Do you take this Sailor or Marine to be your lawfully wedded spouse? To love, honor and cherish even if they leave you three days after the wedding? Do you promise not to turn their service whites pink, or crease their cammies in areas not authorized to be creased? Do you promise to wave goodbye from the pier, flight line or grinder, with minimal tears and forced smile, allowing the emotions to flow only once you are back in the privacy of your home, vehicle, or at least around a corner? I now pronounce you service member and spouse. You may kiss, but make it quick — the ship leaves at 1300 (1:00 p.m.).
Welcome to the seagoing services, the Navy and Marine Corps. While you're on your honeymoon (alone) we thought it might be nice to provide you with an explanation of deployment. An event you will become well-versed in given some time.
When speaking with other members of your new Navy or Marine Corps family you will hear them speak of deployments underway, deployment work ups, and deployments of the past. Don't assume that the deployment they speak of is the same as the one you may be experiencing. Deployments come in all shapes, sizes and time frames. A deployed service member is any Sailor or Marine gone over 30 days. Where they go and what they do depends on their military occupational specialty (MOS), designator, or rating, and what unit they are in and the needs of the Navy, Marine Corps, and our country.
Underway: A deployment that is in progress. They are gone, and you are mutilating a calendar with big red Xs at the end of each day. Lose track of time and you can color out a whole week.
Deployment Work Up: They haven't left yet, but are rarely home because they are preparing to leave. They are often away at sea getting ready for the deployment itself. They are usually training, exercising all the ships systems and qualifying the ship and crew for the deployment mission. Depending on the mission, the pre-deployment work up can last from a few days to several weeks.
WestPac: Ships that leave from the West Coast and "float" to various locations in the western Pacific. Some of those locations may be Hawaii, Singapore, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirants (UAE), and Australia.
Med Cruise: These are ships that deploy from the East Coast. Some of the locations they may go to are Italy, Spain, France, Malta, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, and Puerto Rico.
Unit Deployment Program: These are Marine units that deploy without a ship. Typically units will fly over to Okinawa for 6 months then return home.
Construction Battalions (CBs): These are Navy units that also deploy for 6 months at a time. They go to locations all over the world.
Other deployments might be specific exercises that involve fieldwork, jungle or desert training, or sea time. Also, schools for professional development within a particular job field or rank can last more than 30 days.
Now you know some of the places and ways that your Sailor or Marine may deploy. You are probably wondering how often and for how long. If they are going on a cruise, you have time to write all those thank you notes for your wedding gifts. A typical deployment cycle is six months deployed, 12 months home. Six months out of the 12 months home you can plan on your Sailor or Marine being in the work up phase of the next deployment. The Department of the Navy would like to see 18 months home and six months at sea, but that is not always possible. You can also expect to see deployments lengthened on occasion depending on world events, but rarely, if ever, will you see your Sailor or Marine come home early.
One year unaccompanied tours are exactly what their title says. One year, somewhere far away, and without their family.
If all this talk of deployment has you feeling overwhelmed, never fear, you have a big Navy and Marine Corps family that is concerned about you. Together we will not only survive deployments, but we will thrive in them as well. There are spouses clubs, organizations on and off base and family support centers that can be a great network. They are always in need of volunteers as well. When you're busy and involved, the time goes by much quicker.
We have the greatest military on earth. It stands to reason that we would have the greatest military families as well. Welcome aboard!
Further reading on deployments:Strategies to Prevent Loneliness
The 7 Stages of the Emotional Cycle of Deployment