How is the Military Protecting My Service Member During COVID-19?

service members having their temperatures taken

Current as of July 20, 2021


The Department of Defense remains committed to the health and safety of military members and their families. This time of coronavirus disease 2019 is no different. The DOD continues to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to stop the spread. The DOD offers free resources through Military OneSource. Each program helps with different military-life challenges or seasons.

Testing and Surveillance for COVID-19

Learn about the DOD’s expanded testing for coronavirus disease 2019 and other measures to detect the disease early and stop its spread.

Protecting against COVID-19

Your local government set guidelines to keep the community healthy. The DOD has taken these steps to help keep military members healthy:

  • Authorized telework when duties allow
  • Started daily health screening for jobs where remote work isn’t possible
  • Restricted personnel movement and travel (now resuming in phases as local conditions allow)
  • Required face masks for all individuals who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and are performing DOD duties, whether on military installations or at other locations including in common areas, shared workspaces and outdoor shared spaces
  • Required frequent handwashing and social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines for all individuals who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and are performing DOD duties
  • Began tiered COVID-19 testing of military personnel
  • Required risk assessments for service members, DOD civilian employees and DOD contractor personnel prior to travel
  • Authorized pre-travel and restriction of movement-associated testing for official international air travel at military medical treatment facilities for DOD civilian employees and members of the selected reserve including members of the National Guard

Installations are taking additional precautions. Read about your service member’s location.

Protecting your service member during deployment and redeployment

As deployments and redeployments resume, the DOD prioritizes:

  • Protecting military and civilian personnel and their families
  • Safeguarding our national security capabilities
  • Supporting the nationwide response to the pandemic

When your service member deploys or redeploys, safety measures will include:

  • A viral test for COVID-19 one to three days before departure; exceptions to testing may be made for those who are:
    • Fully recovered from a laboratory-confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19
    • Fully vaccinated against COVID-19
  • Appropriate screening at the assigned place of duty or point of embarkation
  • Assessment of exposure history, temperature and any COVID-19 signs and symptoms and past test results
  • Consultation with a DOD health care provider if direct screening isn’t possible
  • Evaluation and testing, if necessary, of anyone with a fever or affirmative responses to screening questions
  • Isolation following DOD guidance for anyone who tests positive during screening or meets the clinical case definition of probable infection
  • Mandatory 10-day restriction of movement for all non-vaccinated service members before deploying outside the United States (or after arrival, with permission)
    • ROM may be reduced to seven days with a negative viral test administered within 48 hours prior to the end of the seven-day ROM.
    • An exception to ROM may be made for those who fully recovered from COVID-19 within three months of travel.
  • Viral testing for COVID-19 one to three days prior to redeployment from outside the U.S.
    • An exception to viral testing prior to redeployment may be made for those traveling on military or contracted commercial airlift.
  • Viral testing for COVID-19 three to five days after travel
    • Individuals fully recovered from COVID-19 within the last three months are not required to undergo viral testing before or after travel unless they are symptomatic.
  • Mandatory assessment before redeployment from within the U.S. to see if 10-day restriction of movement is indicated
  • ROM for 10 days after redeploying from outside the U.S., or seven days with a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the seven-day ROM

Protecting your service member’s pay and benefits

COVID-19 has changed routines around the world. This includes many service members’ duties and training. The DOD understands that can heighten anxiety so it has acted to protect pay and benefits.

Financial assistance and counseling

Closures have strained finances for many. Resources are available to help service members, including:

Military OneSource is here 24/7 to keep you informed. Visit our Coronavirus Updates for Our Military Community page.

For DOD updates for the military community on COVID-19, view these sites:

Deployment Basics for Friends and Family

Service members walk towards their next location.

At some point in your loved one’s military service, you’ll probably hear the words, “I’m deploying.” What does that really mean, and how can you support your service member?

Looking for a deployment “how-to” guide?

The Plan My Deployment website offers comprehensive information and resources for every phase of the deployment cycle.

The word deployment can mean different things, depending on your service member’s job, unit and service branch. Generally, deployment means a scheduled time away from the normal duty station, usually outside of the United States. It may mean seven months on a Navy ship, 12 months at a forward operating base or three months in a town with restaurants and shops you’d recognize back home. Sometimes your service member may serve in dangerous situations, but they have intense training and are well prepared for the challenges they may face in their specific mission.

