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Is there a Deployment in Your (Near) Future? Let's Talk.

I'm the mom of an Infantry Marine son who had the "pleasure" of two trips to Afghanistan -- one in the blistering 120 degree heat of summer, and one in the -0 degree cold of winter.  Afghanistan, also called the "Stan," the "Sand," "Af-crapistan," and other things not suitable for a family network.  The deployments were radically different in more ways than the weather, and too much the same.  The summer one seemed made up of 13-hour patrols through dusty villages, nodding at locals who smiled during the day, and might be the locals who buried IEDs in your path at night.  My son seemed to get very little sleep, expressed a lot of pent-up anger, but there was the gift of regular communication and weekly mail delivery once things got settled.  The winter deployment was apparently at the far end of nowhere.  I don't honestly know what he did on that deployment.  Communication was rare, care package deliveries took up to six weeks to arrive due to "local conditions," but we Skyped on Christmas Eve, and his IED dog, Emmie, seemed to buoy his spirits and keep a smile in his voice. 

What both deployments had in common was that I was here, and he was there, and I never, ever was able to forget that he was in a war zone, in harm's way, every damn day, while I went to work, cleaned the house, lay awake at night, made dinner, ate out, washed clothes, pulled weeds in the yard.  I call it the Deployment Music.  Sometimes it's loud, sometimes it damps down to a low buzz, but it's always there.  It can be explained, but it won't be understood if you haven't been through it.  If you have, you never forget it.

So, if there's a deployment in your future, and especially if it's the first one for you, let's talk.

There are a whole set of Deployment forums here on MFN that can help with the practical matters, the logistics of care package making and shipping, discussions with others who have been through a deployment or are going through one now.  I could post the links here, but then you might never find your way back, so here's a "map":

 1.  Click on the GROUPS option on the menu bar at the top of every page here at MFN. 2.  When the option opens, click on GENERAL TOPICS (it's the third choice from the top). 3.  When you arrive at the General Topics page, scroll down the page until you see this:


            - Afghanistan Deployments

            - Africa Deployments

            - General Homecoming Topics

            - Care Packages

  4.  Click on any one of those bulleted items and explore away, bookmark what interests you, post questions that are on your mind.

For me at least, knowledge helps me settle my mind, so I really do encourage you to explore those topics.  Even if some of the forums seem quiet, there are moderators who watch over those forums and will respond.  And if you post, I'm betting other members will, too.  People hate to be first.  Be first!

Join your Marine's Unit Forum.  If you don't know where it is on MFN, just post here and we'll help you find it.  Again, it might be quiet -- but if you are facing a deployment, so are the rest of the parents in that unit, so get things started!

Read Other Parents' Blogs.  Misery loves company, and worried folks need support, and it never hurts to know that others have been there, done that, and survived.  I went through my blogs, both in my old pre-moderator account here (17smom) and in my current moderator account (1~17smom), and here's what I found on the topic of deployment -- clearly, it occupied my mind quite a bit!

A Visual Aid for Deployment

Pre-Deployment Leave:

Deployment is Almost Here:

Christmas in Afghanistan:

Deployment is Almost Over (Mail Stop):

Coming Home Safe:
OpSec and Deployment:

Let's Chat.  Besides the MFN Chat that appears on the Home Page, there is another chat area, listed as "Chat:  Scheduled" in the drop-down menu of the CONNECT & SHARE option in the menu bar at the top of the page.  It's described as "scheduled" because it is open only from 8 PM to 10 PM Central, and is held in a different area you can reach by clicking on the menu choice.  To access the scheduled Chat Rooms, your computer must have the free application called Java installed. Currently, that Chat area is open Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and is mostly attended by Recruit parents.  BUT, and it's an important BUT, there is always at least one Chat moderator in the room during Chat hours, and most of our Scheduled Chat moderators are experienced parents who have weathered deployments.  If there is enough interest, we can schedule Deployment chats in a separate room during those hours.  What's unique about scheduled Chat is that (a) there is always a  moderator in attendance and (b) there are multiple "rooms" available, so our Deployment chatters can be in a separate room from our Recruit chatters.  As you might imagine, the issues, concerns and questions of a Deployment parent are very different from those of a Recruit parent. 

If you are interested in a Deployment-only chat, post that interest here.  If interest reaches "critical mass" (5-10 members interested in coming together one night a week for chat), we'll get one set up.  If not, seek out those who have been there/done that here on MFN, and we'll help you make it through, just like others helped us through our own deployments.  Because that's the mission.  We're that infinite line of Marine families, being held up by others who are further along, then turning to hold out our own hand to the next family in line.


