Tips for Facing a Deployment Amid COVID-19

soldier holding child with homecoming sign
(Candis Olmstead/DVIDS)

How many emails have you gotten talking about these "uncertain times?" Probably enough to make you scream.

As a military spouse, your entire married life has been uncertain. From waiting for orders and watching them change to extended deployments and hurry up and wait, you're a pro at navigating uncertain times.

But now, once again, you're facing something new.

If you're preparing for your first deployment as a military spouse, things are looking a bit crazy -- which is normal. For those who have "been there, done that, have too many unit T-shirts," the deployment you're facing now may actually knock you back a few steps.

All of your regular plans, your support system and your resources look different. And that is scary. It's enough to make even the most seasoned military spouse throw their hands up and threaten to quit. (Yup, we all do this, even when we know we can't and won't, but we're just done.)

Yes, things will look a little different for this next deployment. But there are still resources available, and you can and will make it through. Resources like Military OneSource are still available and, as installations return to "normal," you will find family services opening up and offering some of the same things they have before.

In fact, places like Fort Carson, Colorado, and Fort Stewart, Georgia, are reaching even more family members with resources than before, thanks to their quick thinking and ability to move many trainings online.

"One benefit with virtual [training] is that we can reach more people than we would have in person, like parents of single soldiers," said Connie Roy, Family Enrichment program manager at Fort Carson.

Roy said that they are seeing more participation because it's easier to take part under the current conditions. No one has to find child care or drive on the installation or fit a training into their schedule.

Beau Bradley, supervisory Mobilization, Deployment and Support Stability Operations program manager at Fort Stewart, has seen the same increase in attendance for online trainings and events.

Bradley organized an online canvas painting event for spouses in May and had a great turnout. He said spouses were excited to participate and have time to themselves, even online.

Both Roy and Bradley emphasized that, while they may not be working full-time in the office, most services are still being offered. Phones are being answered and appointments can be made, which means resources are still available.

One thing spouses with children rely on during deployments is child care help -- whether it comes from respite care provided by the military, visiting family or by hiring a babysitter. Right now, spouses are concerned about what this looks like.

Child care centers are not fully open and are focused on serving families of essential service members only. Child care providers off the installation don't typically offer hourly care or drop-in care, which is what stay-at-home military spouses usually need during deployment.

With installations still closed to non-ID card holders, it makes hiring a babysitter more difficult, plus spouses aren't always comfortable with someone else in their home at this point. Visiting family is frowned upon due to mileage restrictions and states requiring quarantine for travelers.

All in all, it's a bit intimidating.

But here's what hasn't changed: We're still a community. We're still here for each other. We can listen, we can empathize, we can offer suggestions and we can help where we can. Some of the simple things you would normally do for friends during deployment are still available. You can still cut their lawn, grab things from the grocery store for them, and pick up their favorite coffee order for them.

Another option is to isolate together, creating a bubble. If you have another spouse who is going through deployment, both of you can spend the appropriate number of days away from everyone else and then commit to being only around each other. This would allow you both to have some help, without compromising your health.

Spouses in Europe, who were isolating before the United States started, shared great ideas on how to support each other. Brianna (who asked that her last name not be used) said she prepared Easter Eggs and dropped them off for spouses with deployed service members. When her husband returned from a TDY and was facing possible quarantine, her friend Amelia offered to have Brianna and the kids move in with them.

"We were nervous about hanging out, but we knew we weren't around any other people," said Amelia (who also asked that her last name not be used). "We wouldn't have survived without each other."

This deployment is going to be different. But when you look back on the past deployments, you'll notice they were all different in one way or another.

The duty station may have changed; your family dynamics or number of children may have changed. Most of all, you have changed. You are a strong, determined, independent military spouse. You've conquered a lot, and you will conquer this too.

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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at rebecca.alwine@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebecca_alwine.

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