You find out that your service member has come down on deployment orders. What now?
First, take a deep breath...............
It is true that there is a laundry list of things to consider and get done. This is especially true if you are a new military spouse or are geographically separated from a military installation.
In this post I will provide resources for things that truly need to be dealt with prior to a deployment. I will also share my personal thoughts and how I normally go about things. **Please also see 'Updates' at the bottom of this post.**
Some items truly must be done, such as administrative paperwork and checklists. When it comes to other things, we must find what works for each of us individually. If you have ideas to share on what works for you during the pre-deployment phase, please comment and share your thoughts and experiences with all of the readers here at SpouseBUZZ.
I will be the first to admit that as an Army wife, I do not have knowledge on all available resources for every branch of service. With this in mind, please feel free link services and resources that you feel others can benefit from that are more branch specific. We are here to learn from each other. Please also note that I do have children and I will be providing several resources for spouses with children, but I am also listing many resources that pertain to all military spouses and parents of military members.
You can access a number of helpful articles and resources on dealing with deployment at Military OneSource. Military.com has a deployment center with a wealth of information. Another resource for various related information and numerous links for all branches is NMFA. You can access a deployment checklist here and a resource for families during times of war here. Operation READY contains useful tips for active duty and reserve service members for coping with separation, and getting your financial affairs in order.
If you do a web search you will also be able to come across a large variety of resources for pre-deployment.
It is helpful for me to begin the pre-deployment process with a little reading. This helps me prepare for the road that lies ahead and jogs my memory a bit. I have been through several deployments, but I always seek out new things to read in regards to deployment or go back and re-read things that I have kept from previous deployments.
The first major thing I concentrate my energy on, before adminstration issues, is to take a week or so to digest the information given to me and to work through the mental and emotional roller-coaster that the words 'deployment orders' sends me on. This can be an especially bumpy ride if you are a new spouse, but believe me when I say that even seasoned spouses can and do go through this. With each new deployment I refer back to the emotional cycle of deployments, which absolutely can begin well in advance of a deployment and remind myself how I can control my own stress levels.
For spouses with children: After I have gone on my initial one woman roller-coaster ride, my thoughts then turn to my children. I begin to discuss the upcoming deployment with my children. I answer their questions, help them to deal with their emotions, prepare a map of where daddy will be going to put on their bedroom wall and tell them approximately when they can expect him to leave. I also have my husband get going on doing a video for the kids. He changes it up each deployment, but it normally consists of him reading books and telling them stories. My children treasure these videos during and after deployments.
A new product that can be very helpful for young children is Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families During Military Deployment. This link will lead you to resources for children of all ages and includes resources for National Guard children. You will also find links and activities for all age ranges at Deployment Kids. There are several ideas floating around on how to help children understand the length of time for a deployment. Each one should be directed toward the age range of your children and many will depend on how lengthy the deployment will be. My children are still small and I love to do the chocolate kisses in a jar. They take one out each day as a kiss from daddy and can 'see' the amount of kisses getting smaller, hence the deployment time getting shorter. You will find a more lengthy resource list geared towards children and deployments at the bottom of this posting.
Next on my list is to prepare the extended family for what is coming. I normally call my parents and my in-laws and now there is a wonderful resource that I can email to them, Your Soldier Your Army Parents Guide. Because we have been in the military for awhile and have been through several deployments, our family and friends now understand that I will only provide them with limited information before a deployment. Even so, I still tend to advise them with each new deployment, that I do not know everything and what I do know, I normally cannot tell them. I explain OPSEC and let them know that I will tell them what information I can, when I can. I basically ask them to please stand by.
I then make sure that I have discussed the administrative aspect of deployment with my husband and that he is preparing to provide me with updated paperwork. My husband does go through the normal SRP (being made ready to deploy and dealing with paperwork) but I tend to stay on his back a bit, just to make sure he hasn't forgotten anything. At this point, I also double check my ID card's expiration date and update it if necessary. Also on the paperwork subject, I always ask him, who all did you list on your DD 93 (Record of Emergency Data) and do I have a copy of that? Service-members can list anyone that they would like to have notified in the event of injury or death on this form.
When I have most of the updated paperwork in my hands, I begin a large notebook for this particular deployment. I normally use a 3" notebook and have plenty of clear paper savers. I then attend a pre-deployment briefing and an FRG (family readiness group) meeting. I freely admit that I often times do not want to attend these briefings. Not only would I like to pretend that the deployment isn't going to happen, when I do finally digest and accept that it will happen whether I like it or not, I think.......not another briefing, what the heck can they possibly tell me that I haven't heard a million times before?
