“I never imagined I’d be eating at a Burger King in Baghdad!” said a U.S. Army soldier. Expect the unexpected.
Thoughts may be racing as you get ready to deploy overseas, but my advice is to always remember to be prepared
for anything and everything.
The impact a deployment has on you as a service member and your family and friends can be overwhelming, and
dealing with separation and lack of communication can cause stress and anxiety. However, being sensitive and
understanding the feelings of your family members and friends can help alleviate some tension. Everyone deals
with situations differently and there are many ways to not only cope, but to be optimistic while being deployed.
When you first receive deployment orders, you may have a checklist of items (that need to be completed before
deploying. Completing those tasks are top priority, as well as recognizing the possible affects your separation may
have on you and on your family and friends. There are signs to look out for so that you and your spouse will be
better equipped at dealing with situations as they arise.
As you are completing unit tasks and training in preparation for your departure, you must also be aware of your
mental and physical health. You will be given a health check and immunizations, depending on your shot record
and country of deployment. Training will continue and unit morale should build stronger, because you will count on
your fellow comrades for support in and off of the battlefield.
After completing your last-minute tasks you should also consider purchasing a few additional items. It’s up to your
unit Commander as to how much you are allowed to take. The Commander may suggest that you bring baby wipes,
medicine, personal hygiene items, and batteries. What you can bring is entirely up to your unit. But do not worry
because there are PX stores all over the bases, offering you everything from Oreos and other Western snacks to
razors, shampoo and an array of personal hygiene items. The stores also sell electronics, such as portable DVD
players and a large selection of movies. There is no shortage of goodies and entertainment options with the PX.
The stores keep getting bigger and the stock keeps increasing.
A “Goodbye” ceremony commences, and before you know it you’re on a C-130 landing in Iraq or Afghanistan. You
said your goodbyes and your children may or may not have understood where you were going and what was
happening. Communications with family may be minimal at first as you settle in. While deployed, it is recommended
to write as often as you can. Even if you don’t have the time to type each letter and send it in an e-mail, it may help
just to get your feelings down on paper. There are U.S. Post offices on nearly every military installation overseas,
so you should have no problem sending letters to loved ones.
Initially adjusting to the change in climate, time differences and overall environment can be difficult, but soon a
routine may develop and the situation may be less of a shock to your system. Listen to the unit briefings. Be careful
to follow instructions as advised. The service members briefing you know what they are talking about. If you are
advised not to drink the water or even brush your teeth with the local water – LISTEN! Many service members get
some type of the stomach flu while adjusting to the new country they are in.
Although you are busy working and completing your missions, when you have a little time off, take advantage of the
recreational activities on the base. The military has made great strides in boosting morale among service members.
Don’t be surprised if you drive by a Palace in your HUMVEE to see soldiers swimming in the pools. There are also
gyms available and movie nights for those who have a few hours of free time. There are Morale, Welfare and
Recreation (MWR) facilities on most bases which provide telephones so you can call home and computers with
Internet access so you can write to loved ones. Quality of life in Iraq or Afghanistan is extremely important to the
service members. These types of activities can be relaxing and a huge stress reliever. It is completely normal to be
overwhelmed with emotions at times. It’s important to talk to your fellow soldiers, someone in your chain of
command or a Chaplain if you’re depressed or just need to vent. If you get sick of eating at the chow halls, there
are also other options for you. Outside of almost every PX has a Burger King, operated by contractors from the
Philippines and other Asian countries. Usually, there are also other stores operated by the local Iraqi people within
walking distance from the PX. There you can purchase souvenirs, jewelry and paintings.
As your time serving overseas starts to wind down, you should be aware of the possibility of the military extending
your tour of duty overseas. This is something that you should have thought about before your deployment. Expect
the unexpected. If your deployment comes to an end, you return home and your separation date is near, you also
must consider the possibility of a Stop-Loss. Stop-Loss is the extension of a military person’s enlistment beyond
what their normal separation date would be. Those who join the military agree to this in their enlistment contract.
