I decided to join the military straight out of high school. I figured this would be the best bet for me. I was afraid to go away to college because FRANKLY, I was over going to school. My parents gave me a few days to consider whether I wanted to go away to college (before you say anything…I know they did not give me enough time to consider my future), or become an adult and contribute to society. To make the decision easier, I just blurted I would join the military and left it at that. This was May 2001. By July 2001, I was enrolled in the Delayed-Entry Program (DEP) with the United States Air Force (USAF)…Then…SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 came.
I went to Basic Military Training (BMT) at Lackland AFB (now Joint-Base San Antonio) in San Antonio in early November 2001. By the New Year, I had graduated BMT and was on my way to technical school. Fast forward to December 2002, I was tasked to deploy on my first deployment to Al Udied AB, Qatar. Here are a few things I wish I knew before my first deployment.
- Take this as a learning experience.
I was really upset when I learned that I was being deployed at the tender age of 19 years-old. What does a 19-year-old know? Now that I am older, and wiser on all things military, I know that when you enter into the military, you are going to be expected to know a lot more than a civilian starting their first job. Understand, whether you are on a peacetime mission or a deployment, you are providing assistance. So, take this experience as a way to work on your emotional stability. Are you able to complete your job tasks in a stressful environment? Trust me, you will learn. If you do not gain anything else, you will learn how to do your job fast, and efficiently in a stressful climate.
2. Learn more about the Operation you are supporting
Learning about the mission you’re supporting will give you a whole new look at why you’re there in the first place. Knowing exactly what the mission is will give you an idea of what your role is in the mission. That sense of inclusion will result in a boost in confidence making the time there go by fast
3. Set some Fitness Goals
Because you will have a lot of free time, setting fitness goals will help the time go by! This could be simply beginning a routine. I’m not the most athletic person. I do not always go to the gym every day (or every other for that matter). Building these goals or regimen will allow you to have something to look forward to at the end of the duty day. Plus, you will see a strength increase and even a change in how your body looks.
4. Bring a few Books
I did this for my last deployment. I took the time to finish all the unfinished books I had lying around the house. Reading definitely took my mind away from where I was for the time I was reading. Whether you enjoy reading fiction or non-fiction, reading will help with occupying the downtime you will have during your deployment. If you’re lucky, your location may have a library on-site. Also, consider enrolling in Kindle Unlimited so you will have access to thousands of books.
5. Consider Furthering your Education
Lastly, enroll in a few EASY courses. I say easy because sometimes you may be inconvenienced with work, and might not have the time to devote an excessive amount of time to the course. Classes like Art/Music Appreciation, Health & Wellness, or any History-themed course are great to take while deployed.
Bonus: Save money/Pay-off Debt
I want to put this out there for you (I’m quite transparent with military life), while deployed you are receiving tax-free pay. This means the minute you step foot in the desert, you receive your funds free of tax. On top of that, that income is not counted towards your income for the year when you file taxes the next year. So sit back and build up your savings and pay off any debt you might have accrued over the years. Additionally, before you leave, sign up for your SCRA benefits. This will reduce the interest on loans you have out there for the time you are deployed. Great, right!
A personal note from Danielle: I hope this information reaches a young Airmen, Soldier, Sailor, or Marine before they ship out on their first deployment. Knowing these things would have helped me with my resistance to change.