Monthly Archives: February 2021

Helpful Pre-Deployment Guidance for Every Military Spouse

Oh no! The dreaded deployment assignment just came through. That means your spouse is going to leave you for six months, a year, or maybe even longer. What do you do now?

Well, the first thing is to cry, then pick yourself up, and go to the mandatory pre-deployment briefing. You will learn some valuable tips at the briefing, like who you can call if you need something (hint: it’s not the wing commander) and what benefits you might get as a deployed spouse.

An invaluable phone number to have is the Family Resources Center on your base or post. They usually have lots of programming for families of deployed members. The last time the Good Chaplain deployed (way back in 2010), the Family Resources Center, called the Airmen and Family Readiness Center in the Air Force, sponsored such programs as:

  • Hearts Apart: Activities to get families out of the house and meet families of other deployed members.
  • Give Parents a Break: Run in conjunction with the Child Development Center is a night for the parent at home to do something without children in tow.
  • Car Care Because We Care: This program used to provide free oil changes for spouses of deployed members
  • Morale calls: I’m not sure if morale calls are necessary now. We were allowed one 15-minute call a week at the beginning of the Good Chaplain’s career. Now, I know Tech Sergeant called Mrs. Tech Sergeant on FaceTime a couple of times a day.
  • Military OneSource: The site for everything military. When in doubt, check with this group.

Your wills and any powers-of-attorney are drawn up before your spouse leaves, as well. This task is probably on your spouse’s checklist, and I’m sure it is brought up at the pre-deployment briefing too.

The base lawyer’s office can draw up these documents for free. It would be best if you had at least a general power-of-attorney, but you might need special ones, too. Ask the lawyer. Once, when the Good Chaplain deployed, I received a check in his name from our insurance company. But I could not deposit it in our joint savings account, even with a power-of-attorney. I was stunned because I could buy a house or a car or any number of costly things with the document. But God forbid I try to deposit money with it.

Take the time before your spouse leaves to make memories as a family. Go on special outings, take a short trip if time allows, do something the kids want to do. Don’t be like me. Anytime the Good Chaplain prepared to deploy, I pulled away from him. I was trying to lessen the hurt of his actual leaving, but it had the opposite effect. Just when he wanted to spend more time with me, I wanted less time with him. I guess I thought if I withdrew before he left, I wouldn’t miss him so much. Not quite logical, but who said feelings and emotions are logical? I didn’t realize I was doing that until the Good Chaplain pointed it out to me. Spend as much time as you can together.

Attendees at a pre-deployment retreat in Oklahoma

In that vein, many bases and/or chapels sponsor pre-deployment retreats for families and couples to help them create some memories. They are worth a try.

Next time I will discuss how to handle the actual deployment.

Until then,

Vicki

How do you act before your spouse leaves for deployment? Answer in the reply section below.

8 Tips to Help Your Spouse Reintegrate After Deployment

Welcome home, soldier!

He’s finally returning from his deployment. You are excited and anxious at the same time. Let’s face it, no matter how long he’s been deployed, everything has changed. He may have seen some disturbing things. You became more independent. The kids and pets have grown since he last saw them in person. Things change.

Here are eight tips to help your spouse’s reintegration into the family easier.

First, is he coming home with his unit or by himself? The Air Force tends to send one person or maybe two people instead of an entire squadron or flight. So homecomings are not usually as big a ceremony as the Army or Navy do it. Once, when we lived in Alaska, the whole fighter squadron deployed together. There was a big homecoming for that one, but usually, it was just my husband and maybe one other person returning at the same time.

I did get to attend my Army nephew’s homecoming when we were all stationed in Hawaii together. It was a spectacular event, even though it was about 2 a.m. when his unit finally arrived. Families gathered in a large hangar with large screens set up to see the buses roll in and then see our loved ones file into another part of the room separated by curtains, and then finally appear on our side of the curtain.