Mother of a 3/3 Marine

Now a Veteran


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Comment by KeriandKevin on January 27, 2015 at 12:39pm

Thank you:) this is good information to have.  We are still waiting to hear more information from our daughter.  She is with a very small unit and did tell us that they will be joined with another unit before they depoloy.  With what she is doing and from what I have researched and read up on, she will be in a non-combat zone:)  At least that's what we are hoping for.  Of course we have learned that nothing is set in stone and things always change.  I am hoping that when the time comes closer that I will be able to find other parents and connect with others that have a Marine on the same deployment.

Thank you again for all of your information.  It was (is) very helpful.

Comment by 1~alex2toes(Dianne) on January 10, 2015 at 5:20pm

MEUs are strang animals and not all MEUs are the same. My Marine deployed on the 31st MEU as part of the Command Element. That means he deployed for a year, unlike the BLT(Battalion Landing Teams) who only deploy for 6 months. What makes the 31st so different from the others is it is Headquartered at Camp Hansen, Okinawa. They, unlike most other MEUs, tend to have more on shore communication and very little at sea communication. It is all about the band width. If it is not being used for official communique, then you have communication. Ports are the most like to hear from you Marine.

As Julie said, we all have our own unique experiences to bring to the table. Semper Fi

Comment by 1~17smom (Julie) on January 10, 2015 at 2:28pm

Good point, Dianne.  In the historical definition (which is the one I think of when I say deployment) a "deployment" is one that intentionally takes you into combat.  That's what our Marines experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 12 years.  That's what I am familiar with, as my son had two 8-month deployments to southern Afghanistan during the troop "surge," one in the summer of 2010, and one in the winter of 2011-2012.

An MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) also takes a Marine away from home for an extended period of time, but more as a "first responder" in an area of the world.  They spend a fair amount of time on ships, come into port now and then, do a lot of training with military allies on land and sea -- and would go into combat if things fall apart in their assigned area since that's why they are there. 

A UDP (Unit Deployment Program) is a program that the Marines have recently re-introduced, last very common in the "quiet" time before 9/11, designed to keep units cohesive, skilled, and alert so they don't lose their "readiness" edge.  The UDPs are generally about 6 months long and place a lot of emphasis on meeting with our military and the civilian populations in an area of the world, they spend a lot of time on land, and also train with our allies.  They are the least likely to be re-directed to a combat zone, but could be, and often participate in humanitarian assistance if a natural disaster occurs where they happen to be.

All have risks associated with them, and all come with separation from family and friends.  You are least likely to have regular communication with your Marine if he or she is on a traditional deployment, although that is also extremely variable depending on where the unit is.  In my son's first deployment, he happened to be on a small base with his command, so they had regular internet and VoIP access.  On my son's second deployment, he and his platoon were on a very small base out  at the far end of nowhere, and we were lucky to hear from him every month and a half.  On MEU's there is available ship-to-shore communication, but there are always long lines to make calls, they may often be too busy to call, or communication may be restricted for security reasons.  On UDPs, the Marines are often on housed on traditional bases, and you are more likely to hear from them.

BUT, as is always, always true, Semper Gumby rules, and local conditions and current events can always change the rules.  One of the reasons to stay close to this site and connect with other parents is NOT because anyone can hand you the solid answer to every question, but because, collectively, there is someone here who has had a similar experience, who probably knows more about how you feel and what you need to hear than any of your local neighbors or friends.  And if all else fails, we laugh, distract ourselves with talk about food, and cry together.

Comment by 1~alex2toes(Dianne) on January 10, 2015 at 12:22pm

Just remember that there are deployments and then there are DEPLOYMENTS. The first kind is a MEU, an UDP or some such thing. The second is to a combat zone. I am hoping it is the first kind.

Comment by KeriandKevin on January 9, 2015 at 7:49am

Thank you Julie for posting this as we were told over my daughters Christmas leave that she will be deployed this summer:(  We knew that the day would come, but now that's it becoming a reality it's a little scary:(  We don't know any specifics yet, so are hoping for the best (if there is such a thing) and just waiting for more news as to when and where.  Since she is my "baby" (and only) I know that I will be scared and nervous, but also know that other parents will be going through the same thing.  It's good to have others who have been there and I appreciate all the advice and support that this site brings from other parents.  Thank you again:)

Comment by coffeelove on December 19, 2014 at 4:01pm

Hi Julie,

thank you so much for all that you have written in here and especially above.  you make me feel welcome and thought of!  I will probably face my Marine heading out to a deployment in the next year or two, so I feel good that I will have support here.  You are right, I can't understand what it is like to be a mom of a deployed Marine.  Also, I don't want to know.  However if reality sets in and I am "there" I will need others, believe me, I will; others that have "been there".  Merry Christmas and thank you again, Mary

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