The deployment cycle starts when a service member is notified of a deployment and extends through any predeployment training, the actual deployment, and reunion and reintegration. Every deployment cycle is different, but here are some general things to know:

Army deployment

Soldiers can deploy in large or small groups or even individually. Many soldiers will do predeployment training at large training centers such as the National Training Center, the Joint Readiness Training Center or at specific training centers located at bases across the country. An average deployment cycle will include months of training at their home base and at these specialized courses.

Soldiers with specific skills may go individually or in smaller units. They will have different types of training requirements based on the job, their prior preparation and the location of the deployment.

Learn more about Army deployments »

Marine Corps deployment

Many Marine Corps deployments happen on Navy ships, or service members may fly to their deployment location. The majority of Marine Corps deployments include approximately one year of training followed by six to seven months of actual deployment time. However, a significant number of Marine Corps deployments may be scheduled for one year or more.

The Marine Corps prepares to support a wide variety of missions, often on short notice. Deployment types include training exercises, force readiness, supporting ongoing missions and humanitarian support. (Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks. To visit the video directly, go to https://youtu.be/0X8hATzmFRg.)

Learn more about Marine Corps deployments »

Navy deployment

Many Navy deployments are on ships or submarines. Whether your service member is permanently assigned to the ship or sub or is joining the vessel as part of a separate unit such as an aircraft squadron, they’ll spend many months before the deployment participating in a wide variety of training both on and off the ship or sub. Ship- or sub-based deployments typically last six or seven months, though occasionally they will go longer. The time at sea may be broken up by port calls, where the ship pulls into a town and the sailors are permitted to go ashore and enjoy some time off.

Sailors who deploy without a ship or sub may go to a variety of locations to perform a wide range of jobs. Their predeployment training may be part of their regular job, so there may not be much disruption to their regular schedule, or they may need to learn entirely new skills for the deployment. These deployments may be with Navy units or joint units, or service members may be assigned to a unit of a different branch of the military. The latter is usually called an individual augmentee job. Sailors deployed without a ship or a sub may go for as little as 30 days or for more than a year.

Learn more about Navy deployments »

Air Force deployment

Airmen participate in many different types of deployments. Most Air Force deployments involve flying to another location, often an overseas Air Force base, a joint base or the base of another service. Airmen may live on those bases or stay in hotels.

Some Air Force units have a faster deployment cycle, with shorter deployments and shorter times between deployments. While Air Force deployments still may follow the average durations of other branch deployments, typically six to 12 months, they may also do a series of two- to three-month deployments in quick succession. Differences in deployment tempo are usually based upon job and unit.

Learn more about Air Force deployments »

Supporting your service member during deployment

Knowing what to expect during the deployment cycle can help everyone manage challenges more successfully. The Plan My Deployment website offers comprehensive information and resources for service members and families. Think of it as your deployment “how-to” guide. Military OneSource also offers information specifically for friends and extended family to help you understand military life and culture and support your service member.

Deployment can bring about a wide range of emotions for service members, families and friends. Everyone may be excited for your service member to do the job for which they’ve trained yet also feel sad about being apart and perhaps nervous about how the deployment will unfold. It’s natural to feel all these things, sometimes all at the same time.

One of the best ways to help manage deployment challenges like these and support your service member is to have realistic expectations. Three key things for family and friends to remember throughout the deployment cycle are:

  1. Your service member has been training to use his or her skills during a deployment. Your service member is well prepared to do this job and may be very focused on the mission ahead.
  2. Things can and will change frequently. Trainings and deployments can be moved up, delayed or canceled altogether. Departure and return dates will shift. Communication may be limited. The more understanding you are, the more your service member will feel supported.
  3. Your service member will not be able to answer all your questions. Your loved one may not know the answer to your question or may not be able to tell you the things he or she does know.

A good way to face deployment is to be informed and try not to worry about things you can’t control. Instead, focus on the things you can control – like staying in touch with your service member. Learn more about how you can support your service member before deployment and visit the Military Deployment Support web page for an overview of resources. You can also subscribe to the Friends & Family Connection eNewsletter to stay connected.

If you have questions about deployment or other aspects of military life, Military OneSource consultants are available 24/7/365 to help you find answers and connect you with the resources you need. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS calling options or schedule a live chat .

