It might be a foreign policy issue. A hurricane at home. A disaster somewhere else.
But something happens.
And suddenly, your spouse comes home with orders for a rapid deployment.
You weren’t expecting this. There are birthdays to celebrate and home improvement projects to do. Vacations to go on. There are plans for next week. There are movies and TV shows to be watched together, date nights to be planned, kids’ sports events to attend.
And suddenly, you have whiplash. Without warning, you’re planning for a deployment. And fast. What do you do? How do you make the little bit of time you have with your spouse count?
I know there are a lot of military spouses and significant others who are experiencing this right now… or might be soon. I reached out to the Jo, My Gosh! community and asked them for their best advice when it comes to rapid, unexpected deployments.
Know what’s important
The time between notification and deployment is going to be extremely chaotic. Your service member will have things they’ll need to attend to for their job as well as things to take care of at home. While some things will inevitably not get done or fall off your radar, there are some very important documents and information that you’ll absolutely need to have:
Talk about deployment finances. If this if your first deployment ever–and especially if you’re newly married– you’ll need to have a discussion about finances. Who pays bills? Who has access to online and in-person financial products? How will you handle big-ticket purchases if they crop up during the deployment? If you don’t have access to all of your accounts, make sure that you sit down and get all of the log-in information. If you haven’t logged in in awhile, make sure that you do so before your spouse leaves. If you’ve decided that you’ll be the one responsible for paying bills, make sure that you know all of the bills that come due regularly and their dates.
Get a POA. Make sure you have an updated Power of Attorney document, even if you’re married. A POA gives you the authority to act on your spouse’s behalf, which is especially important if there’s a PCS or new baby on the horizon. Even if you don’t have any “big” events coming up, POAs will give you the ability to ensure that you can access bank accounts, receive financial information, file tax documents jointly, file for emergency financial assistance through branch relief organizations, accept base housing if you’re on a waiting list, and enroll new babies in DEERS. You and your spouse can file for a POA at your installation’s legal office.
Have the discussion no one wants to have. As much as it absolutely sucks to imagine a world without your spouse, you need to talk about death. (I know! I said it sucks.) No one ever wants to have this discussion because it is uncomfortable and horrible to even imagine, but you need to push past the discomfort and talk about the nuts and bolts. In the awful, terrible event that a death occurs, having your ducks in a row will make it easier for you while you’re grieving and will give you the opportunity to honor them in a way that is congruent with their wishes. Make sure that your spouse has a will, that it’s updated, and that you understand what is in the document. Have copies and access to any life insurance policies you have. If your spouse does not have his or her final wishes written down, have the talk and make sure to write down the information you discuss. Put everything in a place that is safe and secure but that you can also easily access, like a lockbox or safe.
Be kind to yourself
Take a breath. “As corny as it sounds take a deep breath. Look at what needs to be done and take just that first step,” says Jennifer. “I gave myself a few hours to process before he got home so when he did I could help tackle whatever needed tackling without him worrying about me on top of deploying.”
Keep your head up. “For our kids’ sake we always set a positive tone for a frustrating situation. We made it a tradition that any time my hubby deployed, my boys and I set goals of things we would do during the time apart. Even when they were 3 and 5. That way we had something to focus on and help pass the time,” says Lacey, The Military Money Expert.
Give yourself grace. “Have your moment/break down, whatever you need. [My spouse had] a very short notice overseas trip to help an injured squadron member with an indefinite timetable of when he was coming home. It was right when school was starting (I’m a teacher) and I definitely had a moment in my classroom closet, composed myself and focused on what needed to be done,” says Amanda.
Take care of yourself. “While you’re waiting for him to finish packing all his socks (because there are many!) get a subscription to a monthly something group (Brave Crates is awesome). These little gifts to yourself each month are great reminders that you are not alone AND you are taking care of you,” says Rosanne.
Don’t feed the panic machine. “Turn off the news. Take a break from Facebook or at least set limits for yourself. Tell your family to do the same and set boundaries there as well,” says Kellie, COO of MILLIE.
A short-notice deployment is a whirlwind that can make even the most organized folks feel frenzied and frustrated.
Use this box. If you have a method for deployment, stick to what you normally do and how you keep everything organized.If you’ve never experienced a deployment before, Rosanne suggests this easy filing method so you can keep the important stuff in one place: “On your trip to get last-minute things he needs to take, buy yourself pretty floral box with a lid to organize all the important paper and files. (It is easier to look at and go through when times are tough). Post Deployment, I keep my cards, photos, correspondence from the deployment in it.”
Keep a running list. “Keep a note pad handy (or notes in your phone) so you can write down the questions you think of, and important info you are given from your spouse or the unit. When they do finally call, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in the moment and forget what you needed to ask… and you never know when the next opportunity will be,” says Heather of the Military Family Advisory Network.
Don’t count on your spouse
The time that your spouse has until deployment might not be a great indicator of the time that your spouse will have at home. “My husband wasn’t home much in the 14 days we had as a notice. He was getting all his issued gear and all the out processing in the squadron. I had no idea I would barely see him before he left,” says Cassidy. Make sure that you’re prioritizing the questions, processes, and information that you absolutely need before he or she heads out when they are home.
Be smart about information
During a rapid mobilization, it is really easy to complain, let information slip, or tell people more than they need to know about what’s happening in your life. Follow OPSEC (operational security) and PERSEC (personal security) suggestions and guidelines so that you’re not unintentionally sharing information that people could use to hurt you or service members. If you’re not sure what this means, take a moment and learn about OPSEC, PERSEC, and how you might be accidentally violating those guidelines.
Keep your routine
It might feel like you’re caught in a tornado, but try to function as normally as possible. “Try your best not to break routine, especially when kids are involved. Everyone functions better when schedules aren’t interrupted (easier said than done),” says Lisa of Healing Household6.
Worried about what’s happening in the world? Read these:
- 9 Milspouses Can Protect Their Privacy Online
- 9 Surprising Ways You Might Be Violating OPSEC and PERSEC
- For the Military Spouse Who Is Overwhelmed Today
- For the Milspouse Experiencing a No-Notice Deployment