While the above comment can be true, the briefing does allow me to be in a room with other spouses dealing with the exact same things that I am dealing with. It also allows me to meet the Rear Detachment Command team and staff and to make sure I have contact information for every person and organization I could possibly need to contact or utilize during the deployment. I make sure that my FRG knows every possible way to contact me and that they put me on an email distro. All of this tends to thrust me into the reality of the deployment. Sometimes I need a little nudge.
Please also note that parents, girlfriends or other family members can also attend these meetings and can be added to the company or unit support group information distro. Please just let your service member know that you wish to be included and they should then make the support group aware of your contact information and their desire for you to be updated throughout the deployment.
Then I move to the seemingly smaller, yet very important things.
I look first at money. I make sure that I have transferred money into my husband's separate bank account and provided him with some cash. We have an account set up that he only uses during deployments or TDY periods and we agree to a set amount that will be put into this account each pay period. I send him off with his ATM card and his STAR card, although he rarely uses them. Some people forgo the bank accounts and cards and just opt for setting up an allotment for their service member to receive each pay period. Finances during deployments can be a very large issue for some couples, so it is best to come to a general consensus before the deployment. Some couples find it beneficial to create a deployment budget. It is equally important for you to know how to access and read the LES (Leave & Earning Statement) and to know about the various pays and entitlements your service member will receive during deployment. Be sure you keep a very close eye on the LES before, during and after deployment. This will allow you to see any problems (lack of pay or overpayment) right away.
We then discuss how we want to use the extra pay that we will be receiving during the deployment. Deployment is a great time to pay off bills, put a little extra each month into college savings accounts, plan a vacation, invest in the TSP (Thrift Savings Plan) or whatever else is important to you and your family. Deployment money can fly out the window quickly if misused by you or your spouse and it will save disagreements later if you can make mutual finance decisions before the deployment.
I then take a look at the issue of communication. Technology is super, but it will depend upon where your service member is stationed. Will they have internet access, will they have access to a phone and what kind, etc? Many of these questions may not be answered until they arrive in theater. Most times you will be given a deployed mailing address before he/she departs for the deployment, normally at your pre-deployment briefing or at your FRG type (family readiness group) meeting. I then begin making or collecting cards to send in the coming weeks and months. I think that mail call is still important to most service members. I go online to USPS and order (for free) boxes and customs forms so that I am prepared for the numerous packages I will be sending. The flat rate boxes are the best!! I also make sure to provide my husband with plenty of calling cards and I also mail him AAFES gift certificates throughout the deployment. Another communication option is connect AND join, it is a secure online communications and activities site that connects families around the world who are separated either by deployment and serve our country in our military, or have family members living away from home due to job related responsibilities.
Then I must consider several issues of my own.
1) I will need a special power of attorney to do certain things. The list of 'certain things' is long, do I have all of that covered? Businesses do not have to accept any power of attorney, but some will. The reason I focus on special powers of attorney is that they will be accepted more often than a general power of attorney and are a must have in many circumstances.
You will need a special power of attorney to do all of the following:
*Sign for or clear military quarters*Purchase, sell, rent or lease real property*File a claim with the JAG office*Conduct any business with TRICARE, DFAS, or to get a military ID card*Register a vehicle*Conduct financial transactions with a bank*Provide child care for a dependant*Files Taxes in some cases
If you have children, you will also need a notarized Statement of Consent to get or renew passports for your children under age 14 while your service member is deployed.
General POAs do cover many things, but as stated previously, some businesses will only accept Special POAs for certain situations. Be sure to take a very thorough look at the special power of attorney list and talk to your JAG office. This way, you can be knowledgeable when considering which situations may come up during a deployment that you will need to have the capacity to deal with. In preparation for any possible denial of a general OR special power of attorney, you can also discuss the option of being added to your service members accounts. Most banks, including USAA, offer deployment specific powers of attorney that will give you the ability to perform transactions during your service members absence. This can negate the need for, and worry over, some types of powers of attorney IF you do most of your business with one company.
Gathering written information: If you are located on or near an installation you can access your family service center. They provide families a place to turn to for everything from help in getting a household in order to legal advice to financial assistance. They also can provide you with a Deployment Handbook. Many of their resources can also be found online.
Navy families can gain more deployment information at their Fleet & Family Support Center.
Marine families can gain more deployment information at their Marine & Family Service Center or Marine Corps Community Service.
Army families can gain more deployment information at their Soldier & Family Readiness Center or Army Community Service Centers.
Air Force families can gain more deployment information at their Airman & Family Readiness Center.
If you are not located near an installation, the internet will likely be your best-friend and lead you to many resources and avenues of support.
