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MilSpouse Support for I/A Deployments

Warning: Super-specific post ahead.

This post is meant as a resource page for any military spouse facing deployment in an Individual Augmentee (I/A) situation. This information will likely also pertain to those who have service members on an unaccompanied tour.

If none of this applies to you, please skip this week’s post and hang on for a new recipe or my thoughts on motherhood.

If this DOES apply to you, read very carefully. Military spouses in these situations are not typically provided with a natural supportive community during deployment, and often have to cobble together a survival network. It can be done, though, and I’m sharing what I’ve learned through experience, research and meetings with military support offices.

Facebook Groups

Laugh if you will, but it honestly never occurred to me to search for deployment support through a Facebook group. In fact, I met with the Family Readiness Officer at my service member’s command following the deployment to discuss resources, and he mentioned there was a secret Facebook group for I/A spouses from the command.

He told me this AFTER the deployment.

I know, super helpful.

Let this be a cautionary tale to any of you facing an I/A situation: get your booty online! There are TONS of supportive communities inclusive of all branches where military spouses can connect and encourage each other through deployment.

Here are some of my favorite groups:

Handle Deployment Like a Boss! (deployment-focused group hosted by The Seasoned Spouse)

Milspouse Tribe (ultra-encouraging group focused on everything military life)

Military Spouse Advocacy Network forum (new milspouses and their mentors interact over all military life topics)

Brave Board (deployment-focused group hosted by the creator of Brave Crate, a monthly subscription box full of AMAZING products, encouragement, and access to the forum and awesome webinars)

Ombudsman/Family Readiness Officer

The Navy has Ombudsmen and the Marines have Family Readiness Officers (FRO), both are supposed to be beacons of support for the families in their command.

In theory.

My 17 years of experience as a milspouse tells me that this varies.

Greatly.

And I get it.

The ombudsman is a volunteer role with a family of her own. During my service member’s I/A deployment, I did, in fact, reach out to the ombudsman and heard nothing in return.

Even so, I maintain that the ombudsman or FRO should be on your short list of people to reach out to for help, should you need it during a deployment.

The FRO’s job is to point you to the correct resources for whatever problem you might be having. Good luck with yours!

USO

Not every military installation is lucky enough to have a USO on-site or nearby, but some do. This is a wonderful organization that puts on parties, mixers, and family-friendly events that you actually want to attend.

Yes, I will take my kids to a free movie under the stars on base with free popcorn. Thankyouverymuch.

No mandatory fun here.

The USO’s mission is to support military members and their families, so I/A spouses definitely qualify here.

In other words, you’re invited.

Military OneSource

Nothing beats in-person friends, in my opinion, but there may come a time when you desperately need to talk to someone during a deployment. This is the one-stop shop, people. Military OneSource is a hub worth familiarizing yourself with. Specifically, they offer free non-medical phone counseling sessions with a trained professional.

So you don’t have to leave home or find childcare. Yes!

Church

Not everyone belongs to a faith community, but we do. Church is a consistent part of our week and we love being involved. It’s easy to show up to a service and not talk to anyone, but joining a small group is where you can really make good friends. I was even part of a women’s group when my husband deployed as an I/A.

The problem was that I didn’t exactly communicate my needs to this group, who would have been happy to bring over dinners, watch my kids, etc. I kept a wall up, telling the group that I was fine, when I desperately needed company and a helping hand.

So, church can be an excellent resource and place of support if  you open up and communicate your needs.

Civilian Neighbors

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have family members nearby to jump in and help with household duties and provide company. While I loved it when my mom or sister visited, they couldn’t stay forever. Depending on local friends is key.

We live off-base and my neighbors are not military families. But some are firefighter families and understand the difficulty of solo parenting. When I opened up to these friends, many were quick to jump in with offers of dinner, carpools, and playdates.

While it’s tough to ask for help, it’s important to build your community in order to get through a deployment, especially when you don’t have official support from the military base.

There are abundant resources out there for military families, and while it can be tough to sift through, you’ll be so relieved when you find what is really going to help you in your unique situation.

 

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