Preparing for Deployment
Before deployment checklist
Planning to leave your friends, family and home for any period of time can be stressful, but the time before deployment can be even more difficult for service members. Getting things in order before you leave can mean dealing with things like last-minute home and auto repairs,doing a military move, handling bills and making plans for your absence (family, pets, etc.). To get everything finished before it’s time to head out, it’s helpful to have a detailed list. Here are some tips for preparing your family, home and personal matters for deployment.
Preparing for your first deployment
If this is your very first deployment, there are a couple of essential tasks that are very important (unless the information changes, you shouldn’t have to do this again for recurring deployments).
- Will — this is a legal document where a person states their wishes as to how property is to be distributed and how minor children should be cared for in the event of that person’s death. It is advised to get assistance from an attorney to ensure it will stand in a court of law.
- Power of attorney — a power of attorney gives someone the authority to act on your behalf. For example, your spouse could sell a vehicle or your parents could settle business while you’re deployed. Again, consult legal counsel when creating this document.
Preparing your family for deployment
Communication and planning is key for success when preparing members of your family for your absence. Here are some things to include them in:
- Communication plan — Once you know the expectation for communication during this deployment (you’ll learn this during a pre-deployment briefing), talk with family members about the personal expectations. Does your mom expect a weekly call? Is your spouse expecting emails but Internet service is spotty? Would you like your kids to send pictures and letters? For many families, the letters provide a great way to stay in communication as you reread them during deployment, and even keep after as keepsakes. Discuss a plan together.
- Make a plan for support — Everyone involved in a deployment needs support. You may need someone to frequently send food and treats. Or a domestic spouse may need help with the children during certain times of the week. Discuss needs and find resources for support ahead of time. Don’t forget to utilize organizations like those offered at the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR) centers on base. For those living off base, check out these organizations for military families.
- Emergency plan — The first step of an emergency plan is saving money for an emergency fund, and making sure everyone involved can access the money. Discuss what to do in the event of an emergency (either at home or abroad) including where your family would go, how to get in touch, and who should be notified. It may also be wise to discuss how much information to share (or not to share) on social media in the event that something happens abroad. It’s likely you will get information on what you’re allowed to share online in regard to Operations Security in the deployment briefing. Stick to those guidelines to maintain the integrity of the mission.
The family members that need to be included in these plans can vary based on your situation. If you have a spouse and/or children, make sure to keep them informed. But you may also want to include parents, siblings or other close family members who will serve as a support system for your family.
Preparing your home and personal matters for deployment
It’s a good idea to take care of routine home tasks you’re responsible for so they’re done in your absence. Before leaving, be sure to:
- Create care plans. Discuss arrangements for anyone or anything that needs care during deployment. Check with the military, employers or the community for resources. Discuss the plans for children, pets, parents, siblings or any dependents with any parties who will be carrying out the care in your absence.
- Complete home repair projects — Don’t leave behind a leaky faucet or a noisy air conditioner. These small issues can become bigger problems, especially throughout the duration of a deployment, so take care of anything you’re worried will cause damage or major inconvenience.
- Make a plan for regular maintenance and seasonal preparations. Changing air filters, replacing smoke detector batteries, mowing the lawn — there are so many tasks that will need to happen while you’re gone. Determine who will take care of these tasks: your spouse, a repair service, a friend. Set aside money for any tasks you’ll have to pay someone to do.
- Schedule vehicle maintenance — Similarly, make a plan for someone to complete any vehicle maintenance tasks and give them a schedule for when these should happen.
- Create a budget — Determine household expenses and either set bills up to auto-pay or create a plan for someone to pay bills for you. Because of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act [BL1] (SCRA), deployed service members have some protections (like preventing evictions) and benefits (ending a cell phone contract) that can help with budgeting. Learn more here.
- Cancel memberships — Don’t pay for subscriptions or memberships while you’re gone (unless your family will continue using them). Think about things like Netflix, magazines and gym memberships.
- Renew IDs — If your identification will expire while you’re gone, renew it before you leave.
- Check cell coverage — If you will have service during deployment, you may want to add an international plan, and if not, cancel your service.
- Talk to your college or university — If you’re deployed while taking college courses, most schools will work with you to work out the details. Depending on the advance notice you have, you may be able to take an “incomplete” in a class and finish later, work to finish coursework before you deploy, or get a refund and retake the class later.
Preparing paperwork before deployment
Whoever is helping you keep track of things while you’re deployed should be given the following information:
- Life insurance — Leave the company, policy number and contact information.
- Contact numbers — Give contact info to military officials and make sure to take important numbers with you (think spouse’s family, kid’s school or parent’s workplace).
- Other important documents: Be sure someone has access to real estate paperwork, bank account information, birth certificate, marriage license, social security card, car title, and any online passwords.
Fun things to do before deployment
Take some time to make memories with friends and family before you leave. Some ideas include:
- Taking family photos — These mementos can help with the separation.
- Get together with friends and family —Since communication may be limited, spending time together can be important. It might be a big gathering with everyone or just popping by several friend’s houses, but take time away from the checklist to see loved ones.
- Have a progressive meal — If you’re not looking forward to leaving favorite restaurants behind, go on a progressive meal. That’s where you eat a different course at each restaurant. So grab a few friends and head out to several places for a day of eating! For example, if you love the wings at a restaurant, start there for appetizers. Then grab your favorite burger at another place for the main course, and then get ice cream at your top spot for dessert.
Any other tasks to add to the pre-deployment checklist?
What things do you consider “must-dos” before deployment? Leave us a comment below!