The Unmarried Girl’s (or Guy’s) Guide to Deployment

Unmarried Girls Guide to Deployment
A member of the Arizona Army National Guard says goodbye to his girlfriend before leaving for deployment. (Arizona National Guard/Brian A. Barbour)

I braved my first Navy deployment as a long-term girlfriend. I use the term “braved” because I was not fully prepared for the challenges I was yet to face.

Even though I attended spouse club events, was my then-boyfriend’s “plus one” for every squadron-related outing and had eminent plans for an engagement, I was still not officially a spouse. That meant I would have a very different deployment experience than my married counterparts.

Based on my own trials and tribulations, I created what I like to call, “The Unmarried Girl’s (or Guy’s) Guide to Deployment,” a collection of vital tips for all military significant others facing an approaching in-service separation.

All the responsibility, none of the privileges.

As a girlfriend, boyfriend, fiancée or significant other, you are not a spouse and, therefore, you have no rights. I hate to be so blunt, but this is true.

It doesn’t matter if all of the spouses in your squadron, platoon or ship know that you and your sweetie are completely in love, head-over-heels for each other and destined for the altar. If you don’t have the paperwork, you’re just another acquaintance in the legal eyes of the military.

What ‘One and Only’ really means.

Being his "one and only" during deployment means you are now solely responsible for both of your obligations at home. I know you’re probably envisioning this deployment as a whirlwind of romance in which you both toil away for each other in preparation for an untimely reunion.

I hate to burst your bubble, but this is real life. You will still yearn to be reunited, but you also have to continue to live your life.

You still need to show up at work every day. The bills still need to be paid, the trash still needs to make its way out to the curb every Thursday morning and your pets still need to be fed. And, in my case, I learned how to remove patches of infected grass in my front yard and replace them with fresh sod.

You may be used to simply beckoning, “Honey, the lawn needs to be mowed,” but now you are the one responsible for the mowing.

Gate guards don’t care about your sob story.

Even during deployment, please know you still can’t get on to the military base by yourself.

I distinctly remember heading to the base with my hair done and decked out in my cutest outfit ready to receive my husband from his return flight from deployment.

Unfortunately, when I pulled up to the gates one hour before the plane landed and the guards realized I did not have a military ID card, I was told I was not allowed to go on base, whether or not I was picking up my boyfriend from a six-month deployment.

The gate guards sent me to the parking pass office but since my then-boyfriend did not request a pass and since I possessed no valid paperwork stating my need to enter the base, I was told I could not be issued a clearance to drive on to the base.

Luckily, the wife of the commanding officer drove outside of the gates, picked me up and brought me to my husband’s landing site. (This is a very obvious example of why you should get to know the spouses of your husband’s co-workers.)

Really know spouses of your service member’s coworkers.

Get involved with the spouses' club, even though you technically aren’t a “spouse.” There will always be one or two members of the club that will not consider you a legitimate participant until you legally tie the knot, but the majority of the spouses will welcome you with open arms.

All of them, at one time, were in your shoes and they understand the stress and awkwardness of your situation.

The only thing that minimized my angst and unease during my first deployment was knowing that I had the support of others going through exactly the same situation along with me. We celebrated when we were “over the hump” (past the mid-point) of deployment together, we organized nights out and we called each other simply to vent or commiserate.

Gotta talk POA.

POA? POA? What is this, you ask? This power of attorney is the piece of paperwork that gave me at least a little peace of mind during our first deployment together.

A power of attorney grants a person the right to conduct actions on behalf of another -- in this case, during the period of deployment.

This is important for you, especially if you live with your service member, because it can grant you the right to make legal and financial decisions in their absence.

Let’s say, for example, your partner is the one who originally purchased your home and it is solely their name that is on the deed, the mortgage and any related paperwork.

Should an emergency occur in regard to the property, without a power of attorney, nothing can be done without their approval. If you possess a legal power of attorney, you could make the decision regarding how to resolve the issue.

Read more about the three types of power of attorney you might need here.

This is an extremely powerful document and one you must discuss very thoroughly with your partner. You must be willing to take responsibility in their absence and they must be fully willing to give you the ability to do so.

Deployments are not glamorous, they’re not fun, and they give you a heck of a lot more headaches than you are used to.

But, remember, your service member is dealing with their own unique obstacles every day and the most important thing for them to know is they have your support and that you are doing okay back at home.

Say “I love you,” send care packages, email photos, but don’t forget about your well-being. Attend spouses' club events, sip some wine with your friends, take a bubble bath or read that novel that’s been sitting on your bookshelf for the last year.

This is your time to spend time with you because, before you know it, your honey will be walking through the front door again.

Ashley Adamek is a Navy wife who resides in Norfolk, Virginia with two very rambunctious dogs. She is a freelance writer, English teacher and blogger.

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