No Equality Between Combat Deployment and ‘Regular’ Deployment

Sometimes I think I understand deployment.  My Navy husband has deployed eight times.  His ship is in one of the most volatile areas of the world as I write this. I understand what I know as a gone-for-eight-months kind of regular deployment. (If you will please let me call that a “regular” deployment).

But every time I talk to the wife of an Army Ranger or the wife of a Navy SEAL or the spouse of servicemember who has been in boots-on-the-ground combat, I realize I don’t understand deployment the way they understand deployment.

So I asked Army wife Sabrina King to help me out with this.  She has been married 19 years.  Her husband has done five deployments and has 1,753 days in combat operations.

So I passed a list of what a regular deployment means to me and she passed back a list of what the cumulative toll of five combat deployments means to her.

Granted, our list is not necessarily the norm for every single military family, but it is helping me understand how outcomes can be so different.  What differences would you add to our list?

A regular deployment means the days are long, the weeks are longer, the months can drag by.

A combat deployment means the minutes are long.  It can mean sometimes the seconds are long when you are waiting to hear who the casualty notification email was about.

A regular deployment means it is frustrating when packages take two months to get to your service member and the email goes down.

A combat deployment means there are communications blackouts after casualty incidents.  It means listening to your soldier debrief himself on the phone to you while he is trying to keep ahold of his humanity.  It means feeling dumbstruck by what is coming out of his mouth…and able to do nothing.

A regular deployment means you hardly ever see senior wives because they busy with their teens and their jobs and they are as old as your mother.  You have your own friends.

A combat deployment means senior wives that you see are driven to help because they know you need them. But you might not see some senior wives because they have reached the point they just can’t take it anymore. Once they know something, they can’t unknow it.

A regular deployment means that you may have to give birth to your baby alone and that hurts.

A combat deployment means that you pray to get pregnant on R&R so you have some part of him to keep in case something happens.

A regular deployment means that someday you may attend the funeral of a pilot whose aircraft malfunctions, a spouse who loses the battle with cancer, or even your own parents. These deaths are tragic.

A combat deployment means you might attend the funeral of the guy who sat next to you at the Birthday Ball–and six of his friends.  You might attend funerals for 27 people in three weeks.  The table at your homecoming ball you set up to hold the pictures of the deceased may not be big enough, so you go back and get a second table.  Then go back and get a third.  Finally you get a fourth and it isn’t until you see all those 8 x10s at once that you have any idea of the totality of what has happened. These deaths are tragedy extrapolated.

A regular deployment means that you need to find someone to swap babysitting with you so that you can do something exciting…like get your teeth cleaned.

A combat deployment means, you tuck a four-year old boy into bed because his own mother is on Valium and he asks, “Did my Daddy die because I forgot to say my prayers?”

A regular deployment means that you worry just before homecoming that your husband has forgotten how annoying kids can be while he has been gone.

A combat deployment can mean that your children learn to tell the temperature of a room with their own skin.  It can mean your kid whispers to their sibling, “Dad’s in a mood. Lets go to our rooms.”  It can mean that your husband finally agrees to go to behavioral therapy after your 12 year old lays her hand on his shoulder while he is watching the news and says, “I think sometimes people have PTSD and don’t even know it.”

A regular deployment means that you think a positive attitude is all you need to get though and you work on developing those skills.

A combat deployment can mean you question everything and ache for your own innocence.

A regular deployment leaves you feeling like the military is a pretty good start in life, that it teaches people responsibility and gives them real work experience.

A combat deployment might make you worry every time you see a headline about the military suicides and the leap in the rate of child abuse.  It makes you worry that the military is taking our young people and doing nothing but chewing them up, spitting them out and leaving them to fend for themselves.

A regular deployment means that you think deployments only differ by length and how many challenges you worked through at home.

A combat deployment means you have experienced regular deployments and trainings and TDYs And NONE if it, NONE of it prepared you for the reality of a combat deployment.

Sabrina and I both know that there is a complete spectrum of experience when it comes to deployment — and all of those experiences are necessary when deploying a military force.  But I think that it is in allowing for a range of experience and a range of resources that we find solutions. So I keep listening and reading and watching for understanding wherever it falls.

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
  • Diane

    Can someone from the navy side out the services please explain the difference in the types of deployments the navy does? I ask because before I met my spouse I dated a guy in the navy and he used to refer to standard training exercises that were about 4 months at a time as deployments even though they were not in a combact zone. Deployment for the army, air force and marines means you are on the ground in a combat zone. So I am confused why standard training is considered a deployment to the navy. My nieces boyfriend just shipped out last month for a 4 month taining exercise and he also called it a deployment. I’d just like to understand. Thanks

    • sabrinacking

      Me too. I think we use the term deployment differently in the Army. My husband goes to school for 5-7 months at time in between ranks…that to me is not deployment. That is “going to school”. My husband just spent the summer down at West Point…to me that isn’t a deployment it is going “TDY”. My husband goes to JRTC for 3 months that is “training” not a deployment. I think a lot of our confusion on these blogs comes from we use terms very differently. My point is any single time your husband is gone anywhere that is rough stuff. It sucks, its horrid, we all agree. But the RAMIFICATIONS of actual combat deployment and repeat combat deployment are very different than just what come with separation.

