Deployments are a fact of military life.
No matter how long this deployment will be, it’s important to get a few questions cleared up before the buses load or the plane departs.
Let’s be honest: deployments are routine but also completely unpredictable. You’ll need to know all the things about all the things because your partner likely won’t be available to phone it support at the drop of a hat.
Of course, not all of these questions are going to be right for every military couple, family, or experience. Use them as a guide, but add more (or remove) questions to fit your family’s needs.
Questions to Ask When You Get the News
Preparing for the deployment doesn’t just mean packing. It also means creating a positive mindset for yourself and managing expectations.
Definitely ask these questions, but also know that your spouse might not have all the answers right now:
- What is the estimated departure date?
- What is the training cycle looking like right now?
- How often should we expect you to be gone for pre-deployment exercises?
- About how long do you think this deployment is scheduled to last?
- What do you need to do to prepare?
- How can our family start to prepare now?
- Are there any pre-deployment bucket list experiences or activities you want to plan?
- Do you have any ideas about when your pre-deployment block leave might happen?
Note: not all units or individuals will have a “block leave” period. Block leave is when a smaller segment of a larger unit is scheduled for leave or vacation. Your spouse may not have a choice in when their block leave is assigned. Other individuals service members might have more flexibility. Asking the question about pre-deployment leave helps you to clarify your expectations!
Important Questions to Ask As You Prepare for Deployment
Okay. You’re over the first shock of “deployment is coming.” Now, you’re going to be wading deep into home front deployment prep.
As your pre-deployment countdown winds down, you’re going to want clarity about:
- Where are the insurance policies? Ask about home/renters, car, life, health, etc.
- How are our bills currently set up to be paid? When are the regular due dates?
- What are your financial account usernames and passwords?
- Can you add me to any accounts I need to access while you’re gone?
- When are you scheduled to create a POA for me? What different POAs might we need? Financial, general, legal?
- How will I receive communications from the unit about your deployment?
- What does your in case of emergency contact list look like?
- What does your accident, illness or death contact sheet look like?
- Who is is charge of your funeral and burial decisions?
- Can we check over your life insurance paperwork? I want to make sure our family is covered.
- Where are the: electrical breakers, tool box, emergency supplies, emergency car kit, paperwork, important family documents?
- Who do we contact about: home repairs, medical emergencies, car repairs?
- Is our AAA up to date? Is there another option in case of road trip or car emergencies?
- What will your LES look like? What is the tax status throughout the deployment?
- Do you have a plan for any additional deployment pay? How can we leverage this additional income to (pay off debts, build a down payment on a house, invest in education, etc.)?
As I found out mid-deployment, knowing where important documents are is essential to your success and sanity! Make sure you know before they go.
“Deployment Communication Plans” Questions
You’ve got the nuts and bolts information needed to run the household solo while your partner is deployed, but you also need some additional deets… especially about staying in contact.
Having a semi-solid communication plan in place before your spouse leaves is important for your mental health.
- Will you likely have internet access? How frequently would you estimate you’ll be able to hop online?
- Will there be group video conferences (VTC) for the unit?
- Will you have the ability to privately video chat with us?
- Will you be on social media, email or texting apps?
- Will you be able to call me? Will it be via satellite phone or regular phone or something else?
- Will you receive regular mail?
- Based on what you know about your deployment home base, how regular will mail service be?
- Where can I mail you packages and letters?
- Can I send this address to friends and family? How can I securely communicate this information?
- What is our plan so that I know you are safely in-country?
- About how often should I expect to hear from you via email, phone or regular mail?
Remember, all pre-deployment communication information your partner shares with you is just a very loose guess of what will happen. Deployments and communication are both unpredictable. Be prepared to roll with the punches!
“Gearing Up for Deployment” Questions
Your partner should receive most of their essential gear from the unit. This might include due uniforms, boots, sleeping bags, tents and Kevlar.
However, each service member might also want to supplement that issued gear with extras. Ask questions to make sure that your spouse has what they need within your budget!
- What are you expecting to be issued?
- How much of that gear are you expected to return post-deployment?
- What is your plan for keeping track of that gear?
- What else might you need beyond what you are issued?
- Are there specific brands that you prefer for these items?
- What is the estimated cost of this gear?
- How much total will your individual gear cost?
- What is your plan to pay for this gear?
- How much debt will we accrue by purchasing all of this gear new?
- Is there an option to buy some of these items used?
- Do you need all of these items? Is it realistic to take (insert item here) to (deployment location)?
- Is there a way for your to get into your deployment and then request additional items?
Pre-deployment, your partner may have expectations about what they will need or use in-country. Some items are truly needed based on prior experiences in a particular area but not issued. Others are personal preference, like a laptop set up for gaming, but not realistic for the actual deployment.
If finances are tight, you and your spouse will need to have an honest conversation about supplemental personal gear needs that fit in your budget. You don’t want to start these months with additional debt!
“Deployment Day Logistics” Questions
Everyone has a different idea about how they want departure day to look like. Clear these up and make a plan as you gear up for deployment!
- What do you want your pre-deployment leave to look like?
- What are your expectations for the weeks and days before you leave?
- Are there any special meals, experiences or activities you’d like to plan?
- What should your last night pre-deployment look like?
- What time of day are you expecting leave?
- Who do you want at your departure point?
- At what point do you want us to leave you at the departure point?
- Are there any reasons you’d like us to leave the departure point earlier than planned?
It’s very important to ask your service member how they want to be sent off for deployment.
Some people prefer to do a kiss-and-ride type goodbye: drop your person and their stuff, drive away. It prevents a long, drawn out farewell and allows everyone to focus on the mission at hand. Others prefer to have their family there for some or all of the day before buses or planes are loaded. This can help with closure and processing for everyone. And yet others want their family there to see them off, but with an escape option should emotions become overwhelming.
More than anything else, asking questions can help you and your partner to mentally, emotionally and logistically prepare for a deployment of any length.
- 11 Tips to Handle Surprise Deployment Extensions Like a Pro
- Here’s How to Deal with Long or Extended Deployments
- 9 Proven (and Easy) Ways to Hack Deployment
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!