10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Deployments: A Service Member’s Perspective

There are so many unknowns before you deploy. You worry about a lot of things. You worry about how your family will adjust to you being gone. You worry about going to a combat zone. You worry about not coming home. And if that wasn’t enough, those are just the big worries. There are plenty of other things you have to prepare for and deal with when you face a deployment.

In 2010, I left for Afghanistan. Although I was serving in the Air Force, my deployment had me on a mission with the Army. We went out into the villages to work with the local people to help them by building roads, schools, and bridges. We lived on a French Forward Operating Base in Kapisa, Afghanistan. These are 10 things I wish I would have known before deploying:

1. Repetitive Training is Useful
A lot of the training we did at Combat Skills Training was repetitive, but it was so important. When you end up in a combat situation not having to think about how you respond is important. Your body will remember what to do even if your mind is dealing with the stress of the event.

Female soldier in uniform, in Afghanistan

2. The Training Environment is not Like the Real Thing
When we went through the IED course, we learned about how a pile of rocks marks an IED. There are piles of rocks everywhere in Afghanistan. If we took the time to look at every pile we wouldn’t get anywhere. We had to adjust our training to the real environment we were in to accomplish the mission.

3. Why You Need Good Flip Flops (Really you need Crocs)
Technically someone told me this before I left, but if I didn’t know this I would have wished I did. You walk on gravel when walking to and from the bathroom. Good shoes make life so much better.

4. Living and Working with People Can Cause Drama
One of the hardest parts of the deployment was dealing with people. There was drama caused by a few members of our team, and I was caught in the crossfire. It is something I am working on letting go of even today.

5. Looking Back, I Would Remember the High Points
You look back and remember the good things. You forget about the daily grind and the bad parts. You will remember the people that you met and the good experiences. This makes people remember deployments with a positive feeling even though there were a lot of hard things.

6. I was About to Learn a lot About Myself
Going out on combat missions was not something I was expecting. But the military sent me on a deployment, and my job required me to dig deep and do it. And guess what? I did it, and I even enjoyed going out and seeing the country.

7. Some Friendships Would Continue Long After I Returned Home, Others Would End When I Said Goodbye
I’m still friends with some of the people I deployed with. There is a special group of us that still communicate on at least a weekly basis. The friendship that sprang out of my deployment was worth all the hard things I had to go through. Other friends, I stay connected with via Facebook with very few interactions. Others I don’t have any contact with anymore. That is the way life goes.

8. Coming Home is not Easy
It is the one thing you look forward to the most. But coming home isn’t easy. Everyone has changed. You have changed from a deployment experience. Your spouse and kids have changed as life has continued on, and they may have had to overcome struggles while you are gone. The military pushes you to adjust back to normal life, but it truly takes time to adjust and if you don’t deal with your emotions when you come home, years later you will find you still have unresolved issues from your deployment experience.

9. The Importance of Sharing My Story While Deployed and Now Years Later
Many people don’t know what it is like to be deployed. I sent letters home while deployed via email. My only regret is I didn’t write more. I didn’t write a lot about the hard parts of my deployment because I didn’t want people to worry and was trying to stay positive. Now I wish I would have written more about the highs and the lows of deployment.

10. My Life Would Never be the Same
Coming home, I realized my eyes were opened up to a new world. Deploying has changed my thinking and how I view the world.

If you are about to face a deployment what questions do you have? I know every deployment is different, but having support is so important.

Amanda switched from active duty to diaper duty when her son was born. Now she is a mom of two boys and a military spouse living this military life, which currently has them stationed in Northern Virginia.

Read more about Amanda and her journey at www.airmantomom.com. Find her on Facebook and Instagram @airmantomom

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Pride & Grit is a Trademark of Hinshaw Consulting Group, Inc. 2020© All rights reserved.