      • Diane

        I know it’s not unheard of for navy members to be on the ground in a combat zone because my cousin was deployed in a combat zone in Iraq doing specialized work to help jam frequencies so stop IED’s. But he was there for less than a few months. That is another reason I ask, I don’t know the indepth side of things for the navy, but I do know up until recently our army deployments were no less than 12-15 months at a time and maybe 9 months back home before the next deployment. So it’s hard to lump us all in the same deployment umbrella without knowing what deployment is for navy.

        • sabrinacking

          Well I certainly think regardless they are experiencing hardship. Separation is hard on everyone, no matter what the duration or where you are “deployed” to. And in many ways I think the Navy has been sustaining that type of separation for far longer than we in the Army have. I mean the Navy has never stopped “deploying” in that sense. And those deployments are rough, too. My point is always the ramification of one type of separation vs. another is very different. As Jacey often says, her husband comes home relatively unchanged. Many of ours come home fundamentally changed by war at a base level. Not just physically or psychologically but philosophically. For me, I wish we could put our collective brain power on these issues and not flip flops.

    • jacey_eckhart

      I’m not in the Navy so I could have this wrong. But the dictionary definition says that a deployment is the distribution of forces in preparation for battle or work.

      For the surface Navy (ships, not submarines or SEALs or small boat guys or Seabees etc)
      “work ups” are the time in which the crew spends weeks and months out to sea in preparation for the deployment. During this time they are training and certifying equipment and practicing etc. near the United States.

      The “deployment” is when they cross the Atlantic or the Pacific and go overseas for six to nine months at a time.

      • Diane

        That sort of helps but still adds to my confusion. Any navy spouses that can help here? not trying to be divisive, just trying to get a better understanding of how things work in your world. thanks

        • Diane

          Sorry meant navy members not spouses.

          • JAG

            This was my 4 years.
            June 21, 2000 – December 19, 2000- Fourth deployment to the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf
            January 22, 2001 – January 30, 2001Local operations off the east coast
            February 2001 – July 26, 20016-month maintenance and upgrade program at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
            August 14, 2001 – August 27, 2001Local operations off the east coast
            September 12, 2001 – September 15, 2001Provided air defense for NYC following the terrorist attacks on September 11.
            November 4, 2001 – November 15, 2001Carrier qualifications off the east coast
            May 2002Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 02-2
            June 20, 2002 – December 20, 2002Fifth deployment to the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf, participated in Operation Enduring Freedom
            January 24, 2003 – February 5, 2003Carrier qualifications in the WestLant
            February 25, 2003 – August 15, 2003Six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard
            January 20 – July 26, 2004Sixth deployment to the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf.

        • guest

          Diane in the Navy, let’s take it from what they call Dry Dock. 6 months of maintenance.We are at our home port. Then we go out for a week or two for local operations off the coast and come back to port for 2 or 3 weeks. Then 2-3 weeks out for carrier qualifications and we come back to port. Then 2 weeks later go back out for a month for Joint Task exercises and then come back to port for 2-3 weeks. Then we are deployed for our 6 month operation. Now if we were in combat zones like we were it will say deployment to the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf, participated in Operation Enduring Freedom.

    • Mona

      Yeah, and then they tell brand new trainees they are being deployed when they go to their new training unit after inprocessing. LMAO!

      • Mona

        (Or going downrange)

  • jacey_eckhart

    Diane: This is exactly why Sabrina and I wrote about the differences between a deployment and a combat deployment.

    The deployment itself–complete with constant separation and unrelenting work– is hard enough for people. It was hard before 9/11. It will still be hard if ever the world would calm down enough to bring most of our troops home.

    The research shows that it is the combat deployment that puts the servicemember at risk for experiences that can lead to PTSD. And that is what can lead to the more serious outcomes for families that Sabrina and many other spouses describe.

    I sincerely do not want this post to lead down the path of which branch of the service works hardest. That isn’t at all productive. Each service does exactly what it was designed to do.

    Instead I was really hoping that we would talk about what a combat deployment can mean for families. And by doing so, I hope that we can talk about what can be done to help each other.

    • sabrinacking

      Me too. I don’t want this to deteriorate into who has it worse. Its all apples and oranges, which is the point I always try to make and miserably fail. We each have our own perspective, based on our experience. When I read some of the articles on here I get offended, not just for myself but for the families I have been working with for two decades who have bigger fish to fry then who is wearing what at the commissary. And I think it absolutely uncompassionate to look at those families and say “hey put some clothes on for Pete’s sake”. Saying that, isn’t meant to diminish anyone else’s service it is trying to add a voice of reality to the discussion. And speaking about what we all experience is not unpatriotic or disloyal. Truth heals. Truth makes people more, not less resilient. I just would like to see the conversation turn from debasing one another…to helping one another.