Your Service Member’s Well-Being: Mental Health Services for the Military

Married couple talking on dock

Service members thrive when they are both physically and mentally fit. But stress, relationship concerns, sleep problems, grief and other issues can affect a service member’s focus. The Department of Defense prioritizes the psychological well-being of service members and offers a number of mental health services for the military.

Mental health services in the military

There are many resources available for mental health support for service members and spouses. These include:

  • TRICARE or your service member’s nearest military treatment facility. Therapy may be available through TRICARE, the health care program for service members and their families. Your service member’s primary care manager can also make a referral to a military treatment facility or network provider.
  • InTransition offers free specialized coaching and assistance to service members, as well as veterans and retirees, who need access to mental health care during times of transition, such as returning from deployment, relocating to another assignment or preparing to leave military service.
  • Non-medical counseling is available through the Military and Family Life Counseling Program at your service member’s installation. This free and confidential service is also available through Military OneSource by calling 800-342-9647. International calling options can be found here.
  • Chill Drills is a free wellness app created for the military community by a therapist who works with service members and their families. It is a collection of simple audio mindfulness exercises to relax the body and mind.

Talking with your service member about their mental health

It can be difficult to know what to do when a loved one is stressed or trying to cope with a new challenge. Being far away can make it harder to help. If your service member is experiencing stress or behavioral changes, you can reassure them they have options to get confidential help.

  • Talk about the importance of overall health. Staying in top condition means taking care of yourself mentally as well as physically. Both are vital to a strong military.
  • Talk about any doubts your service member may have about speaking with someone. If your service member is ashamed or afraid that seeking help will damage their career, let them know that they are far from alone. Many successful people – military leaders included – have overcome challenges by reaching out for help. The Department of Defense has taken actions to eliminate negative stereotypes about mental health problems.
  • Remind your service member that seeking help is a sign of strength. Reaching out is a positive step toward addressing stress, anxiety or any other issue that affects their well-being.

If your service member needs immediate help, the Military Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, or access online chat by texting 838255.

No one should suffer mental health challenges in silence. With your support and encouragement, your service member can get the help they need to improve their well-being and live life to the fullest.

Understanding and Supporting the Military Spouse in Your Life

Couple reunited after deployment

Military spouses hold a unique, but important role in upholding our nation’s strength. Although they don’t serve the country directly, their support to those who do is vital to force morale and readiness.

May is Military Spouse Appreciation Month – a time when military spouses are recognized and honored for their contributions. If you aren’t or have never been a military spouse, it can be tough to figure out how to show your support. A good place to start is by learning more about life as a military spouse.

Life as a military spouse

The life of a military spouse may be filled with exciting new adventures along with periods of separation and loneliness. Spouses are generally flexible and strong, and often required to be independent while their partner is working towards their mission. Many have children and jobs to balance along with the demanding aspects of their partner’s military career.

While individual experiences may differ, life as a military spouse generally involves:

  • Frequent moves. On average, military families move to a new duty station every two to three years. It can be difficult to leave jobs, say goodbye to friends and start over in a new and unfamiliar community. The upside of moving every few years is the opportunity to live in different parts of the country and in some cases, the world, but there are also challenges adapting to a new environment and culture.
  • Separations from extended family. Moves are bound to take the military spouse in your life far from close friends and family. This can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness, but it also can enrich their lives as they meet new people and engage with their community.
  • Separations from their partner. A service member’s deployment can be hard on a spouse. They may worry about their partner’s safety and miss their companionship. They may feel overwhelmed by the burden of doing everything on their own. The service member may miss important events – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, even the birth of a child. This can lead to sadness and even resentment. However, military families tend to find creative ways to include the deployed member in these events. And while deployments can take their toll, they can also show spouses just how much they are capable of handling on their own.
  • Finding ways to reconnect when their partner returns home from deployment. There is often a readjustment period when a service member returns from deployment. The spouse at home may have established a new routine while the returning spouse may wonder where they fit into the household. This can be a rocky period in a relationship that requires patience and lots of communication. Couples learn valuable skills during this period that ultimately strengthen their partnership.

Showing your support for the military spouse in your life

Military spouses tend to be resilient. Over time, they develop new skills, create new support systems and learn to adapt to changing circumstances. Any extra support or recognition that you show the military spouse in your life can go a long way toward making them feel strong and understood.

