Deployment brings its own brand of stress
Stars and Stripes August 5, 2006
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The stress of deploying typically begins long before the emotional farewells and dreary airport layovers.
As scores of Misawa airmen are being reminded this week, spending four months or longer away from one’s duty station requires enough preparation to jolt even the most disorganized into keeping a checklist that might include the following questions:
If you’re single and live off base, who will pay your bills or feed the cat?
If your spouse is pregnant, who will mow the lawn or shovel the driveway this winter?
How will family members contact you downrange in case of an emergency?
All are points to consider but not to fret over, said Master Sgt. Kimberley Tobiere, Airman and Family Readiness Center superintendent.
“Preparing for a deployment, they’re going to be stressed, but they need to deal with it positively,” she said Wednesday.
Airmen identified to possibly deploy for the upcoming September-to-January Aerospace Expeditionary Force cycle — AEF 3 and 4 — filed through mandatory mass briefings this week at the Tohoku Enlisted Club.
The 60-minute sessions are a “mind jogger” to remind them to tie up loose ends, from updating one’s will to ensuring Japanese Compulsory Insurance on cars stays current, Tobiere said.
“We want to make sure you thought about every possibility before you leave,” she said.
Pointers on dealing with stress prior to deploying and while downrange also were given. At home and in a “tent city,” communicate with friends, family, a counselor or chaplain — don’t keep stress bottled up, officials said.
At Misawa, about 500 airmen are “postured to deploy,” said Staff Sgt. Angela Eggman, a base spokeswoman. Some already have been notified where they are deploying to and what date they need to be in place, while others are on standby to fill positions that other bases cannot fill, she said, adding that airmen can be tasked to deploy anytime during the next 120-day AEF window.
This week’s mass briefings were mandatory for airmen deploying within 30 days, Tobiere said. The Airman and Family Readiness Center holds similar briefings every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
“Oh, yeah. It’s very stressful,” said Senior Airman Quincy Hall, who has 15 different appointments on his out-processing checklist.
“You have to be organized so you’ll have everything you need when you get downrange,” said Staff Sgt. Allan Lee, gearing up for his ninth deployment.
And that’s where the real stress begins, he added — the moment “when you get in theater and really don’t know what’s going on.”
Rotation means a flurry of moves globallyMore than 1,200 airmen from Pacific Air Forces are scheduled to deploy during the next Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation cycle, said PACAF spokesman Maj. Bradley Jessmer. Currently, more than 2,000 airmen are deployed within and outside the Pacific Command area of responsibility, he said in an e-mail.
The next AEF rotation cycle is from September to January. PACAF airmen from all career fields during this window will be deploying to more than 50 locations throughout the world, Jessmer said.
“The majority of our Airmen can expect to deploy for about four months, while others will be away for up to six months,” he wrote. “In very few instances, some of our Airmen will be gone for up to a year.”
Some PACAF bases could see 10 percent of their personnel deploy, Jessmer said. Base commanders, he said, have the task of ensuring home base operations continue when a significant number of people from one base deploy.
“We can bring in [individual mobilization augmentees] to help fill the gap,” Jessmer said. “Some may cut back on hours at services-type facilities to help; some bases have volunteers to help.”
At Misawa, where up to 500 airmen could be leaving, base officials haven’t determined how the deployment will affect customer service hours, said base spokeswoman Staff Sgt. Angela Eggman. But with any large-scale deployment, she said, customers can expect longer wait times.
“Everybody needs to be patient,” she said.
— Jennifer H. Svan
Things to do before you deploy
Here are predeployment reminders from Misawa’s Airman and Family Readiness Center:
¶ Ensure a legal will is current and that a family member in the States knows where it is.
¶ If you have a living will, place a copy in your medical records.
¶ Get a special power of attorney for anything you need someone to handle on your behalf, from bank transactions to selling a vehicle.
¶ Consider getting renter’s insurance.
¶ Ensure family members have current ID cards and are enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. DEERS registration is required for Tricare eligibility.
¶ Ensure Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance and Virtual Record of Emergency Data is current.
¶ A Family Care Plan is required for all single-parent servicemembers and dual military family members to ensure dependents are cared for.
¶ Leave enough money for family to pay bills. If single, arrange for someone to pay bills.
¶ Make sure Japanese Compulsory Insurance won’t expire during deployment.
¶ Leave emergency contact numbers.
¶ Ensure your family knows how to get in touch with your unit if help is needed with yard work, etc.
— Jennifer H. Svan