In today’s post, I want to share my military pre-deployment checklist for service members and their families.
Let’s keep it real for a minute. If you serve in the military, in any capacity, there is a HIGH likelihood you will deploy at some point. This could include a short three-to-six-month deployment or even a 12 to 18-month deployment. Deployments are difficult for the service members and the families they leave behind. While the deployed service member can focus on the mission, the people at home constantly worry, while maintaining the home, and doing the work of TWO people.
From personal experience (two combat zone deployments) I’ve discovered that “a little bit of” preparation goes a long way. There are certain simple things you can do to make life easier for everyone.
This is a DETAILED military pre-deployment checklist. It provides a list of things service members, and their families should do prior to a deployment. Some of these tasks will be done at the unit level, and other tasks are the service member’s or family member’s responsibility. I’ve tried to sort these tasks into three categories: family, finances, and personal tasks.
Military Pre-Deployment Checklist for Service Members & Their Families
The first category is family. This is easily the most important category. If you can this area under control, you will have far fewer worries and stress during your deployment. Plus, your family members will have fewer worries while you are away.
# 1: Establish Your Communication Plan & Expectations
Prior to deploying, ensure your friends and family know your communication plan. Tell them how you’d like to communicate with them, and how often. Provide several ways to communicate with you, such as your best email, Facebook, or SKYPE account. Also, let them know they know they might not hear from you every single day, due to mission requirements.
Lay out communication expectations before your service member deploys. There’s nothing worse than a spouse assuming communication will be constant throughout the deployment when the service member may not be in a position to call more than once a week; if at all. ~ Military Benefits
# 2: Join the Family Readiness Group
The military is considerate of families of deploying service members. Most units have a Family Readiness Group in place. The Family Readiness Group provides support for family members of deploying service members. This could include spouses and children, parents, and siblings.
The Family Readiness Group will help keep the family up to date on pertinent information pertaining to the unit. They also have activities and meetings to keep everyone connected. It is important to have your family “actively” participate in the FRG prior to deploying.
The goals and objectives for commanders in executing the SFRG include: serve as an extension of the unit command in providing official and accurate command information to Soldiers and their Families; connect Soldiers and families to the chain of command; connect SFRG members to available on-and off-post community resources, and offer a network of mutual support.” ~ Army.mil
# 3: Create a Contact List for You & Your Spouse
Create a primary ‘contact’ list for you and your spouse (if applicable). Include the contact information of everyone you might want to contact. This could include phone numbers, emails, Facebook accounts, and mailing addresses. If everyone knows how to stay in touch, communication will be better.
# 4: Spend Time with Your Family, Friends, & Loved Ones
Spend as much quantity and quality time with your friends, family, and loved ones as you can before you deploy. Tell them that you love them. Make sure they know how you feel about them. If possible, go on a mini vacation with them and create some fantastic memories.
# 5: Have a Plan for Your Pets
If you have a cat, dog, or pet, make sure you have a plan in place of who will take care of it while you are gone. Make sure you choose someone trustworthy, so you know your pet is well cared for with them. Draft up a written contract with them, so you are both on the same terms.
If you decide on fostering, check with relatives, friends and others on or near your base to see if anyone is willing to foster your pet. Use every means at your disposal: Facebook pages, base bulletin boards, church bulletins.
We recommend that you create a foster care agreement for your pet. With a formal agreement in place, everyone involved knows what the expected level of care is for your pet. ~ Resources.Bestfriends
# 6: Close Out Your Apartment
If you have a family that lives with you, this tip won’t apply. However, if you are single, you should consider closing out your apartment (or renting out your home) and putting everything in storage while you are away. That way you can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars per month while you are deployed.
# 7: Talk to Your Pastor or Marriage Counselor
If you’ve never been apart from your spouse (or partner) before for any amount of time, you should talk with the Chaplain, a marriage counselor, or even another military couple who has experienced a deployment together. These professionals will give you some great ideas for keeping your marriage/relationship healthy while one person is away.
Although absence can make the heart grow fonder, it can also expose what was already an unhealthy relationship. If you truly love your spouse, take the time and get some marriage counseling to help you prepare for the issues that are related with a long deployment.
# 8: Children
Deployments are typically difficult on children. Be sure and spend quality time with them before you leave. Make sure you explain to them why you are leaving.
If you pay child support, be sure and have a system in place to keep payments regular. Make sure and contact your kids often. Once a week is ideal. Use Skype and mail. Remember, our children are our future.
The parent or relative who’s about to be deployed should try to spend as much extra time as possible with your child, at the park or reading books at night. Choose fun activities that create lasting memories. Another strategy is for the soldier to leave something of himself behind. Major Lemmon put some of his T-shirts in his son’s bed as a comfort and a reminder that his absence was temporary. ~ Baby Center
# 9: Create an Automatic Savings Plan
For most service members, they will earn more money on a deployment than when they are at home. I suggest you produce an automated savings plan, so you can save some of this extra money. You should come home from a deployment in a BETTER financial situation than when you left. Don’t leave this to chance. Automate your investments and debt reduction plan.
# 10: Set Up an Automatic Bill Payment System
I mentioned the mail earlier and bills sometimes come in the mail. I suggest you set the bills up to be paid automatically from your bank account.
Whether it is loan payments or utility bills, they must be paid. Make sure and discuss it with your loved ones so you have a good system of paying the bills.
