Your sailor comes home with IA orders. Yet you have never even heard of an IA. Don’t worry. There are only about 100,000 Individual Augmentees (IA) who have filled this billet throughout the entire Navy.
Navy IA service members are reassigned from their parent Navy command for six months to a year or more with, typically, an Army Battalion in Iraq or Afghanistan. Yes, that means Sailors in the desert!
IA troops and their families are under some very unique pressures. Changing your strategy to suit the current deployment is something Navy families do all the time. Instead of expecting the entire ship or squadron to deploy, this is a deployment your family mostly handles independently. It takes a little more self-awareness and self-motivation than usual. Here are a few proven MUST DOs that have come directly from former IA families.
1. PREPARE - Take the time as a family to go over the IA paperwork together. Build a plan as a team. Even if you have always been pretty independent about deployments in the past, attend informational meetings for resource ideas and to meet others like you. The extra effort is worth it.
2. COMMUNICATE - Be more open to talking about any changes, expectations, difficulties and triumphs with your service member. An IA tour offers an opportunity for growth in your relationship. Creatively develop new and fun ways to stay in touch (journals, cards, and letters). Always remember OPSEC on the phone, Skype and Facebook. Understand that there are some difficulties that should not be discussed during a combat deployment.
3. RESOURCES - Find resources and ombudsman information for your parent command and your IA command and have it handy before you actually need it. If in doubt, try MilitaryOneSource.com, FocusProject.org, RealWarriors.net, or search 211 in your area for your own community resources. Also, search on SpouseBuzz.com to see how others have handled a particular issue.
4. BUILD A SUPPORT NETWORK - Often other family members from your IA’s new command are hundreds of miles away. Friends, family and others within the local community can be great assets during deployments. Understand the deployment cycle (pre-deployment, deployment, post-deployment, reintegration, and re-deployment) and prepare your support network on what to expect during each phase.
5. FIND OTHERS - Your parent Navy command may try to touch base with you during deployment, but IA families report that this is rarely enough. Look for other IA families that can understand these unique challenges. NavyIAFamily.com is a great new online resource specifically for this reason. Also reach out to your service member’s new Army or Marine unit. Even if you are too far away to attend events, getting ombudsman emails and Facebook updates from those who are also going through deployment really helps.
As always, continue to take care of yourself and your family, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and never think that you are alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
About Laura Oakley: I am a Navy spouse with a background in Psychology and Social Welfare. I am committed to ensuring that our IA families are taken care of. Please check out http://www.navyiafamily.com/ and participate in our new project called Operation: I Have A Voice