The amount of time allotted for pre-deployment preparations largely depends on the servicemembers' unit. Whether you have months or weeks, don't wait until the last possible moment to get your affairs in order. To get started, consider the following:
1. Don't Panic
This advice may seem unrealistic, but it's an important tip to remember. Panic leads to chaos, and chaos is the last thing you want or need during the pre-deployment phase.
2. Get Organized
Save time and frustration by creating a central place to store your to-do's. Many spouses buy a notebook and maintain a master list, along with passwords and other pertinent information. This is also a good place to jot down notes about things you need to discuss with your spouse.
3. Telling Your Children
The decision of when to tell your children about the upcoming deployment is a personal choice. Some couples talk to their children shortly after learning the news. Others prefer waiting until the day draws closer. You know and understand your children better than anyone. Let this knowledge be your guide.
4. Power of Attorney and Wills
Creating these two vital documents should occupy a top spot on your to-do list. A power of attorney allows you to have access to bank and credit card accounts during the deployment. It also grants you the authority to make decisions on your spouse's behalf.
A Will ensures that all the decisions you and your spouse made are honored. At the very least, it provides peace of mind.
You can create these two documents, free of charge, at your spouse's installation.
While preparing for deployment the servicemember may need to provide the installation with copies of:
- Birth certificates of spouse and children.
- Marriage license.
- Mortgage documents.
Many couples have a combination of joint and individual accounts. Most credit card companies, banks and other financial institutions will not speak with a spouse if their name doesn't appear on the account. This presents a problem if the spouse needs to confirm a payment or notices an unauthorized credit card charge. Before you drive yourself crazy with indecision, take the following into consideration:
- Most deploying servicemembers give their spouse power of attorney over their affairs. However, relying solely on this option does have its pitfalls. For example, if you must make an inquiry, first you'll need to send copies of the POA, followed by waiting until the bank or credit card company enters the paperwork into their system. Not good if you need a quick response.
- Some institutions only require the servicemember to call and verbally give permission to discuss the account with their spouse. Other companies insist the only way they'll speak with the spouse is if the account holder switches the account to joint status.
7. Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
Make sure all family members are enrolled in DEERS. The only way to receive TRICARE benefits is if you're registered in the system. For those of you already enrolled, it's a good idea to contact your installation's personnel department and verify the record's accuracy.
8. ID Cards
Make sure all family members have valid ID cards. If they expire during the deployment, you'll need a copy of your spouse's orders when renewing.
If you don't already have a myPay account, seriously consider creating one. Here you'll have access to leave and earning statements (LES) and W2's for year-end tax filing. Complete signup details are found on the official Web site. Already have an account? Don't forget to jot down the username, password and answers to the security questions.
10. Red Cross
Post the Red Cross's phone number in an easy-to-find location. Should an emergency arise and you need to get a message to your spouse, you don't want to waste valuable time hunting for the number. Locate the contact information for a chapter near your home by visiting their official site.
11. Auto Insurance
During deployment you may qualify for a reduction in your auto insurance rate. Why? Because there's one less driver in the household to insure. Before you contact your insurance company, make certain you have a copy of your spouse's orders. The agent or customer service representative will need the servicemembers' start and end dates. They may even ask you to fax or mail a copy of the orders.
12. Ribbons and Banners
On deployment day or shortly thereafter, some spouses like to show their support by hanging yellow ribbons on their porch and placing service banners in their windows. Purchase these items in advance, as you most likely won't be in the mood for a shopping spree after tearful hugs, kisses and goodbyes.
13. Detailed Checklist
There's so much more that goes into preparing for deployment. To make certain nothing goes unchecked, print a copy of this comprehensive, detailed checklist.
14. Quality Time
Throughout this precious, albeit hectic time, don't forget to set aside moments to enjoy each other as a couple and as a family. Take plenty of photos. Make videos. Go on a family outing.
The beautiful memories you create now will help sustain you through your loved one's absence.