Preparedness key to TDY success

  • Published
  • By MSgt David McConnell
  • Command Post
As we prepare for yet another Air and Space Expeditionary Force cycle, I wanted to share my thoughts and personal experiences about deployment preparedness.
Many years ago, long before the AEF concept existed, I learned the hard way to prepare for TDYs. I was a unit deployment manager and exercise-trusted agent. Our squadron commander repeatedly warned us that some day we would be recalled and deploy for two weeks. I must admit that even I cheated fate a couple times, because "we're not going anywhere" and besides I would have been the first to know. Right? Wrong, the next recall was a no-notice recall that surprised even me. We were recalled, we did deploy for two weeks, and there was no time to go back home to get your bags. I was ready for this deployment but there were those who were not.
Imagine if you will, 40 military vehicles, including tractor-trailers and 100+ uniformed military, some with weapons "storming" a convenience store. The owner probably started therapy the next day. There was a mad rush bordering on stampede to buy combs, razors, laundry detergent, deodorant, toothbrushes and other essentials. Halfway through shopping, they all realized, seemingly at the same time, they needed money and their focus changed to finding the store's ATM. When they discovered the ATM line, they teamed together to save a place in line and continue shopping. Cell phones were not very popular then but those one or two cell phones were passed around so everyone could call home.
Thanks to the AEF process, most of us do not deploy on a no notice basis but you must be prepared for a successful deployment. There is much more to personal readiness than having your bag packed. The Air Force mandates the necessary training and provides us with various guides and checklists to ensure we have wills, powers of attorney, updated emergency locator cards and numerous other requirements. I recommend two guides I received from the base Family Support Center "Planning Ahead: A Guide to Prepare for TDYs" and "Mission Readiness: A Personal and Family Guide".
Here are some tips that helped my family and I during my eight-month deployment.
Complete your pre-deployment checklist as soon as possible. I spent the week before I left with my family instead of completing the checklist. Speak with a couple of people currently at the location. They can tell what you need and what it's like better than the person who returned three months ago. Relay your itinerary early and call a couple of days before you leave. Ensure your family knows who to call if they need help from your squadron or office. Stay busy but take time to relax and enjoy yourself.
One absolute must is a checking account. There are no ATMs in Baghdad, Iraq or Bagram, Afghanistan. If you share an account with your spouse, do not overspend.
Communicate with your family and do not forget your children. I wrote letters every chance I had. I've been home nine months and I'm still waiting for my two teenagers to write me back. I'm sure their letters were lost in the mail or the move...not. Emails are wonderful; even if you only tell them, you're too busy to write now. At least they know why you can't write.
Relay your return itinerary early and call a couple days before you leave. Unbelievably, coming home can be more difficult than leaving. Your family settled into a routine while you were gone, don't try to change it too much. Take some leave in conjunction with your compensation time and go with the flow. Meet your wife for lunch and/or take your children to school. We learned to play golf as a family. We spent those two hours every night for a week together. It didn't interrupt their routine too much and gave us the family time to get to know each other again.
It is best to prepare now and don't allow the next AEF cycle to become your no notice deployment. Personal, financial, family, and spiritual readiness made my long deployment more bearable. I'm sure your deployment preparation methods differ from mine. No matter how much you prepare, the unexpected can occur. Your preparedness beforehand will determine if it's a major crisis or a minor annoyance.