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If my husband and I are living overseas and he is deployed for a year or longer, will the Navy move me and my household goods back to the U.S.? It is likely that we will be returning to our current duty station after his deployment is complete.

— Sibal(from the Spouse Calls blog)

Moving dependents back to the States during a deployment, even a long one, is not a matter of course for the military. However, there is a provision for the early return of dependents, or ERD. It is outlined in the Joint Federal Travel Regulations, which govern the travel of military members and their families.

ERD is available for difficult situations, such as:

Serious illness, for which treatment is not available at your overseas assignment.Death or serious illness, which makes a primary caregiver unable to care for minor children.Death or serious illness of close relative.Serious disciplinary actions against the military member or a dependent.Financial, marital or family difficulties.Inadequate housing or educational facilities.The regulation also makes provision for circumstances that do not fit these specific situations, but might be allowed “for reasons of a humanitarian or compassionate nature; or because of other situations which have an adverse effect on the member’s performance of duty.”

It is possible that your husband’s absence for more than a year would fall into that category. That determination ultimately rests with the Navy, via your husband’s chain of command. Your husband should go to his supervisor to initiate the request.

Early return of dependents, according to the regulations, is to be used sparingly and only as a “last resort.” To make your case, you will have to show that:

Your return is in the best interest of you, your husband and the performance of his military duty.Circumstances requiring your return occurred after you arrived overseas.Local resources cannot resolve the problem.Written recommendations from religious, mental health, financial management, family counseling or legal agencies — whatever is applicable — support your assertion.The military member does not already have official orders to return stateside.If your request is approved, you may also be able to have your household goods shipped. Make that a part of your initial request.

If you do return to the States, it is possible that you could have to pay for your own trip back overseas. There is an exception, which may apply to you.

You mentioned that your husband will probably return to his current duty station after his deployment. If he is serving an in-place consecutive overseas tour, or IPCOT, you and your household goods could be returned at government expense.

Thank you for your question, Sibal. I hope this information is helpful to you and other dependents considering an early return.

A summary of Navy policy on early return of dependents is on the Web site of the Personnel Support Detachment Pearl Harbor.

For anyone thinking of relocation during a deployment, there are personal considerations as well. Subjects such as maintaining a support network, staying in contact with your sponsor’s home unit and others are covered in detail by contributors to the Spouse Calls blog.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany, where her husband is assigned to Ramstein AB. Send questions or comments to her at

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