How to Prepare for a National Guard Deployment

If you are currently serving in the Army National Guard, there is a good chance that you might get deployed at some point in time.

Since the Global War on Terrorism began more than ten years ago, more and more Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers have been deployed overseas.

Many of these Soldiers have deployed 2, 3 or even 4 or more times.

I truly believe that if you are mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually prepared to deploy it makes things much easier for you and for your family.

I deployed to Kosovo in 2006-2007 for 16 months and the experience taught me several valuable lessons that I would like to share with you today.

These tips are listed in no particular order.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

  1. 10 Important Pre-Deployment Considerations
  2. The Unit Movement Officer Deployment Planning Course: An Overview
  3. Top 7 Mistakes Soldiers Make During Deployments
  4. How to Prepare Your Family for an Army Deployment
  5. Career Advice for Army Soldiers Coming Back from Deployments

# 1 Create a Financial Game Plan with Your Spouse, Partner or Parent

The first and most critical thing to do is to get your finances in order.

You should sit down with your spouse or loved one and talk about money.

You need to have some “hard” conversations.

Make sure that you do the following things:

  • Create a family budget for while you are away
  • Determine who will pay the bills
  • Update your will, living will and Power of Attorney
  • Set up bills, investments, and savings for automatic payment
  • Research the Roth IRA, Thrift Savings Plan, and 401k programs
  • Come up with a debt repayment plan
  • Sit down with a CPA or financial planner and develop a financial game plan

Without a doubt, money is the single greatest stress factor for most Soldiers and family members while they areNational Guard deployment deployed.

Getting your finances straight BEFORE you deploy will eliminate most of these problems.

And whatever you do, make sure you develop a plan to SAVE money while you are deployed.

That way you can pay off debt, fund a college fund, or have a down payment to buy a home when you return.

The last thing you want to do is deploy for 6 to 18 months and have nothing to show for it financially.

# 2 Get In Shape

Deployments are physically demanding.

In most cases you will work long hours, maybe 12-16 hours each day six to seven days a week.

That amount of work can 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 help give you more energy and stamina.

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.

So, do yourself a favor and get in shape before you leave.

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.

# 3 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 might want to talk to 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 some time and get some marriage counseling to help you prepare for the issues that are related with a long deployment.

# 4 Start Your Own Support Group

All Army units are supposed to have some type of Family Support Group.

If your unit has one, get involved.

If you don’t want to get involved with your unit’s Family Support Group (or they don’t have one) try to find 3-5 friends that can provide emotional support during the deployment.

This can be your friends or current family members.

I highly suggest that you find at least 3 military spouses (of the same gender) to connect with.

That way you have friends who can relate to what you are going through.

If possible, try to form strong relationships with these people before the deployment, so you are comfortable talking and socializing with them while your spouse is away.

Final Thoughts

Please keep in mind that these tips are geared toward how to prepare for a National Guard Deployment, not necessarily Active Duty Soldiers.

Once you actually get deployed, problems will still arise.

It’s inevitable.

You’ll have to deal with these issues as they happen.

But having a game plan and being prepared ahead of time will definitely make things that much easier.

One last tip…have a Skype account setup for you and your spouse.

This is a great way to stay in constant contact.

How about you?

What tips can you recommend to our readers for preparing for a National Guard deployment?

Just leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

I look forward to hearing from you.

10 thoughts on “How to Prepare for a National Guard Deployment”

  1. In many of your blogs, Chuck, you talk about having goals. Nowhere is that more important I think than when you deploy with the National Guard or Army Reserve. It doesn’t matter the location to which you are deploying – combat or peace, natural disaster or widespread emergency – your off-time goals should be an important part of what you do while there.The goals, as always, need to be realistic, taking into account the fact that you might not have much free time when deployed. You do, however, need to have a general focus while still being flexible enough to perform at your peak. Whether you just want to visit a nearby famous site or learn yoga from a book, having goals for your deployment off-time can generate a whole different type of excitement for the deployed soldier.

  2. Deployments from reserve or guard units are as much about preparing your spouse and family as it is mentally preparing yourself. The more work you put in before you leave i.e Will, Power of attorney, having bills ready to pay the easier the deployment will be on you and your family. If you have a great plan it will take a load off of both parties.
    Now, something will go wrong, something always goes wrong. Make sure your family knows who to contact. Give them several points of contact including support groups and someone at the unit. Just having the knowledge that they are in the loop will help a lot.

  3. Great post Chuck!

    I believe every service member should, at all times, be prepared for deployment. I agree that the #1 thing that should be on the list is finances. This is where communication is super important. What happens in so many cases is the spouse who is deploying handles so much of the financial things in the family, that the spouse is clueless when deployment happens. Everything needs to be covered from paying bills, to taxes and bank accounts. I believe that there should even be a “rehearsal” so to speak. Let the spouse do those chores for a time period, and then discuss problems and ways to overcome them.

    Also, by all means have a support group!

    1. So true, Greg. Both partners need to sit down and try to discuss everything they can think of. Identify who will be responsible for what and when. Do some rehearsals. Talk about your concerns. It’s better to hash these things out ahead of time than try to figure it out once you are already deployed.

  4. Amy Skalicky

    Preparation is vital, and all of these are excellent points. Deployment is stressful, and any steps that can be taken to secure things on the home front means less unnecessary stress soldiers take with them. Being able to focus on the mission and not be preoccupied with what may be happening on the other side of the ocean provides much needed relief, as well as enables soldiers to focus their attention on what’s at hand.

    Preparation activities should also include the kids. Deployment is tough on kids, and there are many things that can be put in place to comfort them and make the deployment experience more successful for them. Have many conversations with them beforehand, answering questions as simply and honestly as you can and reassuring them as much as possible. There are many good books and movies available to share with them as well. I particularly like the book “The Kissing Hand” which creates a comforting good-bye ritual.

    Kids also find comfort in special, tangible items like blankets, bears, pillows, and pictures that they can hold close or snuggle with. My daughter still has her “Daddy Blanket”, a camouflage blanket with her dad’s name embroidered on it, given to her during his first deployment with the Guard. I also got her a pillow with her dad’s picture on it, and did the same for him, except with her picture on it. That way they could still snuggle up with their favorite person at bedtime. We have a countdown jar as well. For every day he is to be gone, we fill a large jar with that many marbles. A marble gets transferred to an empty jar each day he is gone, and when the first jar gets lower than the second jar, excitement starts building, because now we are the downhill side of the separation!

    Regular contact is also important. Skype still amazes me, and my daughter referred to it the other day as “a window that I can see my daddy in”. Very cool perspective. We also write letters, send emails, send boxes each month, and video tape messages regularly. I include school papers in the box so that he can stay up-to-date with her.

    There are lots of great ideas out on the web for helping kids deal with deployment. Take a look and pick a few meaningful ones that work for your family.

  5. This is good advice. I am sure deployment is scary, but also exciting. While the Soldier can get themselves prepared, there are so many other things that have to be ironed out with your partner. Laying the groundwork ahead of time certainly helps for when the unexpected pops up during deployment (which always seems to happen).

    1. So true, Rick. You definitely want to lay out the groundwork about the finances and everything else BEFORE you deploy. The two people need to be on the same sheet of paper.

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