I have been through 3 deployments, each of them was 1 year long. Deployments are one of the toughest things to go through, mostly because your friends and family haven’t personally experienced it, so its hard for them to understand what you’re going through and support you in the way you want. My fiance has been in the Army National Guard going on 9 years, and has deployed 3 times in the last 5 years. He has been away more than home. Every branch of the military is different, but deployments suck for each branch pretty much equally. After 3 deployments, below is the advice I can offer you:
1. Find the best way, for you, to communicate. For some, this is by writing letters. For others, it is by internet. If your SO’s deployments are anything like the ones I have experienced, he will have WiFi access so you can talk. Get comfortable using Skype and Facebook Messenger. You can video chat on Facebook Messenger too.
2. Make care packages to send a piece of home, to him. These are always my favorite thing to do during deployments. You can get really creative with the boxes and what you put in there. If you go to USPS.com and search “military”, they will ship care package supplies to you for FREE! It generally costs between $13 (for small boxes) and $17 (for large boxes) to ship to an APO address.
3. Use this alone time to focus on yourself and grow as an independent young woman. Create reasonable goals for yourself, or pick something up while he is away. For some, its a new hobby, or for others its going back to school or doing home DIY projects. For me, I went back for my Masters degree while Fiance has been away. That alone, kept me busy. Use the time alone to rekindle friendships or make new ones. I got really close to his family while he was away, and his Mom was a great support for me.
4. Keep yourself as busy as possible. Your biggest enemy during the deployment is a wandering mind.
5. Try to keep yourself in as normal of a routine as possible.
6. Take advantage of the family readiness group (FRG). They are going to be your main source of information about the unit, events they put on, etc. They will also be the ones who communicate the classified information to you about troop movement, most likely through e-mail. My FRG has a Facebook group I am a part of, which is awesome.
7. Get a deployment countdown from Etsy! I have one that says “___ days until my soldier is home” and I change the block every day. It was nice seeing the number go down every single day.
8. Deployments require alot of trust between you guys as partners. You have to trust each other and that you will both stay committed to eachother. You are both human, and being away from each other but around members of the opposite sex can be tempting. A lot of military relationships fail because of this. Its a harsh reality.
9. When you are stressed or sad, do your best not to complain to him. He has a lot going on there himself, and you don’t want to make it worse by having him worry about you on top of it.
10. Try to stay away from the news and media regarding overseas operations. It will only create stress and anxiety for you.
You will absolutely SHOCKED at how fast time goes. I know you don’t see or feel that now, but it will. I truly wish you the best of luck, us bees are always here for you if you need it!