  • Call and check in. It’s nice to do this any time, but particularly meaningful during deployments, after a recent move or during other times you know the spouse may be under strain.
  • Send a card. A handwritten note is always a welcome surprise.
  • Offer to take the kids for a night, if you live close enough. A night off from parenting responsibilities to reconnect with a partner or just enjoy some solitude is a huge gift.
  • Make a meal or send a gift card to a local restaurant. Whether it’s eat-in or takeout, everyone enjoys a night off from cooking.
  • Offer to be a listening ear. Let the military spouse in your life know that you want to be a supportive person in their life. Often that means just being available to listen.

Resources for military spouses

There are a number of resources to support military spouses. See if the spouse in your life is familiar with them.

  • The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program. Frequent moves and other challenges of military life can get in the way of a spouse’s career. SECO supports military spouses with education and career guidance, scholarships and partnerships with employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses.
  • Non-medical counseling. Free and confidential non-medical counseling is available on the installation through the Military and Family Life Counseling program and through Military OneSource.
  • Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultation. Free and confidential, this specialty consultation from Military OneSource features a number of tracks, including Strengthening the Couple Connection, Staying Connected While Away, Reconnecting After Deployment and MilSpouse Toolkit.
  • Re the We on Military OneSource features links to services, resources and expert guidance to rekindle, repair or reset a relationship.
  • The Blog Brigade features posts from military spouses about a range of topics, including military life, deployment, parenting, relationships, career and education, health and wellness and moving.

While May is Military Spouse Appreciation Month, it’s important to recognize the feats and challenges your military spouse conquers throughout the year. Asking about their experiences can make them feel supported and understood, while opening the conversation can deepen your relationship and show your loved one that you care.

Military OneSource Virtual Resources Offer Personalized Support and Tools for Overall Well-Being

Military male jogging outside

Current as of April 12, 2021


Military life has great rewards – and some challenges. Deployments, moves and the uncertainty of current travel restrictions are among some of these stressful demands. In times of change, it’s reassuring to have a trusted source of information, resources and support. For the military community, that’s Military OneSource – a free resource available 24/7 to help service members and their families thrive.

Financial counseling, career guidance and tax help

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has caused global financial worries. Military OneSource offers free financial and career resources including:

Resources for physical, mental and emotional well-being

Military OneSource has tools for service members and families to care for body and mind. A few of the available resources include:

  • Health and wellness coaching can help teens and adults get on track. Start with healthy eating, physical fitness and managing stress.
  • Online tutoring and homework help from Tutor.com. This free service has temporarily expanded. It now covers any adult or child member of a Department of Defense civilian, the National Guard or reserves. It also applies to families of wounded, ill and/or injured service members. Even adults enrolled in a college or professional development course may be eligible. As always, the service is available to military children in grades K-12. Access Tutor.com through the MWR Digital Library.
  • Chill Drills are audio tracks developed to help service members and their families relax and manage stress. By doing these drills regularly, you can lower your blood pressure and reduce the level of stress hormones in your body. Download the free app today and take Chill Drills with you on the go.
  • Wellness apps can help you and your service member regroup and reboot. Learn deep-breathing techniques to relax and unwind. Find personalized tools to handle stress and anxiety during self-care breaks. All apps were developed by the DOD, Veterans Affairs and other partners.
  • Military OneSource non-medical counseling can help with stress management. Counselors work with you to resolve everyday life stressors, marital and communication issues, parenting challenges, grief and more. Military OneSource counselors know military life. They understand your challenges. Sessions are confidential.
  • Video non-medical counseling for children and youth offer children and teenagers tools to develop healthy coping skills to manage life’s stressors.

Personalized support to strengthen relationships

Even the strongest relationship can bend under the pressure of life changes. Learn to tackle  deployments, permanent changes of station and living through a pandemic. Military OneSource services can strengthen important connections:

  • Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultations offer coaching, resources and problem-solving ideas to help you set goals and strengthen your relationships. Boost your communication skills with a series of personalized coaching sessions available by phone or video.
  • New MilParent specialty consultations can help you and your service member prepare for a new baby. You can also focus on parenting challenges. These are great for expectant parents and parents with children under 5. Get expert help by video or phone.

