When my husband deployed for the first time we had only been married for 9 months and had just moved to a new duty station. I barely knew anyone, had started a new job, and was a bit overwhelmed. But I got through that deployment thanks to amazing friends, focusing on my career, and taking it day by day.
Whether you’re facing your first or fifth deployment, here are 31 things in no particular order that you need to survive your next deployment.
31 Must-Have Items to Survive Deployment
An awesome tribe. You probably already have some amazing friends, but during a deployment you will definitely be leaning on them more like when you need someone to talk to at night.
Don’t have your tribe yet? There are some great ways to find like-minded people, like at unit events or Meetup.
Create your own clubs. During my husband’s last deployment my friends and I had Veggie Night. It started when one of our friends admitted that she really didn’t like vegetables that much. But she wanted to try to eat more vegetables and learn to cook them. Veggie Night was born and we met up about once a month for a fantastic dinner party.
Other ideas? Meal swaps, running club and Pinterest crafting groups.
Care package supplies. You’ll be sending a lot of care packages, so befriend your local post office staff and stock up on those flat-rate boxes and customs form.
Wine. For those really, really long days.
Coffee. For those mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed.
Reliable babysitter and/or enroll in CYSS. You will definitely need to take a break at some point. Be sure you have someone you can rely on so that you can have a night for yourself. During deployments you get a certain number of free hours – enroll your children in the on-post daycare center so you can get your free hours and your well-deserved break.
Power of Attorney. You will likely need multiple powers of attorney. These allow you to do everything from get a new military ID card to dealing with financial issues during deployment on behalf of your service member.
Budget/money plan. Depending on your spouse’s deployment location, you are likely looking at a slightly larger paycheck while they are away. While that may sound like a great chance to go shopping, deployment is a great opportunity to pay down debt or increase your savings. So before your spouse deploys, look at what the new paycheck will be and make a plan to be financially secure.
Have activities or events to look forward to over the course of the deployment. These can be vacations, family or friends visiting, or as simple as a happy hour with friends to celebrate the halfway point of deployment.
Have a personal mission. This is a goal you want to focus on during the deployment. It could be running your business, training for a marathon or learning to cook Italian cuisine. Figure out what you want to do and do it!
Communication expectations. Talk to your spouse about what communication options they may have during their deployment.
On my husband’s last deployment he had a crazy schedule and no wifi on his base so I knew we were limited in when we could talk. That helped me know that I may not hear from him if he had a long day and there was a long line at the MWR center.
Stationery. Get some fun cards or personalized paper to write some old-fashioned love letters to your love.
Bubble bath. Sometimes you need to soak in some bubbles at the end of the day.
Wills. This is a serious one. While you don’t expect anything to go wrong, be sure to have updated wills just in case.
Life insurance. Again, this is one of those just in case moments but be sure that both you and your spouse are covered.
Keep a journal. Going through a deployment is not easy but you’ll be amazed by how much you will learn and do over those long months. Start a journal to track your feelings and in a few years reread it to see how amazing you are.
FRG/Unit contact information. Even if you don’t want to be involved with the FRG, make sure you have their contact information and they have yours just in case something comes up. Also, if they have your phone number you’ll be sure to get that amazing call that says your spouse is coming home.
Red Cross number. In case of a family emergency or something exciting (like you giving birth), have the number for Red Cross so you can get a message to your spouse ASAP. If it’s something that requires your spouse to come home, a Red Cross message is necessary to start that process.
Post-deployment reintegration expectations/plan. Reintegration isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Know that it is hard and make plans with your spouse to spend some time together to reconnect – whether one night or a whole vacation. But know that sweet, sweet love may not be perfect the first (or second) time.
OPSEC do’s and don’ts. Yes you will want to make sure family and friends know that your loved one is gone and how to send them care packages, but know what you can and can’t share to make sure they’re safe while deployed.
Paper plates. Because we guarantee that you’ll have many nights when nobody has time to do dishes.
Yoga (or other fitness) class. Those endorphins will make you feel awesome or at the very least relaxed.
Deployment countdown. Whether it’s a jar of Hershey Kisses or a paper chain, a countdown will help you look forward to the end of deployment and see the progress you’ve made.
Activities for your kids. Having a parent gone is tough on a kid – find fun activities to help keep them focused on the positive. Operation Purple offers free summer camps to military kids and your local base likely offers classes and camps.
Homecoming sign. What better way to finish up your countdown by making a fun sign or order a sign in advance from BuildASign for free!
Explore your duty station. Make sure to get to know and explore your duty station.You may find a new favorite restaurant or coffee shop. By the time your service member gets home you’ll be a bonafide local!
Moving supplies (if you plan to go home). Moving back to your hometown during deployment? The military won’t move you (it’s not a PCS) so stock up on boxes, tape and whatever else you need to pack everything up and put in storage or drive home.
Rules you are OK with breaking. Maybe you always eat at the dinner table as a family, but during deployment you really need some nights of dinners in front of the TV. It’s totally OK! Be sure your kids know that this isn’t going to be an all-the-time thing, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Dirty picture do’s and dont’s. Want to send some dirty pictures to your service member? Make sure you check out our The Smart Military Spouse’s Guide to Sending Sexy Photos before you hit send.
Ways to stay focused. It’s hard to keep your mind on work or school or life when you’re missing your spouse. It’s totally normal, but when you really need to focus, check out our guide so you can meet your personal or professional goals during deployment.
Take it day by day. Everyday during deployment will be different. Some may be more difficult than others, if you need some me time – take it. If you have a great day – that’s fantastic! Do what you need to do for you to get through the time apart.