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Although I am choosing not to think much about him leaving again, I have been thinking about everything that happened last deployment and all that I can do differently to prepare for this one. My husband may have deployment orders again, but this time I’m going to prepare. Yes, I believe you can be prepared for deployment.
Being ready for deployment is like being ready to jump off a ten story building: it’s not going to happen.
I don’t think you can ever be ready for deployment. No one wants their husband to deploy (at least I hope not), but I do believe you can be prepared and there are lots of things you can do to prepare for deployment. I learned a lot from my last deployment and I am going to share with you some ways that you can prepare for your next deployment!
Preparing for Deployment
1. Talk and Discuss.
I can’t stress this enough and that’s why it’s first on my list. As soon as your spouse gets deployment orders talk to them about how you feel and about how they feel. If they are not open to discussing it wait until they are ready and talk to a friend or family member (without going against OPSEC) about how you are feeling. When it’s time, and you both are ready make a list of everything you need to discuss about deployment and everything you will need to do while your spouse is gone. Here are some suggestions:
- How you both feel about deployment.
- Ways to cope.
- Ways you can both encourage and support each other through this deployment.
- How to tell extended family members about the orders (parents, grandparents, etc.).
- What to do if there are limited communication possibilities.
- Ways your spouse would like to communicate with you.
- How frequently you both would like to talk to each other.
- What to do if there is an emergency situation (for example: miscarriage, death of a family member, hospitalization of a family member, etc.)
- What other family members should you contact if there is an emergency?
- What to do if the car breaks down, where to take it to get it fixed, etc.
- Who will be in charge of the finances?
- How will you make it work?
- What should you do if there is an emergency situation that needs a large amount of money?
- Discuss how to pay the bills, figure out what things are going to need to be paid while your spouse is gone (for example: a lease/rent, car tags renewed, insurance problems, etc)
- Discuss if you are saving for something special; such as a post-deployment vacation, Christmas presents for the kids, or something else.
- How to tell the kids that your spouse has orders.
- How to handle/deal with discipline issues that may come up while your spouse is gone.
- Ways to help your kids through deployment.
- What to tell the kids throughout the deployment when they ask, “Where is daddy?” “When will he be home?” etc.
- How to explain OPSEC to your kids.
- Where the family will stay/travel to when your spouse is gone and for how long.
- Who will come and visit/stay while your spouse is gone and for how long.
- Who your spouse wants at the homecoming.
- Does your spouse want a homecoming party or a more quiet reception?
Our first deployment last year, was full of surprises and things I was not prepared for and that is where this list comes from. The first week after my husband left our lease ran out, my car started smoking, my family was in a car accident, and I got locked out of our main joint bank account! You can read about all that in my post The Murphy’s Law of Deployment. You can bet I had no idea how to handle all that. Did I make it through? Of course, but now I know how to be prepared should any of that stuff ever happen again!
All of that was just the beginning! Later in the deployment my son was hospitalized, my husband’s grandfather passed away and my son had to be tested for Autism. You can read more about those things and more in my posts: In One Word: Deployment and The Stuff Deployments are Made of. The point in me sharing all this it that you never know what might happen while your spouse is deployed, so it’s best to be prepared for every situation and know what to do as each problem arises.
- “Talk about expectations with one another and limited communication possibilities.” – Lauren
- “We try to talk a lot before he leaves about what we both expect as far as communication goes. Granted, we don’t know what the situation will be like until he’s there, but it’s nice to have some idea of the expectations we both have as for when we/he can talk.” – Jessica
2. Make a Plan.
I think the next best thing you can do to prepare is to make a plan. Plan out (best you can) the next months of your deployment. Decide if you are going to stay home or go abroad. Arrange travel plans the sooner the better (and cheaper). Start planning things you can do by yourself or with the kids. Start finding/interviewing sitters to help give you breaks/help you clean the house during deployment. If it’s a summer deployment start planning fun summer activities and vacations. If it’s during the school year make sure you plan around school activities.
Plan for holidays, anniversaries and birthdays. Where do you want to be – home or with family? Do you want your family to come to you? Now is the time to start planning and talking about all the possibilities with your family members.
