Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How to Stay Informed & Get Support during Deployment

By Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author

Photo by Corie Howell via Flickr cc
The Navy doesn’t acknowledge me. I do not exist to the Navy. If something happens while he’s deployed, I’ll be alone. I’ll be left in the dark.

It’s a top fear for Navy Girlfriends, Fiancés, and Military Significant Others. It was mine when I was there. It’s one of those top reasons that Military couples get married as part of their preparation for deployment, but what if you aren’t ready? Is it marriage or non-existence? Is that your only option?

No.

After a Navy Girlfriend contacted me with this concern recently, I decided to do some research and this is what I found . . . so far. Please comment with questions or concerns that are not answered here.

Will I be left in the dark if my Sailor is injured or worse?
Every Sailor fills out emergency contact paperwork in case of injury or death before a deployment. On page two of this paperwork, there is a section where the Sailor can list people to be contacted, regardless of marriage or relation. Talk to your Sailor about listing you on this paperwork. 

If you both agree that this isn't the right course for you, talk to your Sailor about who his/her emergency contact is and ask to meet this person and stay in contact with him or her during deployment. Ask if you can all discuss an emergency plan so that he or she knows to contact you if something were to happen and then you know exactly what you will do thereafter.

These are things you don't want to think about but it's wise to have multiple emergency plans figured out for a bunch of different possible scenarios, big things like what you will do if someone breaks into your houses, to more common problems like who you will call when your car breaks down, to little things like who you will call when you discover a dead mouse lodged in your washing machine - you can't just pull it out - it's in there.

Will I be left in the dark in general?
Family Readiness Groups and Ombudsmens provide regular updates and are the best way to stay informed. They have newsletters and social media pages that you can subscribe to. Boats, subs, and squadrons also have public social media pages that offer regular updates and information.

Can't I just rely on my Sailor for keeping me updated?
No. Subs will go under and you won't hear from them for months. Ships have blackouts when there is no internet. If you aren't being informed by anyone, you just will stop hearing from him without warning and it can be scary. Trust me, I know.

Also, Sailors are not as wordy when it comes to their emails and a lot of Navy Girlfriends and Wives feel like they get little communication. Check out my post on this Why Sailors Take so Long to Respond to Emails, which is a guest post where a Sailor actually explains this phenomena.

Also talk to your Sailor beforehand about what you would like and expect as far as emails and communication goes. If he knows what you are hoping for and you likewise understand how he feels, you will be a lot happier with the communication you receive.

Will I have access to deployment preparation guides & resources Spouses get?
Your Sailor can sign you onto base and take you to the pre-deployment briefs. This is a great chance to meet the Ombudsmen and Family Readiness Group leaders. But, sometimes sometimes these briefs are not enough, maybe they are overwhelming or your Sailor just didn’t realize you should go to one. There are tons of other resources online to help with pre, ongoing, and post-deployment preparation and endurance. These are open to spouses and Significant Others and includes a post on this blog: Resources & Definitions for New Navy Girlfriends & Spouses.

"As a non-ID holder, you may feel like you are not connected with the military community your service member is a part of, especially if you do not live close to your service member’s installation. There are several things that you can do for yourself to make that connection and to support your service member. Also check out their page on Family Care Plans, especially if you or your family members have any special needs."

"Coping With Deployments Course: Spouses, parents, siblings and significant others learn skill-building techniques that help them respond to the challenges of the deployment cycle. Pre-Deployment Preparedness Tool for Family Members: Make sure your family is prepared with information they may need throughout the deployment. Post-Deployment Support Resources: Information and workshops to help families re-adjust to being together after a loved one’s deployment."

Will I have no one to support me or to talk to?
Family Readiness Groups offer support and assistance with with the kinds of things friends would help with, especially when you find yourself in a new place. During my first deployment, my only car broke down and the FRG president gave me rides for a couple of days until I sorted it all out. These groups are open to Significant Others and family members. You can give them your contact information and let them know of your situation. You can go to meetings, which are sometimes on base and sometimes off of base, depending on the FRG. I know of FRGs that send someone out to sign someone onto base so they can attend a meeting. You just have to meet them talk to them about your specific situation. They are people who volunteered to help others. They are not Military employees or Service Members, generally.   

"Military Significant Other and Spouse support provides information and support for all aspects of the military life, from basic and bootcamp to relocation and retirement. You'll find friends in your area, deployment support groups, people who understand this life and your feelings, ideas for care packages, support for post deployment reintegration, advice on helping kids cope with the military lifestyle and much more."

"Every family's situation is unique, and there is no common scenario of a deployment. Some families are on or near a military installation that provides a Family Readiness Group (FRG) or other resources. There are many, however, that are removed from such resources. What's more, being away from a military installation creates the added struggle of loneliness...that there is no one who really understands. It is our hope and prayer that this website will give you some feeling of connection and also help you to easily connect you to resources that may better equip you through the deployment."

Reddit and Facebook also have open forums and communities, but some are non-regulated, so gossip and internet trolling are things to be aware of, but still, these communities are created by people who just want to help people. 

What if there is an emergency? Will I have no one to turn to? If I move to my Sailor’s duty station, will I be completely alone in a crisis?
In addition to the Ombudsmen and FRG, there are multiple resources that can help in an emergency or crisis, financial or otherwise.

"Members of the military enroll on a voluntary basis. Each service member designates an individual to receive support during deployment as their Primary Care Receiver. This person can be any adult family member or 'significant other'. A volunteer from the local community who has been trained in care-giving and the deployment cycle is assigned to that individual. Assignments are gender matched. This Hometown Support Volunteer (HSV) stays in regular contact with the designated family member coordinating local support efforts. The HSV has direct access to affiliated organizations which can provide employment and emergency financial support. The HSV has also been trained to recognize behaviors that might indicate the need for professional mental health care."

"Local Red Cross offices develop and maintain relationships with key community partners. Military families rely on the Red Cross to help them identify their needs and connect them to the most appropriate Red Cross and community resources. This key Red Cross service ranges from responding to emergency needs for food, clothing, and shelter, referrals to counseling services (e.g., financial, legal, mental health), respite care for caregivers, and other resources that meet the unique needs of local military members, veterans and their families."

What if the worst were to happen to my Sailor? What if my Sailor is killed? Then what? Will no one help me or even acknowledge my existence?
There are multiple resources that provide aid to both Military Spouses, Girlfriends, Boyfriends, Fiancés, and Significant Others.

"TAPS is the 24/7 tragedy assistance resource for ANYONE who has suffered the loss of a military loved one, regardless of the relationship to the deceased or the circumstance of the death."

Explanation of Benefits Service Members Can Assign to Significant Others
"Service members may freely designate any person, including a parent or significant other, for certain benefits."


This is what my research has turned up so far. I feel like this list is incomplete, so if you know of any other resources that are geared toward non-married Significant Others, please let us know in the comments. If you have questions or concerns I didn't include in here, leave them in the comments or on our Facebook Forum and we will do our best to find you the answers you need.

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About Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author
Buy Her Book A White Room!
Photo by Randy Enriquez
I dated and married my husband in 2004 when I was 19. I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy, and I didn't know what to ask.

After ten years of learning in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered. I wanted to spread the knowledge that I needed when I was new, to reveal what took years for me to learn.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
  
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction.

My first novel A White Room debuted in 2013 and is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions of becoming a nurse to marry a man who can save her destitute family. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness until she stumbles on an opportunity to nurse to the poor despite the fact that her husband prosecutes unlicensed practitioners.

Learn more at www.stephaniecarroll.net and connect with me @CarrollBooks on Twitter, Facebook, or on Pinterest!

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