      • Diane

        But i think in all fairness, it does help to differentiate what we see as a deployment which in the army you only ever use the work deployment when they are going into a combat zone, there is no deployment outside of that. I guess maybe that is why it gets so much push back from the army spouses which looks like we all end up battling amongst ourselves because anything that is not combat zone is training or tdy, not deployment. That is why I ask for the details, I am trying to understand how it is for other spouses outside of my knowledge. I don’t think it is asking to much in order to better understand each other. No 2 services are the same so understanding the nuances is beneficial.

        • sabrinacking

          I think in all fairness what it does is give perspective to where people are coming from. I get lamb basted on this site frequently for speaking the truth as I see it. I am ok with free speech. What I am not ok with is ad hominem attacks but they happen here all the time. I have yet to figure out how to speak the truth here and that not be met with “oh you are diminishing me”. I often feel like our very existence is somehow threatening all together. I am getting fairly used to being the crazy aunt in the closet of SpouseBuzz. At the end of the day, I just really hope someone pays attention to bigger issues than the commissary, backwards hats and (she’s going to say it again) Bunco!

    • KL

      I’m pretty sure PTSD can result from watching pirates execute Americans, watching a sailor be sucked into an aircraft’s engine, getting blown overboard, navigating a minesweeper, enduring a standoff during counter-drug operations, etc. Just because ships are at sea doesn’t mean deployments aren’t dangerous. Allow me to point out USS Cole. The opportunities to encounter situations that lead to PTSD are, indeed, more frequent and amplified in deployments to Afghanistan etc. But please stop making blanket statements that imply sailors and their families have been partying by comparison for the last several decades, Jacey. That’s hardly helpful.

  • Diane

    thank you for deleting my last post explaining my reason for asking. I wasn’t trying to say anything about who works the hardest in which service, that was an assumption on your part. I was being honest in my reasons of why i was asking. Until all branches spouses can undertand the differences we will always be seen as bickering and infighting instead of learning from each other and sharing in an honest and open forum. I thought this blog space was a place for us all to come together and share and learn from each other, but that clearly is not what this blog is about. It is about being divisive and avoiding honest questions. I do not see how it is wrong to help each spouse understand what the other goes through but this site picks and chooses whos posts to allow ans who’s to censor. It’s sad, I have many friends who like your site but never post because they feel the same way. With that note, I am washing my hands of Spousebuzz and turning to other military blogs where people acutally encourage spouses to share with each other in a effort to help there be a better understanding to bridge our communities instead of censor for a narrow view.

    • Guest

      Well my husband is in the Navy, sometimes they go out on sea trials but it really all depends on what kind of ship they are stationed to that determines the missions. Destroyers, aircraft carriers, subs all set out to do different types of training missions. It can last 6 months or more or he/she can go IA and be gone up to 24 months or more.

      • sabrinacking

        what does IA mean?

        • the first mel

          It stands for individual augment. It’s basically when they pull someone from another unit to fill a specific spot in a different unit. This is frequently done for deployments.

          • Guest

            Thanks for answering I was away from my computer.

    • the first mel

      I understand your confusion about what is considered a deployment. I found out, after speaking to many people, that everyone seems to have their own definition. I even asked the question on a debate page and got a multitude of different answers. Some believe it is anytime their spouse is off base for an extended time, even for training. Some believe it includes overseas, but not in a combat zone. Some believe it is only when in a combat zone. I’m a Marine wife and I did ask my husband. He basically told me that it’s a deployment when it says so on the orders. I didn’t find that helpful. For me, personally, it helps to differentiate between combat deployments and deployments that aren’t in a combat zone. For a while there I was shocked to hear people say that they went through 5 deployments in a 4 year period, but then when I found out that only 2 were actually in a combat zone, I realized that we all define it differently and some call everything a deployment so that it sounds like they had it worse than others.

      • Shezim

        I define it as this:
        Deployment: He’s issued kevlar and people are shooting at him.
        TDY: anytime he is away from home (less that 6 months) because the Army sent him.
        Unaccompanied assignment: He gets orders for longer than 6 months and we can’t go but no one is shooting at him.

        Now what the orders say are up in the air but those are what I call them.

        • sabrinacking

          Me too, on a deployment…my husband draws a weapon before boarding the big blue bus, he has his blood type listed somewhere on his body, he has body armor…if he doesn’t…it ain’t a deployment in my book.

  • Barbi

    I have to chim in on this topic. I am a Marine spouse and work for the Marine Corps teaching classes with the L.I.N.K.S. program. Now for my husbands MOS he does deployments w the Navy on a MEU/West Pac, has been to combat, UDP and APS. All these include intensive training. What the Marine Corps considers a deployment rather it be combat, regular or training deployments is a servicemember who has been away for 31 consective days and a “deployment is a deployment”. And Marine train and deploy regardless if we are at war or not. I know this gets confusing believe me I’ve had to ask TONS of questions to verify this! I believe that all deployments that our servicemembers go on are dangerous! Anything can happen where they go and what they do and regardless of branch of service. Our world is not a safe one at that! What my suggestion is to take classes that are offered that teach you the structure and community of your branch of service. And gear up because now we are hearing “garrison” liviing and I believe families and servicemembers who have been at this for sometime now are going to have a bigger stuggle and that’s getting use to being together more…

    • sabrinacking

      Your last sentence is spot on!

