In today’s post, I’d like to share what I believe are the top 10 military deployment mistakes. These are common mistakes many (but, not all) service members make while deployed. Some are easy to do. Others are just poor judgement. If you’re currently deployed, or will be in the near future, I hope you can avoid these common military deployment mistakes.
Top 10 Military Deployment Mistakes
Here are 10 things some service members mess up while they are deployed.
1. Not Saving Money!
This is easily the biggest mistake I see most Soldiers make while they are deployed. Most service members earn more money on deployments than they do at home or in their civilian job. Add in the fact that the money is tax free (in a combat zone), and you can see why.
Ideally, you should draft up a savings plan prior to deploying. Find a way to save $500 to $1,000 or more per month, minimum. Get rid of as many expenses as possible before you deploy and save the money for retirement or to build up your emergency fund. Even better, use the money to get out of debt. Pay off those high interest credit cards. Or use that extra money to buy assets when you get home, not go out and buy a new overpriced car that will depreciate in value!
I’ve known some Soldiers who saved $30k to $40k during a one year deployment and I’ve met other Soldiers who were foolish with their extra money and spent it all! Save and invest that money. You should NEVER return from a deployment in worse financial shape than you were in when you left!
As much as you may like eating out or getting haircuts, sometimes you have to buckle down and cut out unnecessary expenses. If you are losing money during deployment, cutting out expenses that aren’t necessities can add a few (or a few hundred) dollars into your budget every month, and every little bit counts.
Go through your budget from the last few months, and see where you can make some changes. I guarantee that there will be something that you can cut out, just for the short term. Then, take the money you are saving on the expenses, and throw it into a savings account. ~ Add Vodka
2. Gaining Weight
There’s an old saying that by the end of your deployment you will either be able to bench press 300 pounds, or you will weigh 300 pounds. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve noticed that many Soldiers either gained 10 to 30 pounds during a deployment or they got in the best shape they have ever been in. The bottom line is to pay attention to what you eat and watch your health. Food from the DFAC is typically loaded with carbs and isn’t all that healthy for you. Eat in moderation. Exercise regularly. Weigh in daily to monitor your weight.
3. Not Staying in Touch with Family
With modern technology there is NO excuse not to stay in touch with loved ones. While I was deployed (before Facebook was around) I wrote one email a day, sent one letter a day, and made one call a day to my fiancee, now wife. You don’t have to be so extreme but be disciplined to stay in touch with the people you love. Don’t make them worry about how you are doing. Communicate often. It will strengthen your relationships.
You can Facetime, do ZOOM, send emails, or whatever else. I personally believe that sending hand written letters will have the biggest positive impact in your relationship, because of the personal touch.
4. Becoming Complacent
Many Soldiers get complacent while they are deployed. Once you’ve been on a Forward Operation Base (FOB) for a few months, you get comfortable. It’s easy to let your guard down and think nothing will happen to you. I did this a few times on my deployments, but fortunately I was aware of it and fixed my problem! The day you let your guard down is the day something bad can happen to you and your troops. Always stay vigilant!
Even if things are “relaxed” where you are assigned, never forget there is an enemy out there who wants to kill you. Letting your guard down for even a few minutes can cost you your life.
Complacency is common to any unit regardless of branch, deployment status or any other circumstance. Just recently we redeployed from Afghanistan, where I discussed complacency in detail with my unit’s key leaders. Our main approach was to insist on high standards in everything. My 1SG and I knew that high standards had to start with us. The high standards worked their way down through the platoon sergeants and platoon leaders to every Soldier. When leaders set the example, peer pressure works for your unit. ~ Junior Officer.Army.mil
5. No Personal Development
Some of you will disagree with this one, but I think it’s important to focus on your personal development during your military deployment. Spend some time and think about what you want in life and in your career. Take a college class. Teach a college class. Read a lot of books. Find ways to improve as a person and leader. Make it a point to read daily. Watch some inspirational videos. Learn new skills. Take the time to analyze and reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and determine which areas you need to focus on improving.
6. Not Traveling When Given the Opportunity
On some deployments, you will get the opportunity to travel to other countries, either on a short R&R trip or on leave. Seize these opportunities whenever possible. In most cases, the travel is free or low cost, and it gives you an opportunity to see countries and places you might not otherwise get to visit. For example, while I was deployed to Kosovo, I got the opportunity to visit Hungary, Bulgaria, and Macedonia. Those are countries I never would have visited on my own.
7. Not Exercising Enough
I understand you might have a high OPTEMPO but be disciplined enough to stay in shape. Work out every day. Run. Lift weights. Do lots of push-ups and sit-ups. Don’t let yourself go. You need to be in shape, so you have the ENERGY and STAMINA to work long hours and get your job done.
If this is a struggle for you, find an accountability partner you can team up with. Go to the gym with them. Work out and run with them. This will help keep you motivated and on track.
8. Not “Thinking & Reflecting” About Life
You will spend a lot of time alone while you are deployed. This is a great time to think about your career and life. What do you want to achieve in life? What do you want to do in your military career? What is most important to you? Who do you want to become as a person? This “alone” time will be very beneficial if you make the time to evaluate your past, present, and future life.
9. Not Journaling
I believe every Soldier should keep a daily journal while they are deployed. If you do decide to keep a journal, it will be a valuable resource to you in the future. Write down your thoughts and ideas. Write down what you did each day. This can keep you motivated and also give you inspiration.
As a record of your personal history — all the events, decisions and important people who make you the person you are now are in your journal. Keeping an accurate and complete personal history can be extremely useful. By remembering who you were yesterday, you can avoid making the same mistake today. ~ Medium.com
Most service members don’t do this, but it can happen. You will get lonely. You will miss your loved ones. It’s easy to be tempted by the opposite sex while you are deployed. Don’t let it happen to you, especially if you are married. Not only can you get yourself in trouble with your military career, but it can cost you a lot of money, and destroy the relationships you have with your loved ones. Why throw away a relationship with someone you love because of a poor act of judgement?
In summary, these are the top 10 mistakes that Soldiers make during deployments, as I see it. If you are deployed, or are about to deploy, please evaluate yourself in each area to see where you stand. That way you don’t make any of these mistakes yourself.
What are your thoughts? What mistakes do you think Soldiers make during deployments? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you. Hooah!
Former Army Major (resigned)
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2 thoughts on “Military Deployment Mistakes: Things Not to Do When Deployed”
Deployment is definitely challenging, wherever you. You have to take care of your troops, including Officers, by giving them at least one day off a week whether they’re in a leadership role or not. If you don’t give them days off, they’ll start getting burned out and it’ll destroy the unit cohesion. There are times when you won’t get rest for some time because of the mission. However, if you don’t give them rest while there’s nothing crazy going on, you’ll start to see Soldiers’ work performance worsening.
I most definitely agree to that Matthew. Everybody needs to rest after all the training and hard work that they have done all throughout the week. Having at least one day off would raise the morale high and make them more energetic the following work week.