Determining eligibility and getting started with Military OneSource virtual support

Military OneSource support is available to active duty, National Guard and reserve members, their partners and their children. For eligibility, see Military OneSource Confidential Help Eligibility.

Service members and their families can access services by creating a free account on Military OneSource. They can live chat or call 800-342-9647. If outside of the country, use international calling options.

Stay up to date on information to help you and your service member navigate the coronavirus 2019 pandemic.

In times of change, it’s reassuring to have a trusted source of information, resources and support. For  the military community, that’s Military OneSource – a free resource available 24/7 to help service members and their families thrive.

This Memorial Day: Honor Heroes and Make Meaningful Connections With Your Service Member

American flag

Current as of April 27, 2021


Memorial Day weekend 2021 will be marked in different ways around the country. Parades, concerts and public ceremonies may once again be held in some communities. Other cities and towns continue to restrict public gatherings because of the coronavirus 2019 disease pandemic.

If you can’t attend a public Memorial Day event, there are other ways to remember and honor those who gave their lives to protect our freedoms. Whether your service member is near or far, you can mark the day together in ways that are particularly meaningful to you.

Talk about who you will honor on Memorial Day

We remember all of our fallen heroes on Memorial Day, but your service member may be mourning a specific loss this year. Talk about family members and other loved ones who are on your mind. Ask if you can join your service member in honoring anyone special.

Let your service member know the ways you will observe Memorial Day. You may decide to take time to quietly reflect on those you’ve lost. Or you and your service member may find comfort in connecting with others.

Ways to honor someone important to you and your service member

Here are a few ideas to consider while you and your service member talk about ways to remember a fallen hero.

  • Post a tribute on social media. Online platforms are virtual gathering places where we celebrate life’s joys and mourn our losses. Create a tribute page for your fallen loved one. Share pictures, memories, favorite songs and other remembrances.
  • Reach out to others who share your loss. Connect through a phone call, text, send a card or write a letter.
  • Send flowers from you and your service member to the family of someone who lost their life in service to the country.
  • Make a donation to a nonprofit that was important to your fallen hero. Or ask about possible volunteer opportunities.

Marking Memorial Day 2021 in times of social distancing

Following the rituals of Memorial Day tells your service member that you are proud of our military and thankful to those who served. Here are ways to share this important day despite the miles that separate you.

  • Make and send poppies for your service member to wear on Memorial Day. Typically made from red crepe paper, poppies are worn to honor the sacrifices of American service members during war. Look for instructions online. You might even make enough for your service member to pass out to others to wear on Memorial Day.
  • Fly the American flag. If you have a flagpole you may want to follow the formal flag-raising ceremony. Raise the flag briskly on Memorial Day morning, then lower it to half-staff to honor the fallen. At noon, raise the flag to full staff for the remainder of the day. If you’re unable to be with your service member, consider sharing this moment on video chat.
  • Observe the National Moment of Silence. Stop what you are doing at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, and observe one minute of silence. Use this time to reflect on those who lost their lives.

Important holidays bring us together, even when we are physically apart. For more information about Memorial Day, see Remember America’s Military Heroes on Memorial Day Weekend.

Service members and their families can stay up to date on all the latest military-related information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

Whether your service member is near or far, you can mark the day together in ways that are particularly meaningful to you.

Support Groups for Parents of Service Members

parents with service member daughter

Having a son or daughter in the military can bring about a host of emotions, from pride in their service to concern for their safety. It’s natural to want to connect with other parents like you. But with less than half of one percent of Americans in the armed forces, you may have difficulty finding them if you don’t know where to look.

For many, the answer is to join a support group for parents of service members. These groups, whether in-person or online, can provide the comfort and comradery of being with others who share your experiences.

How military parent support groups can help

The desire to be there for your child never seems to go away – even when your child is an adult who serves in the military. But parents need to pay attention to their own well-being, too. In fact, acknowledging and caring for your own emotional needs will make you a stronger support for your service member.

Having other military parents to turn to can be comforting and encouraging. A support group for military parents can:

  • Ease feelings of loneliness or isolation.
  • Provide an outlet for discussing your feelings.
  • Reduce stress or anxiety by being around others who share your experiences and feelings.
  • Be a source of information, resources, encouragement and guidance.
  • Provide the satisfaction of allowing you to support fellow parents.