  • sabrinacking

    I think the only thing I would add to the list is this. Noncombat deployments by and large exist in a finite reality. They happen, they end, you move on. But combat deployments can, and frequently do, change all parties involved indefinitely. The psychological and philosophical changes that occur to people during war are just as real as the physical things that happen to people during war, and all 3 often times…never end. Further, with the OpTempo we have been experiencing these past 12 years….there is no pre/during/post deployment cycle. Its been all one giant blur. So people are experiencing combat deployment not in these three stage phases, but as one continuous cycle with no enough separation in between to decompress, reset and carry on. This is why I think we see people not dressing “appropriately” or not following basic “etiquette” etc. They are exhausted. And instead of giving them some compassion, too often wives in collective want to stoop to junior high tactics and debase them. I am taking a SpouseBuzz hiatus too. You can lead blind horses to water, but you can’t make them drink.

    • Shannon

      I don’t fully agree with all of that. Yes people are exhausted, especially service members going on these deployments, but we still have to follow basic etiquette and dress properly or our higher ups would pitch a fit and I expect no less.

    • The Other Shannon

      I agree with you, Sabrina, we never know what battles someone is fighting just by judging the booty shorts they’re wearing or the diction they speak with – we should be compassionate regardless. I think I can definitely work on this in my own life.

    • yea,right.

      I disagree with this. Although I do not feel right comparing a deployment on a boat to being boots on the ground.. I feel you cannot compare the two either and say that bein stuck in a metal tube for 3-6mths without seeing the light of day does not effect the psyche of the military member which in turn effects the whole family.

  • Petra

    Thanks for this, Jacey and Sabrina. It does put things in perspective, somewhat. However (yes, here it is), as important as concentrating on what these deployments do to our military and their families as they go on and on and on, I still maintain that for a lot of us it helps to maintain some sort of “normal” on the end we CAN influence. Even if it’s as silly as complaining about or agreeing with dress codes. There isn’t much in this life we have control over or that I can influence, but what I can do, I will, mostly by trying to volunteer my time and help others – somehow this has proven to help me most while going through deployments and TDY’s and trainings and shifts that were seemingly never-ending.

    As much as I understand your tiredness and your urge to get people to understand that there are more important things out there than who wears what and who wind at Bunco, I also understand when people are taken aback a little by the undertone of “You don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re silly for worrying about FRGs and manners and dress codes.” Silly as it may be, for some it might be the only way to feel normalcy around them in a world of chaos and fear…

    • sabrinacking

      And I can appreciate that. What I take issue with is how it is formulated into either these dependapotamus rants, or these rants which at their base are about classism. Etiquette, or perceived etiquette stems from how people are raised And how people dress is many things, not the least of which is cultural. I think its cognitive dissonance at its best and out and out debasement of people who make less and have more at stake in the war, than most people who post here seem to comprehend.

      • Petra

        Meh, I think there is a baseline of decent behavior and modest dressing that transcends all cultural and financial borders. I’ve seen rich girls dress like “working girls” and I’ve seen daddy’s girls go out in PJs while watching poor gals dress meticulously in what few clothes they can afford. Just as a sideline to this debate. Sometimes the topic is about the basics and not about exceptional circumstances :) But generally I understand where you’re coming from, even if I don’t think it’s all classist or depemdapotamusist (there, new word of the day…)

        • sabrinacking

          And that is all we can ask for, some sort of basic understanding of one another, which is always my intent on SpouseBuzz no matter how miserably I fail at any given moment.

  • Petra

    *wins at Bunco

  • I appreciate this article as well as all the comments. The realities of how deployments (no matter how they are defined) affect families are shown so clearly with each statement, and that is the point isn’t it? To help us see that while we are all one community there are different definitions in the way each branch speaks, different challenges and different experiences. Bottom line it’s discussions and articles like this that help us communicate and understand the challenges that each branch goes through and the more we understand each “dialect” the easier it is to be supportive of one another. It’s not about who has it harder it’s about understanding each other and finding ways to be united so that our service members (and families) have the support they need. And it begins with awareness which this article clearly does! Thanks ladies!

  • USMC guest

    There have been a variety of research studies conducted and some that are still in process that are studying the effects of deployments on military families. I would love to know if they are working from a particular definition and if it is a standard definition all of them use.
    My husband has done both types of “deployments”. Most of his, he was what is called an “individual augment” which adds a whole new dynamic for the family not addressed in this particular article.

