After living with a service member for a few years, I’ve learned a few things about how to make the military deployment process a lot smoother. Whether you are going to be overseas for a few months or over a year, here are some good tips to help you prepare for your deployment. (And, of course, thank you for your service and sacrifice!)
The checklist is your new best friend. You are going to need an all-encompassing military deployment checklist to help you stay on top of everything. But, you may also need a packing checklist and list of who you need to get in contact with before you leave. Military.com has a very extensive pre-deployment checklist that is a great starting point for creating one of your own.
Ship what you can. Though this may not be an option for some service members, if you can, try to ship items you won’t need right away. Most service members fly commercial for at least one leg of their trip. You can cut down on any excess bag fees by shipping items instead of taking them with you. Grab more boxes than you think you’ll need ahead of time. Any boxes that you don’t use can be returned with a receipt.
If you don’t know your overseas address yet, simply set the boxes aside and ask someone to mail them to you when you receive your temporary address. Also, if you don’t have much to ship, the USPS has a special military flat rate box that can only be sent to APO/FPO addresses. Check it out—it’s only $13.45 no matter how much it weighs.
Quick tip: Don’t forget to put a hold on your mail while you are deployed if you have no one to check it for you.
Make a staging area. As you are gathering items to pack or ship, you’ll want to have a dedicated area to put your duffel bags, pelican cases and boxes. Tape a blank sheet of paper to the wall above each container and write items down as you pack them.
Vehicle insurance and self-storage. Unless someone is going to be driving your car while you’re gone, then it’s probably a good idea to downgrade your car insurance to liability or less. This will save you money while deployed. But, liability insurance does not cover “Acts of God,” so you may want to consider vehicle storage at a secure location. Many U-Haul self-storage locations offer gated vehicle storage. Go online to find the nearest U-Haul self-storage location in your area.
Set your bills to auto-pay. With all of the stress that service members have to go through while deployed, the last thing on their mind is paying bills. But, if you miss one bill, you may incur late fees that will pile up and affect your credit while you are away. Most bills can be set up to be automatically withdrawn from your checking account. If you can’t set up automatic payment, then inform that company about your deployment and arrange a payment situation that works.
Get reliable help while you’re away. Things are going to happen while you are away on military deployment that you are going to need help with. Make sure you ask a few friends or family members in advance to look after things while you are away. You’ll want to make sure a couple people have a key to your home and vehicle. It might help to assign your friends and family certain duties (e.g., home repairs, yard work, financial concerns, and vehicle maintenance).
Power of Attorney. You’ll want to make sure to give limited power of attorney to someone you trust implicitly. This will insure that should a situation arise where a company will only deal with you, the person with the power of attorney will be able to handle the situation on your behalf. Most JAG offices can help draw up a power of attorney that suits your needs.
House sitter or light timers. If you live alone, you may want to consider hiring a house sitter to come over to collect any random items that get delivered (phone books, promotional papers/flyers, etc.). They can turn on lights in various rooms to give the appearance that your house is being lived in. Check out Care.com for available house sitters in your area.
If you would rather not get a house-sitter, consider purchasing a few light timers for some of the lamps in your home. Have a friend or family member come over monthly to change the time on the timers so the pattern doesn’t become predictable.
Be on the lookout for my follow-up post about getting settled after returning home from a military deployment. Also, if you have any additional tips or stories to share about pre-deployment preparation, post them in the comments section below.