Various Web Resources Links to make note of:
Air Force CrossroadsMilitary OneSourceMyArmyLifeTooU.S. Coast Guard Work-Life Web Site Coast Guard Mutual AssistanceCoast Guard Family Readiness GuideMarine Corps Community ServicesArmy Community ServiceArmy Reserve Family Programs (Online)Naval Services FamilyLineOperation HomefrontArmy Families OnlineArmy Virtual FRGFirst US Army Family Programs - Inter Service Family Assistance Committee 2) I make sure that I have all needed information to be able to contact the Red Cross if a true emergency occurs with me, our children or a close relative of my husband.
3) I evaluate my life insurance and decide if the FSGLI coverage would be enough for my husband and children to carry on without me if they had to. I get extra outside life insurance if needed. This is also a good time to update your Will, if needed.
4) I go to JAG and have special powers of attorney drawn up in regards to my children. You can access information about the Family Care Plan here. I have a medical care PA drawn up naming a friend in my current area. This will allow someone other than me to be able to gain medical care for my children in an emergency. I also have temporary guardianship drawn up in the name of a friend that I trust, so that they could provide short term care for my children if something should happen to me. This lets me feel confident that if I should be in an accident, become very ill, etc, while my husband is deployed, that someone responsible will be able to care for my children until my husband or my family could arrive to care for them. The powers of attorney and family care plan are also vital to single service members and dual military couples with children.
Another one of my habits is to print up a list of my emergency contact names and numbers, even if the contacts (friends or family) are not in my immediate area. I place copies on my refrigerator, in my purse, in the glove box of my car and give one to my FRG Leader.
5) Again, because I have children AND pets, I must think about some other 'what ifs' while I will be on my own. I am normally on my own for a year or more and I will require a hand with childcare and a break once in awhile. If you are a working spouse, you will also have to consider who will care for your children after school hours, during school holidays, etc. When my children were a bit younger I had them in pre-school two days a week and utilized hourly care at my local childcare center when I had doctor appointments, and was very thankful for my local ASYMCA. When my children became older, I decided to hire a babysitter to come in on occasion and I also found a variety of outside activities for my children that would also allow me a few minutes to myself. I sometimes felt guilty for leaving my children elsewhere, but the more tired I became during the deployment, the more I realized that it was good for me and for my kids. I normally will take at least one short trip during a deployment to visit family and then I must decide what to do with my pets. If the trip is too lengthy or I am flying, I try to find a responsible teenager in my neighborhood. I get to know them and their parents well and then I pay the teenager to pet sit when I am out of town. If I cannot do this, I make sure that my pets have all of their shots updated and find a place to board them for a few days, even though I hate to do so.
6) Am I going to need help with mowing grass, auto repair or handyman type things? Most of the time I can do the majority of things on my own. If I am living in on post housing this reduces the worry over household repair issues, but if I am not, I make sure to locate a handyman before my husband leaves. If I find that I don't have all of the time in the world to mow the grass during the summer, I find a teenager or local mowing company to mow my grass. I make sure to ask around about a reputable auto mechanic before my husband leaves, because the car will always breakdown after he is gone! :) You can contact The American Legion Family Support Network if you need help or referrals in your area.
If you make the decision to move away from your current installation during the deployment (or you already live away from an installation) be sure that you make the unit and your support group aware that you are leaving, where you are going and inform them how you can be contacted should the need arise. Also consider how leaving your current installation or area will affect your housing situation and what steps you must take.
If you are pregnant and due to deliver during a deployment you will need some extra support. Reach out to family and friends and ask someone to be there with you during delivery. Ask family or friends to provide care for your other children during your delivery. Make your FRG Leader or support group aware of when you are due, they will hopefully offer you a meal and/or a small baby gift. Find out if there is a New Parent Support Group in your area and contact them before the birth. This organization can provide you with a variety of military and local community resources. Find out in advance if you qualify for WIC and be prepared to update DEERS, having on hand a notarized DD 1172.
We were stationed overseas when our children were born so this made the focus of childbirth a bit more detailed. Not only did we have to concern ourselves with DEERS, TRICARE, birth certificates and SSNs, we also had to decide on where I was going to deliver (military hospital or on the economy) - make sure I had a driver's license, obtain an installation pass for visiting family members and get the paperwork for the baby's passport done right away. These are all things to keep in mind.
Another issue to think about is, what will I do with my time during the deployment? Some of us think, um, what time? Others cannot seem to find enough to occupy our time! In the past I have volunteered on post, in the local community, taken college classes, taken hobby type classes, gotten involved with my FRG, taken a job, collected items of need for soldiers and for children in the middle east, read lots of books, blogged, found support groups in my area and online, gotten to know my local area and neighbors better and the best part, found out a little more about myself than I knew before the deployment. Oh the list could go on and on. There are many things you can do with your time, you just have to make a personal decision on what interests you have and how much time you really have to invest in outside activities while your service member is gone. Do whatever it is that will help to keep you sane, that is my philosophy!
