Deployment can be a daunting time, especially if you’ve never experienced it before. When John got ready to leave on a year-long deployment, I had no idea what to do. Okay, I knew to cry… and eat cupcakes. But other than that, I felt lost. I felt alone. I felt unsure of what to do or who to go to. It was not a great time in my life, to be sure.
If you feel like that too, it’s okay. It’s totally normal. You will get through this, and you will be okay. If you feel like you’re not sure what steps to take to begin preparing, I’ve got you covered. Ready to rock this deployment? (Yes, yes, yes!)
Update Your Info
Make sure that all of your Is are dotted and Ts are crossed when it comes to keeping your information updated with the government. Make sure your DEERS information is accurate. If your ID card will expire while your spouse is gone, get that squared away too. If you need to enroll in dental insurance, make sure you do that– you can’t enroll without their explicit consent.
Create a Will
Your spouse will draft a will as part of their deployment preparations. Be part of the process and know what’s in it. This might be a great time for you to create a will too. Visiting a lawyer (either on- or off-base) to talk about your family’s needs and best interests together is a smart move before deployment.
Draft a Power of Attorney
Make sure you have a legit POA to take care of any legal matters that pop up (like buying a car, renting an apartment, buying a house… you get the picture). Have copies of it and keep it in a safe place.
Talk about What No One Wants to Talk About
You need to talk about death. I know, I know, it’s the topic that no one wants to talk about. But you have to have a plan beyond creating a will. Know what your spouse wants should the pass away during deployment. Have it written down and safely away. You should also know the steps to notifying your spouse in case of a family member’s death.
Get on the Same Financial Page
Before deployment begins, make sure you both understand and agree on your financial goals and how you’re going to achieve them. Make sure you’re both on board with spending habits and what you’ll be doing with any extra income (ie. hazard pay). And make sure that you have access to all of the passwords, documents, and other information to pay bills on time
Plan for the Kids’ Emotional Well-Being
Figure out what your kids will need during the deployment. It doesn’t matter if this is the first one or the tenth they’ve experienced: kids need a routine and they need to feel loved. Create rituals and traditions with your spouse to give your children both of those things. Depending on your children’s ages, this could look like recorded messages, Skype time, phone calls, letters, Daddy/Mommy dolls, or other reminders of how much the deployed parent loves them.
Plan for the Kids’ Physical Well-Being
If something happens to you during the deployment, do you know what will happen to your children? If you end up in the hospital for breaking your foot, who will pick the kids up from school and make them dinner? If you’re a business person who travels, who will the kids stay with when you’re on a trip? Make sure that you have plans and that your children (if they’re old enough and developmentally able) know what will happen. This isn’t about scaring them; it’s about making sure they feel safe and secure.
Contact the FRG
I’m not here to tell you to hold hands with your FRG and sing Kumbayah. I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about FRGs and I know others just simply don’t have the time to participate. Still others love their FRG and couldn’t get through a deployment without them. Regardless of where you fall, make sure that you reach out to the FRG (if they haven’t yet reached out to you) and exchange contact information. The FRG will be the primary flow of information for you during deployment including homecoming deets. (And before you ask, yes, many FRGs do want girl/boyfriends and fiances to participate too.)
Have an APO/FPO
Get that address and keep it in a prominent location. Especially if this is your first deployment, you’ll find that a lot of people will probably want your spouse’s address– friends, relatives, coworkers, religious congregations. And of course, you probably want to send a few care packages. (I’ve got that on lock for you!)
Spend Quality Time
I will never regret the things I put off to be able to spend extra time with John before he deployed. Never. The time we spent together kept me going during some really dark times during that year. It’ll be easy to want to put it off, especially with so much to do (and especially if your timeline is super cramped), but try to forge out some alone time. Seize the little moments, too– you don’t need to go to a 5-star restaurant for it to be memorable and wonderful.
Depending on your specific situation and your spouse’s orders, there will undoubtedly be more things to take care of and do, but these ten items are important to get onto your checklist. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.