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Military Deployment 101 — Understanding Predeployment to Reunion and Reintegration

Soldiers boarding plane for deployment

Your service member’s deployment can bring up many emotions. You may feel pride in your loved one’s service to their country, concern for their safety and stress over the many unknowns.

You can ease some of your worries by learning what to expect, preparing for the changes that deployment may bring, and locating available support for your service member and their family.

What is a military deployment?

A military deployment is the movement of armed forces to support a certain mission. Not all deployments are combat related. Service members may be deployed to support an enduring mission, provide humanitarian aid, to assist in the evacuation of U.S. citizens, to restore peace to a region or to provide increased security.

What to know about deployment

A military deployment spans the time before and after the actual period when the service member is away. The phases of what is called the “deployment cycle” are:

  • Predeployment. This is the preparation stage. Your service member will undergo training, briefings, medical evaluations and counseling before leaving on their mission. Your service member and family will also prepare logistically, financially, legally and emotionally for the deployment during this period. This is a busy and sometimes emotional time as everyone prepares for the change ahead.
  • Deployment. A deployment starts when your service member leaves their home installation. Deployments can be of varying durations depending on the mission. Saying goodbye and being apart can be hard, but keep in mind that this is what your service member has been training for. Your service member is very well prepared and focused on the mission.
  • Reunion and reintegration. Believe it or not, this starts before your service member returns. They will complete post-deployment requirements before they leave their deployed location and continue with additional requirements once they return. This can include scheduled briefings and health screenings once they arrive home. This period can be joyful but expect some bumps along the way as everyone readjusts to life together and your service member reintegrates into their home, work and community life.

Questions you may have about your service member’s deployment

Deployment extensions sometimes happen. They can be disappointing for everyone, but it’s important to remember that the extension is no one’s fault. Learn some ways to help yourself, your family and your service member cope with a deployment extension.

The unknowns around military deployments can be frustrating for family members and friends. It’s natural to want to know everything about your service member’s deployment. While that may not always be possible because of limited communications, there are ways to stay updated. Read Six Ways to Stay Informed During Deployment.

Hearing from families and friends is a great morale builder for deployed service members — and staying connected can help you feel closer, too. Even when communication channels are unpredictable, there are ways to keep the lines open. Find tips for staying connected.

Your service member’s children may need extra support during their parent’s deployment. What that support looks like will depend on the child and their age. Find tips for supporting children and youth during deployment.

OPSEC, or operations security, means being mindful of what you share about your service member’s deployment. In the wrong hands, that information can jeopardize Defense Department personnel, operations and strategies. Learn more about OPSEC and how to keep information safe.

The military community provides a variety of resources and services to help single service members through every part of the deployment cycle.

Your service member’s return from deployment is cause for celebration. It’s also a time of readjustment, when everyone will be getting used to new routines. These ideas can help you prepare for a successful reunion and reintegration.

Your service member may be wrestling with strong feelings about their experiences while deployed. Some of these stress reactions will heal with time, while others may require professional attention. Here’s what to know about mental health after deployment and where to get help.

Deployment support and resources

Your service member and immediate family have plenty of support and resources to help them manage the changes before, during and after deployment.

  • The Military Family Readiness System is a network of programs, services and agencies that promotes military family well-being. These include predeployment briefings, family readiness group meetings and more. Your service member’s Military and Family Support Center can provide information on deployment support programs and services.
  • The Plan My Deployment website offers comprehensive information and resources to help service members and their families prepare for all phases of the deployment cycle.
  • The Military Deployment Support web page provides an overview of deployment resources.

Knowing what to expect during the deployment cycle and what resources are available can help you support your service member and ease your concerns before, during and after their deployment.

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