The Sixth Sense of PreDeployment

Departure ceremony for the Agribusiness Development Team 3-49

How does anyone go through a deployment without friends?  This week I was totally going off on my workfriend, Rachael.

Other people “go off” by losing their cool and getting all mad and yelling things they do not mean.  I go off by unleashing a torrent of anxiety few have ever seen. I try never, ever to do this in public.  It makes people go running for their bell jars.

Thankfully, Rachael, being Rachael, was having none of this. “Really?  I mean, really?  You are really going to worry like this about an event that is six weeks away that is already under control? That is already good?” she questioned.

“Well, there is just so much to do… and I am not sure…and do you really think….” I ruminated.

Rachael leveled her cool green gaze at me.  “Jacey, how many days until Brad deploys?”

I did not know why she was asking me that.  Didn’t I just tell her how quick this deployment would pass?  It would be over before we knew it!  Besides, what did Brad’s deployment have to do with all the stuff that was making me so anxious about work?

“How many days?” she pressed.

“Four,” I said.  And promptly burst into tears.  At work.  There is no crying at work. We do not cry at  Or they give us something to cry about.

But until that moment, it really had not occurred to me that Brad and I only had a few days left together before our eight deployment would begin.  We had days. Hours.  Minutes. Really?

Rachael was the kind of friend who could see that all my anxiety had nothing to do with work.  All that anxiety was really about the deployment.  I was so busy making myself anxious about work that I did not let myself know how fast the deployment was coming.

It was almost like the logic employed by that kid in The Sixth Sense– if you don’t let yourself look at the scary thing, maybe it is not there after all.  I see deploy-ment.

When I told Brad about it, he said he caught himself doing the same kind of crazy thing.  He was suddenly obsessed with finding a new belt to wear with jeans, driving all over because he had to find this belt.  The fact that he was going somewhere he would not be wearing jeans or a belt on his jeans for months and months did not occur to him.  He just had to get that belt.

“Ummm, I think I need a Rachael,” Brad said.

Me, too. I think we all need a Rachael.  When it comes to predeployment, we all need a friend who sees our behavior, and sees past our behavior.  We need someone who listens to what we say on the surface, yet hears the unspoken message underneath.

I wish that predeployment was something we could all do without effort.  I wish deployment was no more significant than a trip around the block.  Instead, the predeployment period has a pile of these unseen little things that our brains must do in order to make departure possible.

It helps to have a friend with a sixth sense about these things—who can keep us honest about what is really going on.


About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at
  • It never fails that when someone else reminds me of how stressful pre-deployment & deployment are it’s like a light bulb goes off in my head. “Oh, yeah, you’re right.” I think pre-deployment was far worse than our deployment has been. I felt like there was a very loud ticking time bomb following us around all the time just waiting to explode in our faces and tear us apart. It was over his shoulder in every hug, in the back seat of the car with us while running errands, ticking all night while I tried to sleep. Feeling that stressed out and not having even started the deployment is frustrating. I try to just remember get through Pre-D then give it eight weeks and everything will feel much more sane. Hang in there friend. Be kind & gentle with yourself. You can do it.

  • Rquick

    Were going through our first deployment now and YES pre-deployment was much worse. Dates kept getting moved, trying to pack, not annoy one another, and be in the moment was super stressful.

  • I’m convinced less is more in terms of notice of a deployment. The best predeployment period, by far, was when my spouse was a last-minute fill in and had 5 weeks notice. We had time to get everything in order, but not time to dwell on things because it was such a rushed period.

  • nyc546

    Keep a safe house or place to go to in an emergency and money tucked away, separate checking accounts , etc. . Have gotten beaten up on the last deployment — no help by the military or local police.