How to Survive Your First Deployment (and Every Deployment After)- A Guide for New Spouses

The day you’ve been dreading is here- your spouse has come home and told you that they are deploying.

You knew that this would happen eventually, but you thought you might have more time to prepare for it. As their day of departure fast approaches, you find yourself anxious, sad, and more than a bit overwhelmed. You will not only miss the heck out of your spouse, but you’re also wondering how you’re going to juggle everything on your own.

Deployment is one of the scariest words I think any military spouse will ever have to hear.

Being in the throes of my sixth deployment myself, I am often reminded just how uncertain things are right now. When I think I have it together, something inevitably comes up that reminds me that I really don’t. But I have also found ways to make the most of this time – binge watching my favorite shows and rediscovering old hobbies are just a few of the things that make deployment less stressful.

To say that I’ve had a really difficult time this go-round is an understatement, but that doesn’t make my situation impossible. Many of you out there are either experiencing, or going to be experiencing, your first deployment. While being without your spouse certainly bites the big one, there are ways to survive this experience and make it potentially (less) unpleasant.

Here is what I do before and during deployments:

Get the big things done before they go. Whether it’s getting the car serviced, finishing a household project together, or rearranging rooms, make sure you have a list of things that you would like done before they go. While the time before they go is a whirlwind, it helps to check off a few of the big tasks while your partner is around. Doing the hard stuff now will alleviate a lot of stress while they are gone. Trust me. I'm the one who had to ask her husband to mail her a new POA from overseas because the old one wasn’t valid. Whoops.

Have your required documentation handy. Believe it or not, you will need to keep some special documents handy while your spouse is gone. A couple of very important pieces of documentation you will need are a power of attorney and multiple copies of their deployment orders. The power of attorney allows you to do business on behalf of your spouse, and can also grant special permissions, such as renewing your dependent ID (and your children’s, if you have them), traveling with kids, signing your joint tax return alone, and more. Make sure you have copies of your spouse’s deployment orders to submit to your local Family Readiness Center to access their deployment benefits (contact your center to see what they offer, as each base differs), and your housing office (if applicable).

Keep your routine. If you’re anything like me, you will be reluctant to “go on” for a little while after your spouse leaves. This is normal, but eventually, you will need to get back to doing life. A routine will help you and your family adjust a bit better to your “new” normal. Try to keep doing what you were doing before your spouse deployed so that the adjustment is a bit easier on everyone.

Know who your point of contact is - and make sure you’re on their list. For Air Force spouses, your POC (Point of Contact) is your Key Spouse. For the Navy, it’s your Ombudsman. Marines, Army, and Coast Guard have Family Readiness officers and support advisers. Your POC is your go-to for all things deployment related, and will make sure you have the help and support you need while your spouse is overseas. I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO BE ON THEIR LIST OF CONTACTS. When you arrive at your new station and your spouse asks if you want to be on their contacts, make sure to say yes. If they haven’t asked, be sure that they know that you do. Trust me, YOU NEED THEM.

Self-care is a must. Let’s face it – both family AND military life often take precedence over everything else, and it can be easy to lose yourself in the thick of it all. While deployment is certainly not a time to celebrate, it can be a time of self-discovery. Starting (or picking back up) a new hobby, binge watching your favorite shows without fighting over the TV, trying new foods, or simply practicing some much-needed self-care can be really therapeutic during this time. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, ESPECIALLY now.

Be prepared for Murphy’s Law. An old adage among milspouses is that when our spouse deploys, anything and everything will break and/or go wrong. But don’t panic! I have had everything from broken appliances to my smoke alarms beeping for new batteries right as I go to bed. I have found that YouTube is my best friend in these situations. When YouTube cannot help, be sure to have the numbers to your local maintenance professionals handy. I keep a list on my fridge – and have even saved some of these numbers in my phone for quick reference.

Rely on your tribe. I cannot stress this one enough. When you can’t be near your family, your military family will have your back. I cannot count how many times I have needed help during a deployment, and my military family was there for me. When you feel the burden becoming too much to bear, reach out to your tribe – if they are your people, they will not see it as a burden to them. Count on them to help lift you out of the hole and into the light.

I know that it’s hard right now, trust me – but there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Deployment won’t last forever, and before you know it, your spouse will be home and life will return to normal. Until then, I hope this guide helps you feel encouraged and reassured. One positive aspect of deployment, however, is that it has a way of making us all tap into strength we never knew we had. Remember, you are a champ, and you’ve got this!

Jillian is an Air Force spouse, proud Slytherin, and all-around creative soul. She's a California girl adjusting to Southern life with her husband, three kids, and three fur children. She's currently pursuing a degree in Psychology with a focus in child and adolescent development, is a part-time preschool teacher at her local Methodist church, and is an active volunteer within the Robins AFB community. In her spare time, Jillian enjoys reading, gaming, and crafting. Be on the lookout for her blog, "Milspouse, Mom, Geek" - launching in Fall 2020!


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