Parent’s Military Deployment QuestionsUpdated: November 4, 2022
There are many questions parents have when a son or daughter decides to join the United States military. Some of those important questions concern military deployments and the safety of the troops who serve in this capacity. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about military deployments:
What Does It Mean to Be Deployed?
A military deployment is different from Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders or Temporary Duty orders (TDY). The deployments are usually to a forward location and may be considered part of a specific operation or objective.
Those who deploy are not headed to the forward location on a permanent basis. There is usually a time restriction on deployments. This is to support bringing fresh troops in and rotate out those who have completed the time requirement for the deployment.
TDY orders differ from deployments as they are for more general purposes. This includes training, professional military education, permissive TDY for house hunting in conjunction with a new assignment, etc.
TDY orders and deployments differ from PCS orders. PCS moves are based on the reassignment of the service member to a new base or installation. These moves require the service member to relocate for a year or longer. Three to four years is not uncommon for some career fields and job requirements.
How Long Are Deployments?
Deployment orders don’t require the duration a PCS move does. A common deployment in the past was 180 days. Depending on the branch of military service, doing more time than that for a deployment may require new orders, a recharacterization of the time served or other considerations.
Some branches of service have made policies that restrict deployments to smaller time frames. The Air Force may deploy its troops for 60-90 days before rotating another set of troops into the deployment area. Mission needs, troops strength and other variables may affect the length of these rotations.
Other branches of service, such as the United States Navy, still have 180-day deployments that includes sea duty. The Army may deploy troops for 12 months or more with an accompanying amount of non-deployed time in return.
Will Deployed Troops See Combat?
This question is almost impossible to answer except to say that it depends greatly on the service member’s unit, career field, the nature of the deployment, and other factors.
Those who deploy for military training exercises will likely experience simulated combat or forward deployed conditions. This includes restrictions on cell phones and other communication, living in field conditions and accomplishing missions planned on a much larger scale than “at home.”
Remember, not all deployments are the result of military conflict. The Army recruiting official site advises parents, “Traditionally, the Army has been the United States’ first line of defense in times of war. Today, the Army performs many more roles. U.S. Soldiers provide humanitarian relief in regions stricken by natural disaster. They have a presence in hundreds of non-combat areas around the world, providing anything from medical services, to human resource support.”
Will I Be Able to Contact My Child During A Military Deployment?
Communications may be limited for those being deployed for a variety of reasons, but there are means of communication provided. The military relies on Internet communications and typically has some type of network available in the deployed area.
Whether troops are permitted to access this network on deployment will depend on the nature of the mission, security requirements, available technology and other factors.
It’s true that many troops have carried mobile devices with them on deployment, but use of iPads, cell phones, and other mobile communications will be controlled and regulated for security purposes. At the time of this writing, for example, troops are forbidden from using any GPS or tracking devices in a deployed setting.
What Does ‘Stop Loss’ Mean?
The practice of stop loss involves involuntarily extending the separation date of service members who are on, or scheduled to go, on deployment.
A service member due to separate from the military may have that date moved to a later time to accommodate the needs of the mission. It is a controversial measure causing no small amount of grumbling among the troops it affects. All should be aware of the potential stop loss has to be used in a given situation and plan accordingly.
Stop loss is often used during times of manpower shortages or when troop strength goals have not been met by a branch of service. Stop loss is administered on a situational basis, the duration of such a program and what troops it may affect will vary.
When The Deployment Is Over, What’s Next?
Just because a service member finishes a deployment does not mean they will not be re-deployed again to the same or different area. There is a minimum amount of down time required after a deployment, but what happens to the Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine after the deployment ends depends greatly on circumstances.
For example, the soldier who only had a small amount of time left on their current military assignment may have to decide where they might wish to volunteer to go to next. No guarantees are made in this department in general, but deployed service members may get some form of preference for having returned from the deployment.
These considerations will depend greatly on the policies of the unit, command and branch of service.
What Happens When Troops Are Called Up to Be Deployed?
The specific deployment procedure will depend greatly on the branch of service, the policies of the major command the deployment affects, and other variables. Deployment procedures may also depend on whether the mobilization is for an active unit, Guard, or Reserve unit.
For example, Army Reserve units involuntarily deployed are generally required by the 2018 Army Deployment and Mobilization Reference to have 30 days advance notice ahead of the “effective reporting date.”
Others may have a very limited amount of advance notice before being deployed. Some units are designed specifically to react to mission requirements at a moment’s notice. Others require prep time, training and mobilization efforts on a large scale.
What Resources Are Available for the Families of Deployed Service Members?
Each branch of military service has programs to help the families of those who have been deployed. One excellent example is the United States Army’s Family Readiness Groups and Family Training Programs. The Air Force’s Airman and Family Readiness Centers on bases stateside and overseas is another example.
Help is often available from these resources in the form of support groups, counseling services, special phone calling or video conferencing programs to stay in touch with the deployed service member. They also provide aid with re-integration and family reunion counseling for returning troops and their loved ones.
You can usually find these services by searching the official site of the military base the member is assigned to before deploying. You can also look up family readiness or family support programs in the base telephone directory.
In addition to official help from the military, there is also deployment assistance offered by Veteran Service Organizations and military-related non-profits such as the Air Force Aid Society, Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society, etc.
How Can I Help My Son Or Daughter Prepare for A Military Deployment?
There are many highly recommended pre-deployment preparation steps a service member and family can take to make the entire experience less stressful. Parents, spouses, and loved ones can help by encouraging the service member and family to take as many of the following steps as possible ahead of getting orders to deploy:
- Create a long-range budget
- Establish allotments
- Determine who will write checks, pay bills, etc. during the deployment
- Create or update a Last Will And Testament
- Arrange for payment of insurance policies including auto insurance, life insurance, etc.
- Determine the need for a general or specific power of attorney
- Establish rules regarding children’s discipline, chores, curfew, and other needs
- Distribute the unit First Sergeant’s contact information among loved ones
- Develop a good support system: family, friends, church, school, co-workers, family readiness support groups and hobbies
- Plan family days with quality time and no interruptions before and after deployment
- Create family routines that can be established before and after the deployment
- Plan activities to maintain the deployed loved one’s presence including photos, video, cards and letters, etc.
Do I Need A Power Of Attorney for My Deployed Child?
Powers of attorney are very important in the absence of a service member. Any child care, healthcare, home loan, rent, storage or related issues involving legally binding agreements may require a power of attorney so a loved one can act on the service member’s behalf.
A general power of attorney is often discouraged. This gives the bearer a wide range of powers over the finances and other areas of a service member’s life. It should only be used when there is a high degree of both need and trust.
A limited power of attorney is better in many circumstances. But as the name implies, it will only be good for the specifically authorized activities listed in the power of attorney. It cannot be used in a general way.
It’s best to discuss the need and implications of using a power of attorney with loved ones long before a deployment.
Where Do I Get A Power of Attorney?
Contact the base legal office or staff judge advocate office to learn how you can schedule an appointment to get a power of attorney. Depending on the size of the military base, mission requirements and other variables you may be able accomplish this on base. You will be directed to the office most used in these circumstances in your area.