Even the strongest of relationships can be pushed to their limits during the stressors of deployment. However, while dealing with deployment can be a challenge, with a little preparation and some communication, a relationship can come out stronger on the tail end of a deployment.
Many experts state that the key to dealing with deployment is being honest, open and to communicate. Today, unlike in wars past, communication is for the most part fairly quick and it is much easier to stay in touch with loved ones during a deployment.
Over the years one of the many lessons learned by the U.S. military is that a happy service member is more likely to effectively execute his or her mission if morale is high. A key to good morale is ensuring that service members have a line of communication to the home front and to their loved ones back home.
During World War II, according to the Smithsonian Institute, “For members of the armed forces the importance of mail during World War II was second only to food. The emotional power of letters was heightened by the fear of loss and the need for communication during times of separation. Messages from a husband, father, or brother, killed in battle might provide the only surviving connection between him and his family. The imminence of danger and the uncertainty of war placed an added emphasis on letter writing. Emotions and feelings that were normally only expressed on special occasions were written regularly to ensure devotion and support.”
On average, it could take almost a month for mail to come from overseas to the United States, and even longer to reach service members fighting on the frontlines when coming from the United States. Much depended on what type of assignment a service member had and his or her access to the logistical chain. Today’s modern networks keep our men and women connected to their loved ones like never before and it is why the military ensures that its service members have connectivity.
There are several ways of dealing with deployment, but this post will focus on the best five ways to stay connected, presented in no particular order. Keep in mind, not all military personnel will have the ability to stay connected using some of these methods. Some service members serve in austere conditions and might only have connectivity to their higher headquarters or they may share a satellite phone and might only have “morale call” access to the phone for only a couple of minutes per month. The key is to be flexible and use whatever resources are available to make the best out of the situation.
Dealing with deployment using e-mail
E-mail is certainly the easiest way to keep in touch with loved ones because it does not require any type of coordination. Trying to coordinate a phone call with someone who is 12,000 miles away can be a challenge especially when operational and domestic requirements are factored into the mix. Life keeps moving and a deployment is an added challenge.
E-mail is great because you just need connectivity. Remember, if you’re a forward deployed service member, consider your OPSEC training and be careful with what you are sending. Also consider OPSEC if you are attaching photos and ask yourself if they show anything that bad guys can use against you or your fellow service personnel.
If electronic mail is out of the question because the service member is at an outpost or location that lacks a network to connect them to the outside world then maybe snail mail is a better option. OPSEC rules still apply because mail has to traverse land, air and maybe even sea in order to get to where it is going, so service members should ensure that nothing that is vital to operational security is included in the letter.
And if a service member is short on stationery, they can simply cut a piece of cardboard, address it, and write on it like a postcard. True story, to test this, a USAMM employee who was deployed to Iraq in 2004 cut out a part of an MRE box, addressed it like a postcard and wrote his wife a message as he was at a remote combat outpost. She got it about 10 days later in the United States.
Letters work and are especially touching when written by hand. They don’t need to be long, but pouring yourself into a handwritten letter is one of the more favorite ways to communicate for families and a great way of dealing with deployment.
While most would prefer to hear the voice of a loved one, chats are a great way of dealing with deployment because it enables those separated by deployment to have a prolonged digital “conversation” with a loved one. Remember, the situation on the ground gets a vote.
For example, in 2004, a USAMM employee who is a veteran and was deployed to Iraq, knew a captain who volunteered to be a battle captain on the night shift. He did not have access to a phone to call home regularly, but by being a battle captain it gave him access to a desktop computer. He was not only able to e-mail his family from his government account weekly (something allowed by his command), but he was also able to chat with his wife almost nightly.
The battle captain would login in the overnight hours and his wife would login as she was starting her day at work. Both would get to interact with each other as they performed their duties. Granted, not everyone will be this fortunate to have this kind of access, but if they do, chats are a great way to keep in touch because it provides an instantaneous manner in which to communicate and a great way of dealing with deployment.
For the most part, most service members will have the opportunity to call home during a deployment unless they are operationally bound to cut all communications with their loved ones until the mission is complete. Most don’t serve in that type of capacity, so odds are great that military families can hear the voice of their loved ones during their deployments.
In some cases, some folks are lucky and get to talk to their loved ones regularly thanks to liberal command communications policies. Many forward areas have phone banks and internet cafes where service members can call home or write regularly at any hour of the day.
Dealing with deployment becomes much easier when you are able to talk to loved ones more frequently. Remember OPSEC. Do not discuss operationally sensitive information on the phone. Even veiled comments like “You won’t be hearing from me for the next couple of weeks” can tip the hand of your unit and give the enemy advanced notice of a potential operation, if a call is somehow intercepted.
Dealing with deployment using video calls
Family members who are fortunate to have the ability to video call have hit the mother lode. This gives separated loved ones not only the chance to hear their loved ones voices, but also the opportunity to see them.
Advances in video call technology in the past few years has made this a preferred way of dealing with deployment and keeping in touch. Many units have video call capability set up at camps so service members can call home and see their families.
How often and how long the conversations last is at the mercy of the command and what they have available to service members.
Remember OPSEC and if you have video calling to help in dealing with deployment, consider yourself lucky.