    • Guest

      Yeah my husband is IA for 24 months that is a whole different kind of beast

  • I think this is a fair generalization of the different emotions of spouses going through “regular” and combat deployments. They are both hard and have their own challenges. Thank you for posting this. :)

  • Alison

    All branches have their own definitions. My husband is a submariner. Typically, anything over 6 mos is considered a deployment. Underways are anything else. In my experience, there is very little communication. Maybe 3 phone calls an entire deployment, 1-2 emails a month, depending on the mission. Even different types of submarines have different terminology- deployments or patrols.
    I think we all worry about our husbands (my personal worries- nuclear reactors, nuclear weapons, and just being hundreds of feet underwater for months at a time having absolutely no idea where they are)- and I don’t think it is about who worries more, but that we all think about them every minute they are gone.

  • Staci

    There are some inaccuracies in the some of the Army descriptions.

    “A combat deployment means the minutes are long. It can mean sometimes the seconds are long when you are waiting to hear who the casualty notification email was about.”

    An email isn’t sent to anyone. A casualty report is filed from theater and is input into a database where CMAOC notifies the closest CAC, who then alerts the on-duty notification officer who notifies in-person of a KIA, VSI or SI. No email is sent for notification of any casualty, and if it is, it’s being done outside of regs and chain of command.

    As far as the senior wives feeling “driven to help” – this is not exclusive to senior spouses- this is a large majority of spouses across all ranks. And you may not see senior wives (or any other wife) because they work. Or because the deployment isn’t one of a unit as a whole deploying. Or they are deploying as IAs. My husband deployed to Iraq alone and came back alone. He deployed to Afghanistan alone and will come back alone. I have met one spouse whose Soldier is deployed to the same area for that very reason- we just happen to live close to each other. Otherwise, I’ve not met or spoken to one single spouse who’s Soldier is even in the same battalion or brigade.

    I don’t see the point of this post, it seems like one upping of who has it worse and is full of melodrama. We all have our challenges- it doesn’t matter what kind of deployment it is. People die in training accidents everyday stateside. No one is safe. All kids miss their parents. All spouses have it rough at one point or another. Keeping tally of who feels worse, who is more at risk, etc., is not healthy. Live every day like its your last and stop looking for ways to count your miseries, loneliness, etc. Military life is a choice- I choose to make it the best it can be.

    • sabrinacking

      Actually…I spent an entire deployment getting text message emails to my Blackberry about incident reports. Then we’d wait hours to get an actual notification via our daisy chains of whose section wasn’t involved and then sometimes days for a notification of who was involved. True story.

      I think you missed the entire point. And I didn’t, for the record initiate the post. Jacey came to me, not vice versa. I have nothing to gain and everything to lose by being vocal about our experience, but my husband and I do so because we think its an important discussion.

    • sabrinacking

      PS: those incident reports came directly from the rear detachment commander in mass emails to everyone on the FRG list…so there ya go.

      • Mamatoni6

        Don’t know why there are downs on this as I know this was not uncommon, not just at our station at the time either, but also others I knew at other stations were receiving the same. This was the norm for 2 of my husbands deployments. I wasn’t even involved with the FRG, but they had my info. so I received them. We all received the exact same thing you described. Obviously names were not given until later, but any incident was sent to us with more info to follow as allowed. And they were apparently allowed to do this as it wasn’t approved by a low trained commander. I’m not saying it was right, but that’s the way it was handled.

        • sabrinacking

          For me too, so I am not sure how it worked for anyone else…but this was my ACTUAL, not in a book experience. Thanks for the validation.

    • NoMe

      While you are absolutely right in all of your comments about how the notification process should and should not work. And that those emails should never have happened, let alone for a year. I’m sure there are plenty of senior spouses out there who can tell you about the truly stupid and often downright illegal mistakes our young rear-d commanders have made. Honestly, this is one of the bigger ones I’ll admit, but I have a few of my own I could share that are similar, and a few that are worse. He obviously missed some vital (and mandatory) training which could have avoided that, but there were people above him who are equally responsible. In any case, it isn’t the spouses job to know or understand that what he was doing was wrong. Admittedly, if they dreaded them so much, they could have mentioned to him that they didn’t want to receive them… But I digress.

      I do however see the point of the article, and then through the comments, where that point was immediately lost again. I didn’t see one upping. This was one spouses list and another spouses list. They were different, their husbands duties are different, that says something. I don’t think it matters that they are from different branches. While I think everyone’s experience falls probably close to within that spectrum, I believe that the more or less “dangerous” our spouses duties are determines exactly where we fall within that spectrum. That’s not to say its not hard on all of us. That’s not to say that each one of our service members can’t die. And certainly no one said that one service members children miss them more than another.

      BUT the lists they gave are accurate. Not just from their own perspectives, but from the perspectives of psychology AND of reality. How do I know? My first husband was a soldier, 88M. Non-combat, “safe”, regular communication. My experiences were very similar to that of the Regular Deployment spouse. I should add that despite that “safety” I know exactly how that notification process works. Fast forward several years (and my adamant avoidance of all things military) enter my husband, 11B, Airborne, Ranger, all those “wonderful” patches every grunt wants – he now has. I can say with all honesty that the combat deployment IS like she listed above, and that’s not me jaded by my own experience. Like I said, it’s a spectrum, probably I fall I little farther beyond her on the stressed and worried scale. But my fellow spouses, in the units that we’ve been in, can all tell you this is true.