My nephew, left, salutes the Good Chaplain, right, while 5-year-old Mason looks on during my nephew’s homecoming in December 2012 . We did not know Mason was there until we saw the photo.

My nephew’s son was about 5 at the time. It also happened to be Christmas Day. My nephew’s wife told their son she had a big Christmas present for him, but they had to go pick it up. When we got to the hangar and saw the buses drive up, we asked Mason if he knew what his present was, and he said, “A school bus.” But then he saw his dad on the screen and said, “That’s my dad,” in a voice filled with awe.

Lesson #1: No matter how they come home — alone or in a group — remember that other people are going to want to see them and welcome them home. I know I always resented when the Good Chaplain’s staff came to the airport or the reunion spot with me because I wanted him to myself. I didn’t even want to share him with the girls. Let others greet him and then steal him away.

Lesson #2: Don’t make a spectacle of yourself. It’s okay to run to him and give him a hug and a kiss, but don’t scream and shout and cause a big ado. If he is in uniform, PDA rules still apply.

Lesson #3: Take things slowly when you get home. Allow him to acclimate to the surroundings and the changes. He’s probably got jetlag and is dog tired from flying halfway around the world, so let him rest and relax for a few days. Don’t throw a big party or plan a big trip for immediately after he gets home. Save the party for the following weekend. And you know he doesn’t want to get on a plane or leave home again very soon. Keep the first week or so low key with just you and the children. Also, as tempted as you are to do so, don’t throw all his chores and responsibilities back on him the minute he walks through the door. I know I am guilty of this one. After months of handling everything, you just want him to give the kids a bath for once or for the next year.

Lesson #4: This ties into number 3. Allow him time to get used to the changes at home. The best advice I ever got was to treat him as a guest for a few days to get used to the new way of doing things. The colonel’s wife, who gave me that advice, told me the story of how while her husband was deployed, their child learned to cross the street by himself, but hubby did not know that. So one day, shortly after his return, the child went across the street to play, and his father spanked him for doing it. You can’t remember to tell your returning spouse all the little things like that, nor do you want to bombard them with everything that happened while they were gone. So don’t have them do anything but observe for a little while. You’ve handled everything this long; you can do it for a few days more.

Lesson #5: Do plan a little alone time with your spouse in the first week. It may be awkward at first, like when you were first dating, to know what to talk about or to be intimate again. Go for a walk. Hold hands. Put the kids to bed and then sit on the couch and just talk and cuddle. It will come back soon enough.

Lesson #6: Let him talk or not about what he saw and did. Don’t pressure him to reveal things he is not ready for you to know about. Mr. Tech Sergeant didn’t tell us about a mortar round going through his room until months after returning from his first deployment. But do listen to the stories he does have to tell. It is important to share what he wants to share so you can appreciate what he did and saw.

Lesson #7: Help him recognize the children’s changes and why they might not react to him the way he expects them to. We had one friend whose small daughter did not know him and cried when he tried to pick her up. She was just a toddler, and although she saw pictures of him, this man was a stranger to her. It took a few days for her to come around. You could tell his feelings were hurt, but sometimes children are that way. They may not go to the parent who was deployed for questions or advice for a while because that’s been your role for so long.

Lesson #8: Most of all, be patient! Things will never return to what they used to be, but they can be even better if you take time to get reintegrated.

Now that we’ve talked about homecomings, let’s talk about the actual deployments and what to do during those trying times.

Until then,

Vicki

What advice would you give for post-deployment reunions? Answer in the reply below.

Military Spouse Rules: When is it Okay to Call the Command Structure?

Let me present three scenarios for you.

  1. My neighbor’s kids keep riding their bikes across my yard. They do this when it is dry or wet and is starting to leave ruts and bare patches.
  2. The storm last night damaged a big tree in my backyard. A large branch is hanging precariously across the sidewalk and street.
  3. My husband is deployed and hasn’t called in like three days.

