It’s very common for military families who are moving to a new unit or squadron and then get deployment orders quickly. In our squadron, we expect that the new guys coming in will get orders within the first 2 weeks upon their arrival into the squadron. This can certainly create some chaos in the lives of both the service member deploying and the spouse left at home. Not only are you all adjusting to a new squadron, but you’re likely preparing for your first deployment. It goes without saying that this can create a stressful situation both at home and at work.
Sometimes, you can think you’ve got it all taken care of – you’ve got the POA, you know who the Shirt or Ombudsman is. Have the names for all the FRG leaders. You know where Airman and Family Readiness is. You’ve checked out what different resources you have available to you and what discounts and services you can get at home while your service member is deployed.
Those are all good things! But if your home looks anything like mine, it’s likely something got forgotten or missed in the chaos of changing squadrons and prepping for deployment. The first time my husband deployed, I didn’t even know what a First Shirt was – let alone how important they could be if I needed help while my husband was deployed. And I know I wasn’t alone in my experience. I had a friend and neighbor show up on my doorstep one Saturday morning pale as a ghost and crying. She told me that she had just gotten word that her grandfather died suddenly and unexpectedly. Her husband had just left on his first deployment and she had no idea how to even get a message to him about it. Didn’t know the Shirt, didn’t know the Key Spouses. Thankfully, she knew the commander’s wife’s name and number, so I sat her down and called the commander’s wife with her and we got the process started to have a chaplain go talk with her husband. Watching everything that happened in that few hours was terrifying to me. Things can go sideways quickly at home, and you need to be informed and prepared in the event that they do. So, here’s three tips to be better prepared when they do.
- Know your important contacts! Sometimes it’s tough to keep track of what numbers you would call if youneeded something while your spouse was deployed. First Sergeants change, commanders change, FRG leaders change … you get the picture. Also, I’ve found that military members are notorious for not sharing enough information with their spouses. A Brigadier General told me once that he’s never met a service member who wasn’t guilty of this. He said that he encourages his troops to share pertinent information with their spouses – but then fails to do so himself sometimes. I have a theory that this is because the military member wants to be able to leave work “at work.” But this often leaves spouses somewhat clueless. So, empower yourself. Make sure you have phone numbers saved to your contacts in your phone. Stress to your spouse how important it is that you know the important numbers within the squadron and other support members around the base.
- Use your resources! I can’t stress this enough. At our base, spouses are encouraged to attend pre-deployment briefings. DO IT! A wealth of information is given at these meetings – anything from MFLAC availability to GreenCare for Troops. They will tell you what specific resources are available for the families staying behind. An example of this is at our base you get 10 hours of free childcare, a free oil change, information for free lawn services, and many other useful tips for making it at home. These briefings are partially intended as an information session that the service member is supposed to bring home and share with his/her spouse – but let’s be realistic, they’ve got a LOT going on to get mission and deployment ready and what is important to you might not necessarily stand out to them, so you might not get that information unless you go out and actively seek it!
- Have a support system (or be willing to build one quickly)! I’ve known Military Spouses who have had to rely on virtual strangers to get them through a homefront problem during their spouse’s deployment. Make sure you have someone you can call in case of an emergency (like the one I mentioned above with the death of a family member). Have a plan in place in the event that you got ill or injured and needed to go to a hospital. Make it a point to get to know your neighbors in case you need help of some kind. This could, often, mean stepping outside of your comfort zone, but if/when things do go sideways mid-deployment, you’ll be glad you made the effort to have a basic support network built up while your spouse is away!
About the Author
Joy Draper has been an Air Force wife for the last seven years. She serves as a Key Spouse with her squadron and has been actively involved in the development of the Spouses Resilience Program at Offutt AFB. She has been married eleven years and has a ten year old daughter and five year old son.
Joy’s family has been through nine deployments ranging from 60-220 days. She is actively involved with the Military Spouse Advocacy Network as the Deployment & Reintegration Coordinator. She blogs about parenting, deployment and reintegration issues, and the reality of what life is as an Air Force family. You can check her blog out at throughitallandthensome.blogspot.com or email her at email@example.com.
The thoughts and opinions posted here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of AAFMAA.