How to find a support group

Reach out to your installation Military and Family Support Center for help finding support groups specific to your child’s service branch as well as groups for parents of military members in general.

You can also look for support groups for military parents by:

  • Searching online and through social media
  • Asking around in your own community
  • Talking with others at your house of worship
  • Inquiring at local veterans organizations

If you’re unable to find a support group, consider starting one of your own. Spread the word through social media and through community and veterans organizations. Even though they’re a small fraction of the U.S. population, those parents of service members still amount to millions of people. And chances are, you’ll find others who are eager to connect.

Military and Family Life Counseling: There for Your Service Member

Service member talking on phone

Military families face unique challenges. Deployments can be hard on relationships. Frequent moves may cause stress. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program can help.

As a friend or family member, you are an important source of support, whether it’s pitching in with packing or simply being there to listen. But some issues require the help of a professional. Military and family life counselors are among the benefits available to help service members overcome challenges and thrive in their military lives.

What is the MFLC Program?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program is on-installation support that offers free, short-term, confidential non-medical counseling to service members and their families. Licensed, master’s- or doctorate-level counselors are available for one-on-one, couple or group sessions to help your service member with:

  • Managing stress, including difficulties due to COVID-19
  • Adjusting to deployment
  • Preparing to move or getting settled after a move
  • Strengthening relationships
  • Managing problems at work
  • Grieving the death of a loved one or colleague

Counseling is available by telephone and video in areas where face-to-face support has been restricted due to COVID-19. Military and family life counseling is also available for children and youth.

How military and family life counselors can help

In addition to being available by appointment for individual or couple counseling, military and family life counselors help in other ways. The program is an important tool for leaders, who may request a unit briefing and grief counseling for its members if the unit experiences a loss or other difficult event. Leaders may also call upon the MFLC program for briefings and presentations on topics including:

  • Anger management
  • Assertiveness training
  • Deployment survival
  • Grief and loss
  • Building healthy marriages
  • Reintegration
  • Stress management

Connecting with a non-medical counselor

If your service member feels overwhelmed or is facing a difficult challenge, remind them that the MFLC program is standing by, ready to help. Your service member can schedule an appointment with a non-medical counselor by contacting their installation’s Military and Family Support Center. Or, they can call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for contact information and a warm handoff. If your loved one is outside the continental United States, they can click here for calling options.

How the Military Supports Diversity and Inclusion

Service members folding the American flag

The diverse makeup of the armed forces is one of its greatest assets. When service members of different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and other identities unite for a common mission, the result is a stronger and more effective force.

As someone who cares about a service member, you may have questions about how the military ensures equal opportunity and acceptance of individual differences among all its members. The DOD has taken steps to root out bias, ensure the military reflects the nation’s diversity and promote an environment in which every member is treated with dignity and respect.

Over the coming months, there will be an effort to get input from service members – both officers and enlisted – to hear their views and concerns about diversity and inclusion in the military.

Some changes have been implemented to advance diversity and inclusion

Military leaders have been charged with making equal opportunity and inclusion a priority. Your service member may have already benefited from some recent changes, including:

  • Removing photographs and references to race, ethnicity and gender from personnel files in promotion and selection processes. This eliminates the risk of bias when considering a candidate for a promotion, assignment, training, education or command.
  • Enacting stronger protections against harassment and discrimination including prohibiting discrimination because of pregnancy.
  • Training to detect and respond appropriately to bias – both conscious and unconscious. Service members and leaders are also receiving training on recognizing and understanding the impact of their own biases and prejudices.
  • Reviewing hairstyle and grooming policies for racial bias.
  • Training for commanders on guiding discussions on discrimination, prejudice and bias.

As an ongoing effort, the DOD collects and analyzes information to identify prejudice and bias, measure the effectiveness of its actions and expose areas requiring improvement.

Longer-term steps toward diversity and inclusion

Building upon the above, the Department of Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion has recommended further steps to improve racial and ethnic diversity and broaden equal opportunity in the military. These recommendations include:

  • Updating recruiting content annually to reflect the nation’s racial and ethnic makeup.
  • Diversifying senior-level positions so they reflect the nation’s racial and ethnic makeup.
  • Identifying and removing barriers to diversity in aptitude tests while retaining a rigorous screening process.
  • Identifying and removing barriers to senior leadership for diverse candidates.
  • Disclosing demographic information about promotion selection rates. This will improve transparency and reinforce the DOD’s focus on achieving equity across all grades.
  • Creating a diversity and inclusion mobile app and website that will allow service members to easily connect with each other and locate resources.
  • Prohibiting involvement with extremist or hate group activity.