In which of these three would you call the command structure of your base or post? Notice I said command structure — not the commander because there is a chain of command even civilians should follow when reporting a problem or a complaint.

The answer, of course, is number two. This really happened to me when we lived on the corner in Minot. A storm damaged a tree, and a huge branch was hanging over the sidewalk and into the street. One more gust of wind, and the whole thing would come crashing down. I’d called the number the base gave out to report the damage. Nothing happened. I called housing maintenance. Again nothing happened. I finally called Civil Engineering, and they sent someone out to look at it.

In this case, the issue was one of potential danger. The street and sidewalk led to the junior high on-base. Kids and cars were around all the time. I was afraid someone would be in that spot when the branch broke off. This was a time to get the command structure involved.

Commanders at all levels are busy people. It’s not that they don’t care about you, but they have bigger picture things to handle, so they don’t want to get involved with petty neighborhood squabbles or your husband not calling on time. Trust me, if something happened to your deployed spouse, you would be notified through the proper channels.

Sometimes you have to call the chain of command, like when your spouse is abusive to you or the children or committing a crime. Or if issues at home might affect his or her ability to focus on their job. And especially in emergencies when you cannot reach your spouse or need the Red Cross to deliver a message.

Twice in Georgia, I implemented the call to the commander. Once, Mrs. Tech Sergeant fell and hit her mouth on a concrete stoop. Her mouth was bleeding badly, and I felt I should take her to the emergency room. I knew the Good Chaplain was out with the vice-wing commander, but I didn’t know where. Also, he should have been home by then. We didn’t have a cell phone, so I called the vice wing commander’s house.

“Bobby, this is Vicki. Do you know where the Good Chaplain is?”

“What’s wrong?”

“One of the girls fell and hurt her mouth. I need him to meet me at the ER.”

“I’m on it.”

And he was. In the meantime, the Good Chaplain came home.

“Bobby, this is Vicki again. He just got home. Thank you for your help.”

“Oh, good. I’ll call off the police.”

He called the police to find the Good Chaplain and relay my message. He was a commander who cared about his airmen and their families.

The second incident also happened in Georgia, but the Good Chaplain was away on a temporary duty assignment in New Mexico. Again, Mrs. Tech Sergeant had an issue. Her teacher called me in to report behavior that might indicate she had been abused. I was beside myself. Who would do such a thing? I tried to reach the Good Chaplain, but he was in the field. I tried all week. I left frantic messages. I called the Chapel to see if they could get a message to him. Unfortunately, they were of no help. I knew the Air Force Reserve Command, located on our base, had chaplains at the same location, so I finally called their chaplain office. They told me the group was delayed a day in the field, but they would get the message to contact him as soon as possible. I don’t know about you, but I want my husband by my side in an emergency.

Chain of Command

I didn’t precisely follow the chain of command in all these instances, but I knew who I could call to get the help I needed. It’s easy to find out who to contact by going to your family resource center. They have many resources, phone numbers, and classes to guide you in the right direction.

After trying the family resource center, the next step is to contact your unit’s Key Spouse (Air Force), Ombudsman (Navy and Coast Guard), Family Readiness Coordinator (Marines), or Family Readiness Support Advisor (Army). These people are specially trained to help. They are assigned by the unit commander to aid in issues affecting life in the military.

If that isn’t enough, the chain of command begins with your spouse’s immediate supervisor. Then the supervisor’s supervisor. Next in order is the First Sergeant, Flight or Company Commander (or whatever it is called in your branch), Squadron Commander or Chief, Group Commander or Chief, and then the Wing, Base, Post, Ship Commander or Chief.

Try the person directly in charge of your spouse first and work your way up. But you maybe don’t need to go to the supervisor at all. Like with the tree branch, I called the base’s number, I called housing maintenance, and then I called Civil Engineering, which at the time handled housing maintenance.

