The military doesn’t always give you advance warning for a deployment. While some service members have months to prepare, there are other times when a service member is asked to fill a deployment spot and leave the country within a week. If this happens to you, don’t panic. Here are some practical ways to prepare for deployment in a hurry.
Do the legal paperwork: The most important thing to do before a deployment is to complete paperwork. The service member can do most of this on their own with a visit to the unit Admin section or the base Legal office. At a minimum, they should update their will, sign a power of attorney for their spouse to handle things in their absence, and update their Record of Emergency Data which names those who should be informed in case of an emergency during deployment. The spouse can complete a Family Care Plan if they have children. This document should be filed with the unit’s Family Readiness office, and should include the names of those who would step in to temporarily take care of children in case something happens to the spouse during deployment.
Know your rights: If quick deployment orders require you to break a lease or terminate a contract, know that the Servicemember Civil Relief Act protects military families from being charged extra fees. Termination fees should be waived if a contract is broken because of deployment. Keep a copy of the deployment orders handy in case you end up fighting a landlord or utility company over termination fees.
Discuss a budget: Deployments can change a household budget dramatically. Some deployments have additional income because of separation pay and combat locations. Other times, service members lose money on deployment because they are charged extra for meals, internet or international phone plans. If you don’t have time to list a full budget with your partner, then at least discuss the basics: Who is responsible for paying bills? How and when are they each paid? How should the service member access their money while overseas? And is there anything major you want to save for or pay off as a couple?
Get your house in order: No, we don’t mean cleaning. We’re referring to general maintenance of your home and vehicle. Taking care of little things now may help prevent expensive, frustrating situations during deployment. Take note of anything that needs to be maintained or repaired over the next few months—oil change, tire rotation, cleaning out gutters, fixing appliances. It may not seem like a high priority right before deployment, but anything you fix now will prevent tremendous headaches down the road. Taking care of problems with two adults will be much easier than handling it alone.
Divide and conquer: Before deployment, the service member will be busy completing paperwork, packing and doing essential tasks for their unit. The spouse may feel unable to help in military matters, but they can still do things on the pre-deployment checklist. Focus on working together to face this challenge as a team. Consider splitting up the tasks to get more accomplished. Perhaps you can get the car’s oil changed while the service member packs, or they can give you a list of supplies to purchase while they are completing paperwork. For more ideas, check out Plan My Deployment, which has a pre-deployment checklist you can use.
Plan some support: No one should go through deployment on their own. You will need to build a support system. For many people, that includes family members, fellow military spouses, and a list of handymen or friendly neighbors who can help in emergencies. Even if you live far from a base with no family nearby, you can still find support at local church groups, classes at the gym, or a playdate group for fellow moms. Start asking for help now and anticipate specific needs you will have during the deployment. Are you moving during the deployment? Is there a good month for family to visit? Will you need help with meals after a medical procedure? Think through some possible emergency scenarios and consider who you would call. If you don’t already have their number in your phone, get it!
Simplify your routines: When you are the only adult at home, it’s difficult to keep up with everything. Start thinking now about ways to make your life easier. Discuss with your service member whether it is possible to hire help for tasks like lawn care, childcare, house cleaning, or grocery delivery. If there’s no room in the budget, think about ways to cut back on commitments or time-consuming activities so you can focus on essential priorities.
Preparing for a short-notice deployment may feel like a stressful whirlwind of activities, but if you take deep breaths and conquer one task at a time, you can accomplish a lot. The more time you take to prepare and organize, the more confident you will feel during deployment.