# 11: Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions
Take a close look at your monthly bills. Are there any subscriptions you can eliminate? Some examples might include:
- Internet or Cable
- Gym Membership
- Cell Phone
- Magazine Subscriptions
- Car Insurance (modify it, not cancel)
This could save you a substantial amount of money while you are deployed.
# 12: Your Will / Living Will / Power of Attorney
Take the time and draft up your will, living will, and power of attorney. You can hire a lawyer to help you or do it yourself online. Make sure you have these updated documents. More importantly, ensure your loved ones know what your final wishes are in case you die. Give a copy of these documents to someone you trust and keep a copy yourself.
No one like this topic, but you have to prepare for the worst. A will ensures that you decide what happens to your children, assets, property, and belongings in the event of your death and keeps the court from making those important decisions. If you already have a will, review it before you leave for deployment to ensure it’s still accurate. ~ Semi Delicate Balance
Your will, living will, and POA could easily be the three most important documents in your military pre-deployment checklist.
# 13: Update Your Life Insurance
Update your life insurance. Get the highest amount possible through the military that you can. Depending on your financial situation and family size, you might want to consider purchasing additional life insurance. Talk to a local insurance agency and get a quote. Ideally, you want your family well cared for in case something happens to you.
# 14: Taxes
Depending on how long your deployment is, taxes still must be done by mid-April every year. How will you have this done?
Many service members simply hire a personal accountant to do it for them. Others have their spouses take care of the taxes. Just be sure that someone has a power of attorney so they can sign on the dotted line in case you can’t do them yourself.
The easiest way to deal with taxes during deployment is to establish your power of attorney beforehand. Switching your power of attorney may seem like a daunting task, but it’s typically a simple one you can knock it out in a few days.
The attorney-in-fact will be able to file your taxes for you if you will be deployed during tax season. If you will be returning right before tax day though, be sure to resume your power of attorney and file your taxes on your own. ~ Veteran’s United
# 15: Get in Shape
Deployments are physically demanding. In most cases you will work long hours, 12-16 hours each day, six to seven days a week. That amount of work will burn you out fast, especially if you aren’t in shape.
I think it’s a wise idea to get in shape prior to deploying. Of course, you’re supposed to be in shape anyway. But I highly recommend you adjust your diet and drop those few extra pounds (if you need to). This will give you more energy and stamina during your deployment.
I’ve found that one of two things normally happen when you deploy. You either gain a lot of weight or you lose a lot of weight. Do yourself a favor and get in shape before you deploy.
I can tell you from personal experience that when I deployed to Iraq in 2003 we were working 16 to 18-hour days, seven days a week. If I hadn’t been in good shape, it would have been next to impossible to fulfill my work requirements.
# 16: Do Something on Your Bucket List
This tip might sound crazy to some people, but I think it makes sense. Do something neat for yourself, preferably something on your bucket list, prior to deploying. Do something you’ve always wanted to do, but never done before. Go skydiving, scuba diving, take a fishing trip, visit a cool place, rent a motorcycle for a week, etc.
# 17: Vehicle
If you are single, you will want to consider what you will do with your vehicle. Will you store it, or allow someone to use it while you are gone?
If you are married, will your spouse use the vehicle? You may want to explain certain things about it, like checking oil and such.
Keep in mind the insurance too. How will it be paid each month, or will you adjust the insurance and put your vehicle in storage until you return?
# 18: Set Some Goals
Prior to your deployment, set a few goals for things you want to accomplish while you are deployed. You want to take some online college classes. You want to author a book while you are deployed. Brainstorm three or four things you want to achieve during your deployment, prioritize them, and produce a plan to make it happen.
# 19: Learn About the Country You Will be Deploying To
Whether you are deploying to Iraq, Afghanistan, or another country, take the time and educate yourself about that country. Read a few books about the country. Learn about the language, customs, and courtesies of that country. If nothing else, this will give you a better understanding of the environment you are about to be in.
# 20: Start Your Own Support Group
It’s important to have your own support group during a deployment. Obviously, this would include your spouse (if married), your parents (if living), and any close friends.
I think it’s important to have a few people you can talk with throughout your deployment. These folks will help keep you motivated, feeling loved, and sane.
Reach out to people at your church. Perhaps find a pen pal. Let your closest friends know you’d like to chat with them frequently.
Of course, you will have your friends in your unit while you are deployed. That will help. But’s important to have a few non-military people in your support group as well.
# 21: Establish Your Personal Development Plan
One of the best things about a deployment is that you get time to determine what is important to you. You get time to think about what you want to do with your life. That was my experience anyway.
I suggest you produce a list of books you want to read during your deployment and order them ahead of time. Consider doing a vision board. Try finding a mentor you can talk with from time-to-time during your deployment.
Think about what you want to achieve personally during your deployment. Do you want to:
- Earn a degree
- Get certified in something
- Author a book
- Learn a new skill
- Or something else?
Of all the things I list on my military pre-deployment checklist, this is the one thing that gets overlooked the most, yet is one of the most important things you should do.
# 22: Mail
If it’s junk mail, who cares? But there are important pieces of mail. You may be able to forward your mail to your deployment location, but it is easier to have it forwarded to someone you trust and have them mail all the important stuff to you.
In conclusion, these 22 things make up my military pre-deployment checklist. If you know you will be deploying soon, or there is a good chance it could happen, I encourage you to be productive and complete the things on my military pre-deployment checklist ahead of time. This will save you time, money, work, frustration, and even heart ache.
What are your thoughts about my military pre-deployment checklist? Am I missing something? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.
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