“The commander is the last resort. They are not the ombudsman. Try all the other agencies to do what you can do. Then, if you have exhausted all other resources, get the commander involved,” the Good Chaplain said.

Many problems can be resolved by going directly to the source — the neighbor whose children are riding their bikes across your lawn, leaving ruts. Talk to your deployed spouse when you can and ask them to tell you when they won’t be able to call, so you don’t worry.

“The military has the presumption of adulthood. Act like an adult,” the Good Chaplain said.

Find out the resources available to you and use them. Usually, the problem can be solved at the lowest level.

Next time, is it appropriate to carry on and make a big to-do at a homecoming celebration?

Until then,

Vicki

Did you have to get command involved in an issue? Comment in the reply section below. And be sure to sign up for this blog to never miss another exciting post!

A Guide to Help You Decipher What Those Dress Codes Actually Mean

Today we are getting into etiquette and protocol, and the first up is the dress code. Yes, the military has a dress code for civilians as well as military at certain functions.

Typically, when you receive an official function invitation, it usually specifies what attendees should wear in the bottom left corner. A lot of time, there is confusion about what that means. And the meaning can depend on where you live. For instance, business casual in Alaska usually means no Carharts, while in Washington D.C., it means a suit and ties for men. It all depends. When in doubt, ask the host what they are wearing.

I happen to have a handy guide of what to wear that the Good Chaplain got when we were stationed in Hawaii. It’s a pretty good guide for the basics. So let’s dive right in.

Women’s Casual Dress
Women’s Semi-Formal Dress
Men’s Business Casual
Men’s Formal Dress

  • Women’s Casual is a conservative dress or a nice shirt with slacks, capri pants, or a skirt. Sandals are fine.
  • Men’s Casual is a button-down shirt with slacks—no jeans or streetwear.
  • Women’s Business Casual is what you would wear to work. A nice blouse or top with slacks, capri pants, skirt, or dressy sundress.
  • Women’s Business is a suit with either pants or a skirt and a jacket. Closed-toe shoes are more appropriate.
  • Men’s Business Casual is a sport coat, dressy button-down shirt, and slacks. The sport coat can be optional, as is a tie. No jeans.
  • Men’s Business is a suit where the color and style of the pants and jacket match. The shirt color and style can vary.
  • Men can also have Open Collar Casual, a Polo, or button-down shirt with slacks or khakis. No jeans.
  • Men’s Semi-Formal is a white shirt with a tie and a dark-colored suit. No boots. No overcoat was used as the jacket.
  • The dress must be lower than mid-thigh to a tea length and conservative for Women’s Semi-Formal or Cocktail Dress. No thigh slits or excessive bust line showing.
  • For Men’s Formal, a tuxedo or black tie with a black suit is most appropriate, along with a white shirt.
  • Women’s Formal is similar to semi-formal except dresses should be tea length or floor length. Again, no high front or thigh slits. Although the open back is allowed, a shawl is recommended. (The ballrooms tend to be chilly, so this is a good recommendation anyway.) Women’s Formal can also be a floor-length evening pants suit, but not your normal business suit.

Most dress for formal events such as changes of command or promotions is business casual for the civilians and uniform of the day for the military. Uniform of the day means either OCPs (Operational Camouflage Pattern) uniform that most people wear to work or Service Dress uniform (Blues, Class A, or whatever your branch calls them.)

My friend, Marlene, used to tell me the dress code was my “Sunday best” until I told her I normally wore pants to church, and I knew she was talking about a dress. Knowing what to wear is important. You don’t want to be either overdressed or underdressed. Neither scenario is comfortable. But the language of what is appropriate is as clear as mud. I hope this post will help you decipher some of what is meant by different types of dress.

Next time we will talk about when it is appropriate to contact your spouse’s commanders.

Until then,

Vicki

Do you have an official function coming up? What do you plan to wear? Reply in the comment section below. And be sure to subscribe to this blog, so you never miss any earth-shattering pieces of information I have to share with you.