Take care of family needs before deployments

Maj. Brian Barthel
568th Security Forces Squadron commander

***image1***In this time of high operations tempo both home station and deployed, I think it is important that we stop and reflect on why we joined our exceptional Air Force.
I am confident that everyone strives to live up to our core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do! However, it is the service before self that I’d like to focus on. We all serve for a reason and I’d submit to you that the common denominator is family. Whether you are single or married, family is the reason we serve, fight and are willing to die … not for country alone, but for family.
With the war on terrorism, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Aerospace Expeditionary Force deployments and home station sustainment, we often overlook or neglect the most important members of our Air Force team, our families. Today’s forces are smaller, more highly trained and deploy to more places for longer durations than any other time in our history. It is for this reason we must refocus on our family and friends and their needs. Regardless of our specialty, at some point we will all deploy, go on temporary duty or be selected for a remote assignment and the time to prepare for those separations is now.
What can you do to make this time of change less stressful? Prior planning and looking at the separation like a military operation: What is the mission, who will execute the tasks, what are the supporting elements and what are the logistical needs? In plain terms, decide what you and your family or friends will need to do while you are gone. Who will take care of the house, pets, car, pay the bills, etc.? Do you have these tasks identified? Who will accomplish them, and do they have what they need to get it done?
Some simple rules can help prevent unnecessary stress. Establish powers of attorney for banking, housing, automobile needs, ensure your will is updated, verify your designated beneficiaries for your SGLI policy, establish automatic payment for recurring bills, verify DEERS enrollment for dependents, and check the expiration date for your vehicle registration and dependent ID cards.
While this all seems very basic, many folks forget to follow these rules, placing undo stress on loved ones. Other factors to consider are connecting family members with support organizations on-base or within the community to include commanders and first sergeants, the family support center, spouses groups and chaplain services. Make sure to get a good mailing address, phone number and e-mail address so family, friends and unit leadership can stay in touch with you; they will want to know you are okay and what support they can provide. Lastly, before leaving spend time with friends and loved ones. Let them know how much you care about them. Decide how best to communicate while you are deployed — cards, e-mail, photographs, drawings, etc. Whatever the means it is important to stay connected … it will make the deployment go faster and the reunion smoother.
While pre-separation planning is important, so is redeployment planning. Change is inevitable, and you should expect things may not be the same. The seasons change, friends change duty assignments, kids get bigger, your spouse will have new friends, etc. Regardless, plan for, expect and embrace the changes. Just like before you left, there will be an adjustment period. Spend quality time, one-on-one, with your loved ones. Let them know how much you missed them, appreciated their support and how glad you are to be home. They, too, share the same emotions.
Lastly, I’d like to say thank you to all those who are deployed, to those agencies supporting the families and friends of our deployed personnel and most importantly thank you to the families that continue to support our deployed troops. Without your support and love what would we be fighting for?