Stop-Loss may not be on your mind as you return home. Thoughts of seeing the happy and relieved faces of your
family will probably be all you can think about. The reunion may be the most beautiful and trying time in this whole
experience you’ve had. You may be surprised at how much effort it may take for the family members to get to know
one another again. You have all changed physically, emotionally and mentally. Share stories, celebrate and enjoy
spending time together.
Holly Mann is a U.S. Army Veteran, who served in the military as a Journalist and Photographer. She is now an
entrepreneur and works on the Internet.
|What Troops Should Expect While Deployed
Article by Holly Mann
Impending deployments can cause service members and their families to be overwhelmed and in a race to get
everything in order before leaving. Sometimes the deploying unit is only given notice of their overseas orders
shortly before their departure date. With thoughts racing, a checklist of things to do before leaving can ease the
mind of the person departing and help make the transition smoother for everyone involved.
Communication is imperative when organizing financial matters and taking care of the emotional ties in the
deploying service member’s life. If married, the spouse at home should have Power of Attorney documents which
allow him/her to handle the deployed spouse’s finances during the deployment. Time should be allotted to review
and organize finances, to be certain the spouse at home is comfortable with the financial situation. Before
deploying, copies of all relevant financial documents should be secured in a file. The file should contain a net worth
statement listing all assets and financial liabilities of the family, Wills, Power of Attorney papers, emergency contact
information, titles to property, deeds and life insurance documents. One should be aware of possible salary
changes and extra expenses that may be incurred while away. Creating a budget can help alleviate potential
worries about finances while deployed, so the service member can focus on the military mission.
Emotional ties also need to be tended to with equal effort to clear up any confusion there may be associated with
the pending deployment. If the deploying service member has children, then he/she should spend time with them
and openly answer any questions they may have. Honesty is of paramount importance when being confronted with
questions and confusion from children. They may ask, “Where is daddy going?” or “When is mommy coming
home?” Do not lie about when the parent is returning. Oftentimes return dates are tentative. So it’s better for the
spouse at home to tell the child that he/she does not know, rather than creating false hope.
Life drastically changes for family members of deployed service members. Sometimes it can be a culture shock for
those adjusting to the absence of a spouse or parent. If overwhelmed or in need of assistance, the spouse at home
should contact the nearest military support center. Most military services have a family support center, providing
resources, information, guidance and counsel to the families at home.
If in need of support or assistance, please contact the appropriate service support center below.
• Army Community and Family Support Center. The Army Community & Family Support Center serves as the
headquarters for Army MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation).
• Marine Corps Community Services. MCCS exists to serve Marines and their families wherever they are stationed.
MCCS programs and services provide for basic life needs, such as food and clothing; social and recreational
needs; and even prevention and intervention programs to combat societal ills that inhibit positive development and
• Fleet and Family Support Division. The Fleet and Family Support Division provides support to Sailors, families and
communities by providing policy guidance, field support and information to those in need, their business partners,
the Chain of Command and their field activities. They accomplish this through planning, oversight, advocacy, and
• Navy Services FamilyLine. Naval Services FamilyLine is a volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to
improving the quality of life for every sea service family. This is achieved by answering questions from spouses
about the military lifestyle, referring spouses to organizations which may be able to assist them, publishing and
distributing free booklets and brochures which contain very helpful information, and developing successful
educational programs for the sea service spouse.
• Air Force Crossroads. Crossroads is the official community website of the U.S. Airforce. This site provides
information on numerous topics including Air Force installations, family separation and readiness, medical and
dental, and relocation.
• Army National Guard Family Readiness Program. The mission of this program is to: help bond Guard families
together and promote a sense of comradeship; relay vital information from the Director and the Family Readiness
Program in order to lessen the feeling of isolation.
(Source for service support center information: http://deploymentlink.osd.mil/deploy/family/family_support.shtml)
Article by Holly Mann
All Rights Reserved
|Holly Mann in the U.S. Army with Comrade at Ft. Bragg