      And yes, my husband & I say WE, because these moves, these deployments, this whole damn career and all it’s trials and tribulations – we’ve made it through together. Supporting each other, holding each other up and carrying each other through at times. I honestly can’t think of one couple who’s been more than a five years in a combat unit who don’t say WE. There was one poster below who said she should stop referring to herself as if she were the one who had deployed. In reality she never did that. And if she has that relationship with her spouse where they refer to “career experiences” that’s a good thing, and it’s how combat couples make it.

      • sabrinacking

        Thank you. I would NEVER, N.E.V.E.R. attempt in any way to say I have combat experience…what Is aid was I have had more than my fair share of being on the family end of combat deployments and so I think I do understand how they work intimately. Which was the point of Jacey’s list and the point of this article. Combat deployments affect service members differently and they affect their family members differently. I also don’t just have the experience of some wife who sat at home sheltered only knowing what my husband told me. I have spent two decades volunteering, attending funerals, doing casualty care, I think I more than understand how combat deployments play out at home. I wasn’t attempting by answering Jacey’s list to “one up” anyone and I am glad you saw that. Quite frankly, I am having a hard time understanding where the hostility came from yesterday…but eh, whatever.

    • GrnFlowers

      Staci – I had to add that my husband is in the Marine Corps so naturally notifications happen differently from the Army.

      However, we received mass emails through our FRO/FRG from the Commander of our units letting us know about a casualty. Next of kin was often notified around the same time this email went out.

      Even though the branches represented are different, I feel that what Sabrina said regarding the difference in deployments are pretty accurate.

      • sabrinacking


  • Staci

    No rear d commander should EVER share casualty information with any spouse. I worked in CMAOC for three years dealing exclusively with theater and what you just shared is a gross violation of Army regulations. No one outside of official Army channels should ever be privy to any casualty occurance or information until the NOK has been notified. Period.

    • sabrinacking

      Well it doesn’t always actually work that way Staci. Seriously, we spent all of our last deployment and this is how it worked. Incident happened, incident notification went to everyone on the FRG list. Hours later as POCs we’d get a call about whose section et all. Then hours to days later we’d get another mass email about who was involved in the incident. This went on for an entire year, through more than 20 KIAs and multiple wounded. I am certainly not advocating for it to work this way…but it has, in the case I cited, it happened for an entire year. To the extent I developed an actual phobia of my Blackberry, as did others.

      • Staci

        Well, then CMAOC needs to be notified of this, because its absolutely wrong and against policy. It’s the same as posting it on Facebook. Spouses or anyone else not in the chain of command have ZERO authority for sharing or receiving this information until the NOK has been notified.

        • sabrinacking

          Again, the emails came from the rear detachment commander…not any spouses. And we did complain loudly about it at the time, to no avail.

          • Staci

            I didn’t say it was the spouses doing anything wrong. Unless they were also passing that information along to others. Common sense prevented that. I hope.

          • sabrinacking

            I think you’re not understanding what I am saying actually happened. Incident would happen down range. They were happening so fast, seriously we had like a three time frame of absolute nightmare. I think the rear detachment commander thought he was beating the press to it…but what he did was send these mass incident emails to everyone in the FRG. Then later they would circle back to us as POCs and say here is the information on what section and more detailed what actually happened. Then after all the NIK were notified, they’d send a mass email to the entire FRG stating the name, section, and any funeral information. My point is, in the actual reality of war…not everything goes down by the book. You’re also if you volunteer for casualty care team not supposed to have to work with you own BNs families, but if the deaths come too fast…you do. I think this illustrates what I say all the time which is, you just don’t know, until you do know certain things.

          • Staci

            I understand exactly what you’re saying. At no time should anyone outside of the chain of of command know any information about a casualty until the after NOK has been notified. Not where it was, what unit- nothing. Spouses are not POCs for casualty in any way whatsoever. Care teams should only be notified if the NOK after notification specifically requests them. They are not an official part of the casualty notification or assistance process. I’m not saying this didn’t happen for you. I am telling you what you are describing is wrong and should never happen. That’s all.

          • sabrinacking

            And I am absolutely agreeing with you. It was wrong, and it did happen, for a year. The problem is like I stated before, war is chaotic and frequently things don’t go by the book of how TRADOC says they should go. And in this instance you’re confusing one thing with another. I am not saying we were notified as the care team during the incident report email debacles of our rear detachment commander. (Who for the record was a very young guy in a horrible situation. He did what, no doubt he thought was the right thing at the time. Beat the press to it.) That was a separate for instance to illustrate, things happen during war which are absolutely not “by the book”. I don’t share anything to one up anyone. I didn’t initiate the post and I have nothing to gain from telling the truth about our particular experience of war. I am not a blogger, I don’t write Army books, I have no Nonprofit I am trying to set up for military issues. I am just some gal who 18 months ago was as red, white and blue as the next chick, and then all hell broke loose in my life after a fifth deployment.

