Top 7 Mistakes Soldiers Make During Deployments

Today, I want to share 7 common mistakes that Soldiers make during deployments.  Of course, not all of these mistakes will apply to every Soldier during every deployment.  If anything, these are trends that I have noticed through the past few years.

1. Not Saving Money! – This is hands down the biggest mistake I see most Soldiers make while they are deployed.  Most, not all, Soldiers earn more money on deployments than they do at home 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 or more per month.  Get rid of as many expenses as possible before you deploy and save the money for retirement or build up your emergency fund.  Use that money to buy assets when you get home, not go out and buy a new overpriced car!

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 most Soldiers either gain 10-30 pounds during a deployment or they get 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.

3. Not Staying in Touch with Family – With technology there is NO excuse not to stay in touch with loved ones on a daily basis.  While I was deployed (before Facebook was so popular) I wrote one email a day, sent one letter a day and made one call a day.  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.

4. Becoming Complacent – Many Soldiers get complacent.  Once you’ve been on a Forward Operation Base (FOB) for a period of time, 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.  Always stay vigilant!

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 deployment.  Spend some time and really 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.

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.

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.

Final Thoughts

In summary, these are the top 7 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.

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7 thoughts on “Top 7 Mistakes Soldiers Make During Deployments”

  1. I find it interesting that some soldiers gain weight while on deployment. When my dad deployed to Vietnam in 1969, I remember the pictures he sent home. In each set, he got skinnier and skinnier. While he was fit, he certainly wasn’t muscular, and by the time he came home, we almost didn’t recognize him.

    As for keeping in touch, he and Mom wrote to each other every single week he was deployed. When he traveled during his deployment, he would send us kids post cards from the different places he saw. I wish we all still had those letters and cards. What a marvelous historical and personal military collection that would be. We do still have the slides and pictures. My favorite is a slide of the little patch of grass and the flowerbed he planted outside the door of his Quonset hut using seeds Mom sent him.

  2. I think that largely, it makes sense to 1. save money, and 2. exercise. If you don’t save money, expenses at home will build up and moreover, you’ll have nothing to spend on leave! Additionally, staying in shape is even more important. You have a job that requires peak physical fitness – and it’s the Soldier’s responsibility to uphold that.

  3. The one I was most guilty of was not traveling enough. It's my biggest regret in regards to my deployments.

    As for the money. You should be saving at least the extra money you're getting i.e. the taxes, the combat pay. That's at a minimum. Talk to someone about your finances before you go.

    My first deployment was the first time I started writing for real. I wrote a book and a screenplay while deployed for six months. Fun Fact: My comrades did a table read of my screenplay the night before we left and it's one of my fondest memories. I have now written a book that has been published and it all traces back to my deployments.

    PS: Have a power of attorney and a will you are happy with before you go and KEEP THEM UPDATED. You don't want your finances in your ex-wife's hands.

  4. I remember when my brother was deployed. He was in a dry country (so he wasn’t spending his money on beer & booze) and being single his money was his own. He tucked it all in the bank and when he got home he went out and bought a truck, which allowed him to save on interest and insurance.I also remember that the letters and phone calls were pretty frequent and then tapered off to practically nothing. Perhaps that was part of becoming complacent and used to being away?

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