Plan out your days if you can. Do you want to get a job during this time? Join a club? Try something new? This is the time to plan all that! There are classes out there you can do, get-togethers with friends you can plan and much much more. Start searching and planning now and fill up that calendar so that the days will go by fast during the deployment.
- “I sign up for different classes and organizations to make sure I have plenty of activities to keep me busy while he’s away.” – Jessica
- “I find it helpful to look back, remember some routines and ideas that worked and keep them in mind. This is also a good way to remind yourself the struggles the Lord brought you through in the past so you remember His strength going into it again! After all that, I then remind myself over and over that because a routine or plan worked before doesn’t mean it has to work that way this time! Every deployment is so different, the key is staying flexible and remembering Who is in control!” – She is Fierce
3. Start Saving and Buying NOW.
This is another one of those things I wished we knew about last deployment. The military gave my husband a huge list of things he needed to bring on deployment, from clothing items and uniforms to toiletries to things like backpacks and bags to carry it all over in. And let me tell you the military does not pay for the list of stuff he MUST bring over – at least not in the Air Force. We were not prepared for all the money spent on all the things he needed just to get over there.
Not only was there a list of things he needed, but I wished I had started looking around and saving for care package items before he left. Care packages are a lot more expensive than people let on and I was surprised at how much money I had to put into them. I’m not saying it’s not worth it because it definitely was, but it was a struggle to find cheap things to fill an entire box and not break our budget!
My suggestion is start as soon as you can to put away money for the things your husband is going to need. Start shopping the sales and look for items that would be good for care packages. The dollar store is a great place to start! Put any items you buy away for later and watch as your pile grows!
4. Things to do Before Your Spouse Leaves.
This is last on my list, but also very very important. Start making a list of things that need to be done before your spouse leaves on deployment. Make a list of maintenance things that need to be done around the house. Make a list of things that may need to be done on the car as well and have your spouse make sure it is in top running order before they leave.
Remember things such as:
- House maintenance.
- Car maintenance.
- Car oil changes.
- Renewing car tags before they expire.
- Renewing your home lease if you have one.
Make an appointment with the legal office to get your Power of Attorney (POA) made and also a will for both your spouse and yourself. Make sure you discuss the things you want in each of your wills before you go to the legal office as it can be embarrassing to have to make and discuss last minute decisions while someone is sitting there with you.
Discuss things such as:
- What kind of POA you will get.
- Who will take care of your children in the event something happens to both you and your spouse.
Make a list of “honey do” or maintenance things that need to be done around the house/to vehicles before he goes, update family pictures and pictures of daddy/kiddo, deployment animals/pillows (usually a trip to build a bear involved), try to set some time aside for a mini-vacation/trip or even a “stay-cation” to make special memories before he leaves, get computers/cell phones/communication devices (skype/camcorders) in top working order. He also makes sure a fully stocked emergency kit is in my car along with updating my home tool kit so I can tackle basic things without having to hunt through his tools.
I always make a deployment binder/section for my household binder that contains his deployment address, powers of attorney, updated wills, points of contact, his itinerary etc. At our other house this also included his map of how to set out the sprinklers in the spring/summer for adequate lawn watering. At this house it will included simplified directions on working the sprinkler system, when he changes the air filters etc.
We have a “finance” meeting to go over what funds he will need while there and when I will transfer etc. (I manage finances 100% of the time so there is no change of hands there, but he leaves his joint account card at home and takes one that is for a separate account and I transfer funds he needs to that card. This helps prevent us being affected in a huge way if his card is lost/stolen because I can instantly transfer all funds back to the joint account.)
Also, we update passports for all family members so that if needed we can travel out of the country. Some don’t know that for a child to be able to get a passport both parents must be present or a form must be signed and notarized by the parent not present and you have to apply for the passport within a certain time frame (30-90) days of that form being filled out.
Oh and we always grab a couple international phone cards (Sams club has the best rates) for him to use if needed during travel. – Catherine
Stay tuned for other deployment related posts such as:
- How to Get Through a Long Pre-Deployment Period
- Helping Young Children Through Deployment
What are some ways YOU start preparing for deployment? What are some lessons you learned your first deployment that helped you prepare for the next one(s)?