your family up for success in times of turbulence. You can do it!
How did you prepare for your first deployment? What advice would you give to military spouses facing their first deployments?