Last but not least, I also begin to consider, what will I do if X or Y happens to my husband? Many spouses do not want to consider the worst ever happening to their service member and are content to not think about it all. This is another situation where we will each do whatever it is that works for us and helps us get through the day. The path that I take and try to urge anyone that asks me about the planning subject, is to do just that....plan, plan, plan. I have OCD when it comes to all of the 'what ifs' and it makes me feel better to know that I could just pull out a list of information if I needed to, rather than being in shock and having no idea where to go, who to speak with to gain information or what to even ask of someone.
The following paragraphs will provide you with information if the worst things were to happen. Although I feel the following information is very important to know about, feel free to skip this area of the post if you wish. The information will always be here if you should ever need it yourself or to help a friend. I do hope that none of us ever need it!
There is a chance that your service member could experience varying levels of combat stress and/or PTSD during his/her deployment. You can find many resources for your service member, yourself and your family on the internet and via your local support center. Refer to Dealing with PTSD for some resources to get you started. As a spouse, you also have many, many Counseling Options should you ever need them. I personally like to be aware of these types of things in advance of needing them, so I make a note of the resources.
My husband and I do discuss 'if the worst happens.' I ask him what his preferences are with regards to who he would like me to contact and who not to contact, if he were wounded. I make a list of people we know stationed in Germany and in DC and their contact information, just in case! I add to that list the contact and area information for Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I make sure I have updated information on TSGLI, that I know how to access information about the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program, that I have printed out a copy of the Wounded or Injured Fact Sheet and the Hero Handbook. I also make sure that I know how to contact the Military Severely Injured Center .
We then move on and discuss 'if the worst of the worst happens.' I ask him if he were to be KIA, have his preferences for this circumstance changed since the last deployment. They usually have a bit. We go over SGLI, determine if we need more outside life insurance and make sure that we have all paperwork updated, gathered and in my notebook. I take a look at the resources provided here. I make a note of the Our Survivors webpage and the Army Families First Casualty Call Center . I print out a copy of the Survivor Benefits Fact Sheet, and also make sure that I know how to access the VA Survivors webpage, DOD Survivor's Guide, TAPS and Caring for kids after trauma, disaster and death.
Your pre-deployment briefing will be a good time to ask any questions that you may have in regards to how you would be informed by the military in the event of an injury or death. There are military and service specific regulations, however, each installation or unit may do things a bit differently. If it will put your mind at ease to know how your installation goes about things in such circumstances, don't be afraid to speak up and ask. If you cannot or do not get an appropriate answer during the briefing, you can always contact your local Casualty Assistance Office for more information.
Have I forgotten anything? I am just sure that I have! If you think so, please do leave a comment or send me an email!!
Military Children resource links:
NFMA Children and DeploymentsFFSC Brochure on Children & DeploymentAAP helping children deal with deploymentAAP Families in the Military Deploying Parent Check ListLIFELines Children and Deployment ArticlesSo Far Guide for children of Military ReservesChildren and Deployment BrochureHelping Children Handle DeploymentsEducator's Guide To The Military Child During DeploymentMilitary Child Education CoalitionMilitary Brats OnlineChildren and A Deploying ParentOperation Military KidsOperation Home Front - how to help your children with the deploymentOur Military Kids - Recognizing the children of deployed National Guard and Reserve MilitaryMCECSalute Our ServicesUSO Family and Friends pageTeen DeploymentTalk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes
"Taking Care of Business" Other UpdatesOffice of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve AffairsNational Guard and reserve service members may now access information about their military health benefits onlineVideo E-mail Helps Deployed Soldiers and FamiliesServicemembers Civil Relief ActGreenCare for TroopsTRICARE Survivor Benefits Survivor's Guide UpdatedGuide For National Guard and Reserve Family Benefits These Boots: A spouse's guide to stepping up and standing tall during deploymentOperation Purple Camp For KidsR&R Information during deploymentNew Emotional Cycles of DeploymentSpace-A Policy Change Benefits Military FamiliesChanges Coming For Military Pay SystemsSeeking HelpGuard & Reserve Health InformationFree Camps for Military Kids During DeploymentsInstant Messaging for AirmenNavy Offers COMPASS ProgramMilitary OneSource Phone ConsultationsNMFA Family RetreatsAfterDeployment.org
When you begin to prepare for Re-Deployment you will find some helpful resources on homecoming here.