To ensure continued progress, the DOD has established the independent Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Armed Services. This committee will continue the work of examining any and all issues that will improve equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion in the military.

Diverse and inclusive ranks are essential to morale, force cohesion and readiness. Your service member plays an important role in maintaining an environment that values and respects individual differences.

Creating New Holiday Traditions When Your Service Member Is Away

A service member watches her children open presents via video chat.

With your service member away and people around the world avoiding travel and large gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the holidays may feel different this year.

There are things you can do to help make the holiday special for yourself and those you love, whether your service member is stationed far from home or deployed. Sharing old traditions and creating new ones can keep the holidays fun and meaningful, and help you stay connected.

You are an important influence in your service member’s life. Sharing traditions or creating new ones during this time of year shows that you are thinking about and supporting your loved ones. This is meaningful, as they – and you – may be feeling a lot of emotions, whether they express it or not.

Creating new virtual traditions

With video get-togethers more common since the pandemic started, your service member and other loved ones are probably comfortable with online visits. Think about scheduling one or more virtual get-togethers this season. Add in some holiday fun to make them even more memorable.

Hold a virtual “potluck.” No need to bring food to this get-together, just something else to share – a toast, joke, poem or favorite holiday memory.

Create a slideshow of holidays past. Collect photos and short videos from family and friends in plenty of time to create a slideshow or video presentation of seasons past. Use screen-sharing during an online gathering to show the presentation. Half the fun will be seeing each other’s reactions and sharing memories.

Schedule a holiday game night. Create and email bingo cards for guests to print out for a holiday bingo night. Or hold a trivia night of random facts, family history or a combination of both. Look into multiplayer online games that everyone will enjoy and that will create the feeling of being there with each other.

Open presents together. Get together virtually to share the experience of opening presents. If your service member has children, read a holiday story.

Watch your favorite holiday movie at the same time. If possible, watch while using video chat or social media to comment on the best parts in real time. If holiday movies are not your thing, you could choose a television series to stream and talk about.

Other new traditions to try

Here are some more ideas to bridge the distance gap and celebrate with loved ones. See if they work for you, and share them with others in your service member’s network of support.

Design family T-shirts or hats for family members to wear one day around the holidays. Put something meaningful or fun on them and then video chat or text pictures of yourselves wearing them. Send your service member one of the T-shirts or hats ahead of time, so they can wear it on the designated day.

Send a care package or even an experience. Sending a care package is a great way to brighten your service member’s holiday season, especially if they are deployed. Or you might consider sending an experience they may remember over time. Think about giving your service member a round of golf or a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

Create a photo book. Include images of you and your service member, together and apart, from throughout the years. Make a copy for you and send a copy to them as a holiday gift to share and look through together.

Encourage your service member to get together with friends. Missing home may put a damper on wanting to celebrate, but suggesting that your loved one get together safely with buddies and newfound friends can help. Remind them to embrace the local culture whether they are in North Dakota, the Pacific region or somewhere else.

Adopt a foreign holiday tradition. If your service member is stationed abroad, research the country’s holiday traditions and incorporate one or a few into your own.

Volunteer or send a donation on behalf of your service member to a favorite charity. Your service member is serving our nation. Take their lead and volunteer over the holiday season in your local community. Or donate to an organization on behalf of your service member, something that is close to his or her heart.

Send several holiday cards in the same package. Write a different note of appreciation and love in each one. Your service member can open one card a day leading up to the holiday. See these guidelines from the Postal Service to make sure your cards get there on time.

Send a homemade ornament with pictures of you, children or cherished pets on it.

Check out these other holiday resources from Military OneSource for ideas to help spark new holiday traditions for your family and alert your service member of available resources for the holidays and beyond.

Whatever your holiday plans, make sure you and your service member set realistic expectations ahead of time. Are you expecting to talk over the holidays? Do you want to send presents? Discuss what you want, and make sure it’s doable based on your loved one’s location and operational situation. And don’t forget the postal deadlines.