Deployment brings on annoying questions from people who don’t understand. One of those questions may be, “Can’t you go with them on deployment?” For most military spouses, the answer is a resounding “No!” For others, it may be possible. It all comes down to the destination, the environment, and your own travel experiences. But if you want to visit your spouse during deployment—and all the stars align—you may want some help. We’ve got some first-hand information to help you out.
How to Visit Your Spouse During Deployment
Practice Good OPSEC
Uncle Sam’s OPSEC (operational security) is a familiar concept to service members, but maybe not so much with loved ones, specifically spouses. If a service member reveals operational movements of their unit, they will likely face disciplinary action because they could be putting their unit in grave danger. So how can you rendezvous with your loved one mid deployment? It’s not easy. It’s not always practical.
RELATED: Surviving a Deployment with Kids
Future operations will always be secured at the appropriate level until the appropriate time. Past operations, however, are almost impossible to keep from the public. Speaking with other spouses and service members about their experiences and accessing public information can help you establish a “pattern of life” that will aid in your own planning process.
It was no secret that my service member was deployed aboard a Naval vessel. The key to a successful visit during deployment was to learn where it had been and pay attention to where it might go. With the United States’ heavy presence in the middle east and the vital function of the Suez Canal to all marine transportation along with my love of Mediterranean culture, Greece was an easy choice for the potential rendezvous.
Another factor that weighed on my decision was the overseas U.S. installations. Having access to those installations provided peace of mind for travel, amenities, and health care. In my case, Naval Support Activity, Souda Bay, (Crete) Greece was where I chose and ultimately where I hoped the Navy would send my spouse’s vessel.
Always be Flexible
The children and I had been traveling Europe for months by this point. The Mediterranean was where I had intended to be despite his schedule, but if he happened to port somewhere close by I would still be able to get there. Research had taught me that Souda Bay was a popular port of call. Of course, his ship never ported there, but the airport gave me the flexibility to easily access nearby ports on short notice. And that is the secret, to always flexible. Something military spouses do well!
We were fortunate enough to be in contact with him via email. I received the email to “go to the airport tomorrow morning and I will be able to tell you where I am by the time you get there.” And that’s what I did. I went to the airport. I started looking at my options and then I got the call. “Buy a ticket to Korfu.” You see, its not much a secret when the ship pulls into port. There are often cruise ships, cargo ships, and tankers are the ports. The public affairs officer gets the go-ahead from the higher command to publish a press release of the ship’s locations and at that point, it is safe for the service member to share with loved ones.
Somehow, we were able to pull this off a second time in Athens, Greece as well. The children and I were living there and, surprise! My husband made port less than 20 minutes from the apartment I was renting.
What to Expect When You Visit Your Spouse During Deployment
Unfortunately, the whole idea of visiting your spouse during deployment is highly unlikely. There’s a reason the military isn’t sending you with them! If you were to be truly flexible enough to jump on a plane whenever your spouse says “Go,” you would still have a horribly priced plane ticket.
You’d probably spend an entire day or more on a plane and then, maybe, a handful of hours with your spouse. It’s not impossible, but it is very hard. Over time, I’ve heard of numerous spouses, traveling with and without kids, who have tried to get to a port in the small amount of time from ticket purchase to ship pulling anchor. Some have made it, only for their spouse to then not get liberty. Some have arrived and their spouse wasn’t even there. Many have had plane/travel delays and the ship is gone by the time they arrive. It’s a giant guessing game!
If you are determined to visit your spouse during deployment, then, by all means, give it a go. If the plan doesn’t play out the way you had intended, try to enjoy a vacation anyway.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Transitioning Your Family Back to Normal After Deployment