SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
After a lot of self-reflection, I realized I got this wrong. Several deployments, throw in a couple of remote assignments, I still got it wrong. I thought we were prepared; “the family is used to it, right? They have done it all before, it will be over before we know it. We got this!”
These were the thoughts going through my mind when I found out I was leaving my family for an extended period of time once again.
The challenge, as it turned out, was harder than I thought… and it’s my fault. This time was not the same as previous deployments. From the moment I laid eyes on my family at the airport upon my return, I got it wrong. I jumped into family life as if I never left. Marriage, children, finances… I was back and ready to go.
The biggest change that I didn’t anticipate this time – the kids are now teenagers. No longer did I have little kids who were going to attach themselves to daddy for the 48 hours following my return: they were taller, they were driving cars, they had new friends, deeper voices and busy lives. Most importantly, I failed to recognize that they had developed a battle rhythm and I was the one who needed to adjust.
My “ah-ha” moment came when my wife had to remind me to be more patient with the kids a day or two following my return. Shortly after our conversation, I took some time to reflect on where I went wrong.
To start, I skipped a pre-deployment brief prior to my departure thinking, “Why should I attend? I’ve done this before – right?”
I began to recall before previous deployments a readiness NCO telling me that things were going to change: ops tempo, eating habits, workout habits. Family would change, too. Life at home continued to happen while dad was gone. Then I thought about a reintegration brief – didn’t do that either. I had a quick PCS and I made the decision to save my personal time and not attend.
What do I think I needed? I needed that “ah-ha” moment. I began to ask myself, “am I managing the day-to-day tasks of family life like I would manage the day-to-day tasks of deployment?”
The answer was “yes.” Not over-the-top, but I failed to pace my efforts with my family creating unnecessary stress. Even enough to push them away a little bit.
I should have used the services that Airmen and Family Readiness Center offers. I should have attended deployment and reintegration briefings. I needed the reminder that things would be different for us and we needed time to establish a new family battle rhythm. I needed to embrace that, and I didn’t.
It is no secret deployments are difficult times for families. My family’s situation is no different. Pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment; all phases revealed specific challenges and different emotions for each individual of Team Schillinger.
I decided to use the Weasel Weigh-in to tell my story with hopes to help members of Team Shaw do it better than I did.
There are a variety of resources available to assist families. I recommend starting with a first sergeant or the A&FRC, but the resources don’t stop there. Base support agencies offer pre-deployment briefings, reintegration briefings, and sponsor Hearts-Apart Socials pre-loaded with resources to assist families with deployments from start to finish.
For those with school-age children, South Carolina is a participating member of the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission. Through this program, students who have parents heading to or returning from a deployment may be granted additional excused absences at the discretion of the school. Participating schools may also sponsor deployment support groups, providing age appropriate education for military children. For more information, contact Shaw’s School Liaison Officer, John Kennedy at 803-895-1358, or speak to a school guidance counselor.
Nothing will make up for the absence of a loved one; however, there are agencies looking out for our military families and their services do not cost a dime. If you have questions about reintegration services available to Team Shaw, don’t hesitate to reach out to Tech. Sgt. Eric Childress, 20th Force Support Squadron A&FRC readiness NCO at 803-895-1254.