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Preparing for Deployment

November 2nd, 2018 - 9:10 AM

Getting ready for deployment 

The thought of being away from your family, friends, home and normal routine for an extended period of time can lead to multiple questions. Will your family be OK? How will bills be paid? Who will handle property maintenance? While there are quite a few things to take care of, planning ahead can help reduce stress and make the process easier. 

graphic of a service member and icons of things to do before deployment

12 things to do before deployment day 

No matter how many times you’ve been deployed, the transition can be easier if you know that things are in order back home. Follow these tips to prepare your family, home and personal matters. 

Discuss the deployment with family 

Deployments can be hard on everyone involved, especially young children who may not understand what’s happening. Make sure everyone feels included by talking through the process — departure date, location, how long the deployment is expected to last, etc. This is also a good time to tell everyone which details can be shared and which need to remain confidential. 

Come up with a communication plan  

Your pre-deployment briefing should include when and how often you’ll be able to contact home. Once that’s determined, create a plan with your spouse, children, parents and other loved ones. Will there be a weekly call on a certain day? Will there be Internet access for emails and video chat? Would you like them to send pictures and letters? Whatever is decided, make sure everyone is a part of the discussion. 

For texting, calling and social media engagement during deployment, adding an international plan to your existing mobile phone service may be a viable option. If not, consider canceling your line to save money. 

Create an emergency plan and contact list 

Making sure everyone understands what to do in an emergency situation is a critical step. The first thing to do is put money in an emergency fund and ensure the appropriate people have access to it. Then, 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. Finally, leave an emergency contact list in an easily accessible location (like a refrigerator or a bulletin board) with phone numbers for family members, local first responders, schools, workplaces and your military unit.  

Ensure legal matters are in order

If this is your first deployment, there a few legal matters to get in order (unless the information changes, this should be a one-time job). As part of your pre-deployment preparation, the military typically provides assistance regarding how to: 

  • Create a will — this is a legal document that states a person’s 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 the document will stand in a court of law. 
  • Establish power of attorney — this 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.
  • Get life insurance — military members who are enrolled in Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) should review their beneficiaries and update as necessary.   

Gather important documents, records and IDs

Make sure your spouse or other family member has access to real estate paperwork, bank account information, birth certificates, marriage license, social security cards, vehicle titles and any online passwords. It’s also critical that your family has a current, valid military-issued ID so they can access services like health care and on-base privileges during your absence. 

Make a financial plan                                        

Who will pay the bills and take care of the finances while you’re away? Whoever it is, be sure they’re comfortable having this responsibility and discuss what all that entails (when you get paid, when and what bills are due, paying taxes, etc.). Give that person access to all accounts and contact banks, credit card companies and other services to tell them who will handle those accounts during your deployment. 

While making a financial plan for household expenses and other bills, remember the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). It provides deployed service members with certain protections and benefits regarding evictions, cell phone contracts, vehicle leases, loan interests and more. 

Discuss care for children, elderly parents and pets 

Depending on the situation, there may be a need to arrange for someone to look after your children, elderly parents, pets or other dependents. For example, if you’re usually the one who picks up the kids from school, drives your parents to weekly doctor’s appointments and takes the dog for a monthly grooming, you’ll need to find someone to fill those roles. Having a plan in place can help everyone adjust more easily.  

Determine what to do with your vehicle 

Will it be stored or will someone else drive it? For storage, start calling companies for prices and details as soon as possible. If someone else will drive it, it’s a good idea to have the vehicle serviced (and inform the new driver of its regular maintenance schedule), update insurance and registration as necessary, locate the vehicle’s title and store it in a safe place, and provide an extra set of keys. 

Schedule necessary home repairs and regular maintenance 

Don’t leave behind a leaky faucet or a noisy air conditioner. These small issues can become bigger problems if ignored. It’s best to take care of anything worrisome that could cause damage or become a major inconvenience. 

Similarly, make a plan for someone to change your home’s air filters, replace smoke detector batteries, mow the lawn and perform other regular tasks (and set aside enough money to cover these expenses). 

Talk to your college or university 

If you’re deployed while taking college courses, most schools will work with you on what to do. Depending on how much notice is given, you may be able to finish the class before deployment. Other options may include taking an “incomplete” and finishing the course later or getting a refund and taking the class another time. 

Cancel memberships 

Don’t waste money paying for subscriptions and memberships (i.e. Netflix, magazine and gym memberships) while gone, unless your family will continue using them. 

Spend time with family

The most important thing you can do is to spend as much time as possible with your family and loved ones. Deployment may last awhile and communication could be limited, so making memories during this time can help everyone cope with initial feelings of separation. Consider taking new family photos, planning a party that includes friends and extended relatives, eating at all of your favorite restaurants and even taking a mini-vacation!

What other tasks should be the list?

Are there other tasks you consider “must-dos” before deployment? Tell us in the comments below. 

Related reading

  • Military moving resource. Helpful information on completing a military move, plus a free PCS (permanent change of station) checklist!