A sailor hugs a loved one after returning from deployment.
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How to Support Your Service Member Before Deployment

Your service member has just told you that they’ve received “orders to mobilize” – that means they’ll soon be deployed. This is the moment they have trained for since they entered basic training: preparing to serve a greater mission wherever and whenever they are needed.

Sure, your heart may be beating fast, but don’t let that overshadow the pride you have in your service member right now. Practically speaking, here’s what those deployment orders mean for both your service member and you as their family member, and how you can best support them before they ship off to their temporary duty station.

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A predeployment checklist for you and your service member

The U.S. military sends tens of thousands of service members – plus their equipment and transportation – around the world every year on deployment, all running as part of a longstanding, well-oiled machine revolving around planning and preparation.

Exactly how service members will prepare for their upcoming deployment depends on their specific orders to mobilize. Some deployments include an 18-month “cruise” on military ships performing routine patrols. Other service members may land at a “Forward Operating Base,” or FOB, in combat zones. Then, there are deployments at duty stations with restaurants and shops you’d recognize back home.

No matter what the deployment is, all service members undergo specialized training, briefings, medical evaluations and counseling during what’s known as their “predeployment phase.” Service members also work together with their immediate and extended families to address several financial and legal matters, to make sure everything back home is secure during deployment.

Below, we’ve listed some of the tasks all service members should complete during the predeployment phase, and how you might be able to offer help if they ask.

File legal paperwork add
Break contracts and pay future bills add
Create a Family Care Plan, enroll in DEERS and update DoD ID cards add
Plan for “combat pay” add
Figure out a communication strategy add

There’s more that happens during the predeployment phase, for both service members and their families. You can learn more about the tasks, briefings and other preparations your service member undergoes before deploying at Plan My Deployment, a free online tool available to help military families organize and understand all phases of deployment.

And did you know that active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members have access to services from financial planning to peer or professional counseling? It’s free and available 24/7 through Military OneSource.