What to Expect During a Deployment
The months leading up to a deployment are a very busy and stressful time for a soldier and his or her family. For the soldier there are numerous training events to attend, and the mental stress of knowing you will be leaving your family for a year or longer. For families these training events take their soldier away for a few days to a month, when they want to spend time with them the most.
The most major training for a soldier prior to deployment is either going to the Joint Readiness-Training Center located at Fort Polk, Louisiana or the National Training Center located in Fort Irwin, California. Soldiers can expect to be gone for close to a month, and be engaged in realistic training for their upcoming deployment. When this is complete your unit may set up additional field problems to further training of soldiers.
Once you are about a month away from your deployment date equipment will start to be packed. This will be all the equipment you, and your unit need for the deployment. You can expect to participate in a few layouts, helping layout unit equipment, and then laying out your personal gear as well. These layouts help leaders in your unit to verify that everyone has everything they need.
The last two weeks before you deploy expect, as much time off as your unit can afford, they want you to have that time with your family. There will always be last minute things that have to be done, so during this time remain flexible.
When the deployment date is finally here you can expect to show up at your place of duty numerous hours in advance. Most units allow families to stay with their soldier for a couple hours after the set arrival time, and then they have to leave. After families leave weapons are taken from the arms room, and soldiers are taken to an airport. Once at the airport manifests are done to ensure everyone is there, and after a waiting period the plane is boarded.
Depending on the flight plan you can be flying anywhere from 14 hours to 24 hours. There are generally two layovers, so the plane can refuel, and change crews. After you land at your final destination you are taken to check into country.
After checking in, you receive a couple briefings and are released to collect your baggage. The next few days will be spent going to briefs, and doing training with your unit. This will continue until you have a flight into either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Once you land in Iraq or Afghanistan you will receive more briefings from the unit you are replacing. They will brief you on everything you need to succeed in your area of operations, and things they have done.
From the time you leave the states until the time you reach your final destination communication with loved ones may be difficult. The major bases you stop at will most likely have phone and Internet access, but time restraints are an issue at this early stage in the deployment.
Once you reach your final combat outpost or forward operating base gauging how often you can communicate with loved ones will be easier. From my experience even most small bases have some form of phone or Internet access.
Depending on your military occupational specialty, day to day life will be different. If you are in a combat arms MOS you can expect to be doing patrols, if your in a support job, you can be doing your job, or you could also be doing patrols, tower guard, or some other form of duty. This routine could continue for the whole deployment, but the battle is always evolving and you could end up changing locations or jobs.
At some point during your deployment you will receive mid-tour leave. This is a welcomed break and enjoyable. Depending on the length of your deployment you will receive either 15 days or 18 days of leave.
During a deployment emotions will hit you hard. You can expect to experience fear, sadness, anger, confusion, joy and happiness. Talking to loved ones as often as possible helps with this emotional roller coaster. You will also have a chaplain and other mental health services available to you if you need them.
Your deployment will be challenging, rewarding, and an experience you will never forget. Things will get rough at points, but make the best of it, and use the resources you have available to help you through any issues.