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.
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- Top 7 Mistakes Soldiers Make During Deployments
- How to Prepare Your Family for an Army Deployment
- 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 are 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.
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.
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.