          • Staci

            Sabrina- this has nothing to do with TRADOC other than they are the proponent who writes regs. This is a DA level issue. This has nothing to do with war. These are wartime regulations. You seem to be justifying what was done because it was wartime. These regs were established for wartime- the entire AR was re-written for this. I don’t care how young or horrible the rear d was. I don’t care that you think it was okay to happen during war. What you’re sharing is not the way things work, and outside of this one situation you say happened, I’ve never heard of it happening anywhere else. And you’re not the only spouse who has been affected by war. These are your experiences and I understand that. But they aren’t the experiences of most other people I know and to put forth that this is what most Army combat deployments are like does a disservice to people who may not be familiar with them and wanting to learn/understand more. That is the issue I have.

          • sabrinacking

            I didn’t put forth this is what most Army deployments are. I didn’t “put forth” anything. You’d like to characterize me as trying to “one up” people. I didn’t. I didn’t initiate the post. Jacey emailed me with the list. I answered her honestly. I know people aren’t fond of the truth, but attacking me for telling it as I see it is exactly why we have the problems we do in the Army. I don’t know what you want from me, or rather I do know what you want from me, you’d like me mot to exist and you’d like me to be silent about reality. I am sorry, you don’t get that. Have a nice day, I hope you feel better about yourself today.

          • Staci

            What I want is accuracy reflected regarding an official process and how that process works. I stated that while this was your experiecne, it is not the norm by a long shot. Putting out there that spouses should expect emails from the military about casualties during any deployment is not accurate and for new spouses gives them a false impression of what actually happens outside of your example. I take this matter very seriously. . You keep stating that that Jacey initialted the post- that’s great. it doesn’t make a difference who wrote it or initiated it- it’s inaccurate as far as how the policies and regs dictate it should happen. That’s all, and that’s all I have stated.

          • Staci

            The point is the situation you gave is not remotely close to what should happen and spouses reading this post should know it is an anomoly, and not think that they will be sitting around getting multiple emails from the command when there are casualties. That’s precisely why no one outside of the chain of command should be notified of anything. And I feel just fine about myself, thanks. What I would like from you is to not take my facts about how a notification process is designed to work and make it about you and your interesting interpretation being accurate is in any way related to anything personal about you. That’s just crazy.

          • sabrinacking

            Just stop already, ok. She asked me my experience, I told her. You want to give her yours. Knock yourself out. I hope nothing ever happens to you to shake that steadfast worldview of what you think you know about how the Army or war works. I honestly do. You’ve called me everything short of a liar. You’re right I take that personally. I think my husband is right: You don’t like what I have to say because it scares you. You’d like war to be this grand orchestrated symphony, where no one ever misses a note and everything happens how you read it in a book somewhere. Sadly, that is just not how it works Staci. And because of that, combat deployments affect service members and therefore their families very differently in lasting and profound ways.

          • sabrinacking

            I have a “profound and pathological need to get the last word in”? Holy hand grenades. if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black. I think stating I “clearly have a lot of psychological issues” is the understatement of the year…that is sort of the point of this entire post. Combat deployments…especially repeat combat deployments…might just possibly…have that affect on people. Yesterday you fought with James. Today, you’re fighting with me. So, how you think its perfectly ok for you to attack us, but we can’t defend ourselves…perhaps you should take your own advice and get some “professional help”. You’re a laugh riot. Thank you for making our morning Staci, we laughed and laughed at your naïve and condescending bliss.

      • Shannon

        Clearly something went wrong in the notification process so hopefully they are educating this unit on how to do it the right way next time. Things don’t always go along with the rules and regulations during war that is correct but usually that’s in our day to day patrols and movements over there not when it comes to something that is more easily preventable and takes time to mess up like someone incorrectly notifying people of things before having all the facts or before being allowed to release all the facts. Frankly I don’t think spouses shouldn’t have any access to information of what’s going on downrange, especially if things went wrong so significantly as to result in casualties, until all of the facts are compiled and as accurate as can be and are authorized to be fully released, and NOK have already been told. To just release half facts to spouses makes no sense and is just likely to cause unneeded hysteria and stress. Usually in my own experience it was the combat deployments that were the most protective on what info spouses received and when due to not only the severity of the info but also the danger that spouses could gossip in the wrong places. Lastly, you do have lots of experience as the spouse of someone who has deployed but some of your comments are definitely in the area of lecturing on how the Army and combat itself works which if I’m not mistaken you haven’t actually been the one deployed in combat. Your husband has. So by all means share your experiences as a spouse but your points would get across better if you didn’t start acting like you have any first hand experience with how war and combat works because I guarantee even hearing some of your husbands experiences isn’t anything compared to actually living it.

        • sabrinacking

          Shannon, this is a spouse website. The point of the article was the impact on spouses of deployment vs. combat deployment. I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams attempt to take the position of knowing what happens downrange. However, having held FRG positions, been POC and been on casualty care teams I have more intimate knowledge then my husband about how combat deployments play out at home. Let’s not turn this into, you were a female soldier so you know more than I, just a measly spouse. Thanks.

  • Staci

    And who initiated the post is irrelevant. I was merely commenting on the inaccuracies of how Casualty notifications SHOULD work according to the DA regs and protocols, as well as my opinion on the information presented overall.

    • sabrinacking

      I think its relevant only in so much as you would like to characterize the post as being meant to one up one another. Jacey initiated, she took the “regular” deployment lines…and so has no “one uping”. And she requested I give her this tit for tat “combat” deployment lines. I didn’t initiate the post, or the idea of the post and so I am not trying to “one up” anyone else either. I think the point was the type of deployment does actually have a difference on the potential ramifications to the service member and their families. You pointed out IA deployments, which I know nothing about, but you clearly state they are their own species. I will take your word for it, I have no experiential knowledge of them. I think these things do matter, because we are coming into a time of garrison life, and I think we are about to see exactly what repeat combat deployments actually do to families. Our experience was my husband made it through all 5 still chugging along…until he had to sit for two seconds and think about what had just occurred. Then all hell broke lose. And I think we see that in the garrison life of infantry units daily.

  • mongolberry

    I can relate to your feeling sabrinacking, though on a different subject. Whenever I hear people complaining about how horrible their parents were growing up because their Daddy didn’t tell them they were pretty or their parents didn’t buy them a car or how horrible their inlaws are because they are overprotective of their child or they want to visit for homecoming I want to scream at them. I want to say ” Don’t you understand that things could be so much worse? Don’t you know that I or my husband and many many other people would have given so much to have a family like yours?! Those aren’t problems! You should be so grateful for you childhood and for you parents and inlaws and family!” I get so angry and disgusted when I hear them complain about something so petty. cont…

  • mongolberry

    part 2
    And when I hear people complain about money and call themselves “poor” because them cannot afford the latest handbag I get frustrated but when I hear them say things like “It’s their own fault they are poor, if they would just work hard enough…” or “they are poor so they must be lazy.” or so many other things I get genuinely angry, I have to excuse myself so that I don’t yell at them.

  • LRacer

    Yes, we can all agree any deployment/separation is hard. True. But the stress is DEFINITELY worse and when your husband/son is being hunted/shot at/blown up nightly vs tucked away in a ship/sub/base/non-combat. Anyone who says differently….well that’s just ridiculous! Ask the guys themselves and they’ll tell you the same thing. This article points out the general differences, which is just overall more stressful for gunslingers because they are the ones who die.

  • jojo613

    This article just reminds me of when I worked with missile wing in Minot, and the missile wing commander used to tell everyone that the missileers deployed every single day. I think he changed his tune very soon after the Iraq War started, and they were pulling missileers from the bunker and making them go to the desert.

  • The Other Shannon

    I got chills when I read, “A combat deployment means that you pray to get pregnant on R&R so you have some part of him to keep in case something happens.”

    Thanks for writing this, Jacey and Sabrina. There’s no possible way to side-by-side compare the affects of combat deployment on every different branch simply because they’re all designed to do different jobs, and more importantly, deployments (of any kind) affect each individual in different ways.

    Shame on those of you who came here to pick and gripe about specifics of how commands are notified of WHATEVER. These points are great, solid, and REAL. I appreciate them for what they are: SOMEONE’S EXPERIENCES. How juvenile it is to read these comments of women criticizing and debasing someone else’s experiences just because they aren’t “textbook.”

  • Navy Guest

    Navy Deployments are usually six months or longer with a specific mission area or mission task regardless of time spent out to sea. Everything else on a ship is either considered training for ship crew or testing of ship systems. TDY, training, or work ups towards a deployment in the Navy does not count as being deployed. An IA (Individual Augmentation) tour for navy personnel, usually means boots on the ground in some sort of support role for another service( Army/Marine). The Navy does have combat soldiers outside of Special Warfare. Hope this help with the confusion.

  • Ashley C

    I can definitely understand the differences and reading this was helpful. I feel blessed my USAF husband is not in combat on deployment. However, that thinking made me really lax about worrying (after all I spoke to him on FB/Skype almost daily). Then he was severely injured on the job. Air Transportation. Cargo. Seems safe. No guns, no bombs, no terrorists within view. Fairly safe country in comparison to most combat zones. Then I find out he was crushed by a 20,000 pound shipping container. Nearly took his foot off. Could have been so much worse, amazed every day that he isn’t dead. Who would have thought I’d have that to worry about on my regular deployment?! I was unprepared for coping with that. Waiting and wondering if they’d ship him home to me. Would he heal, would he get the medical board? Would he walk again? Even scarier, while combat jobs aren’t being shot at when they’re back home my husband can still be crushed by his cargo. Now I fear every day he goes to work.

    It is all terrible and heartbreaking and terrifying.