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Deployment preparation comes in different shapes, sizes

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Deployments have become synonymous with putting on the uniform. As a combat-ready Airman, our training must always be up-to-date, bags ready and your personal affairs need back up plans. We must deploy prepared and focused on the mission at hand.

Whether leaving the country or not, every Airman experiences the burden of a deployment. Some take on the extra burden of the workload when a person deploys while others trade in their home life for an extended stay in places not typically found on any list of vacation "hot spots." Whatever the situation is, Airmen need to be ready to step up and do their part.

When I was notified in September I would be deploying just before Christmas, I was devastated. This would be the second Christmas in three years that I would miss with my family.

I went into reaction mode and began making lists, updating my will and getting new powers-of-attorney. I needed to know my children would be taken care of and my husband had the authority to handle any issue without delay. I began my training, accomplishing computer-based training and going through local and advanced combat skills training - requirements necessary to be combat ready.

On my last few days of ACST - six weeks before report date - the rug was ripped out from under me. A new line remark was added to my deployment tasking - my report date was moved to March. To top it off, a new requirement forced Airmen to complete their deployment training within 90 days of leaving.

I came back frustrated and angry. Now even more time would be taken away from my family. It took my husband reminding me that I wear the uniform, and part of the commitment of the uniform is flexibility.

This rationale allowed me to calm my nerves, refocus my thoughts and accept this challenge. I realized I had an opportunity to be even more prepared for a deployment full of unknowns.

By all accounts, this deployment will be easier. Although I will be gone for a longer period of time, I won't be leaving a 5-month-old with my parents because my husband is deployed as well. This time I have peace of mind. I already know that should anything happen to me, my husband will comfort my children. I already know the bond between mother and child cannot be broken - only tested.

One month before I come home, my husband deploys and my father will be raising my children. That's where my Air Force family comes in and my need to control the situation is calmed a little. I know they will be there not because some Air Force instruction says so, but because they care.

In the month I have left at home, I'll do whatever I can to ensure my children know why I'm leaving and that I will come home. For my daughter who is turning 3, I have books from the Child Development Center that explains to her where I am. I made a pillowcase with our picture on it and a "Who Loves You" book. It won't help the emptiness I feel while I'm gone, but I know all her milestones will be recorded on her "My Special Moments" calendar.

My teenage stepson is easier because he understands this is part of my life as a servicemember. By the same token, I need to ensure his world remains as normal as possible. Plans still need to be made so his education doesn't suffer, he still gets to play golf and football, and he is enrolled into a summer program. In many ways, I'm trying to predict the future and account for it appropriately so my family doesn't need to sacrifice any more than necessary.

I also need to make plans to help my husband take on the responsibilities that are inherently mine. When I leave, he will be mom, dad, maid and financier and I must make that transition as seamless as possible. My husband will need a support system so he can have breaks, and I will make sure he has options. I've recruited my neighbors, lined up babysitters and begged friends to help out. Although my husband is my very own Superman, he can't do it all and hopefully my village of people will help raise my children while I am gone.

As for work, I have a responsibility to ensure continuity is maintained. I need to make sure all my duties and responsibilities are transferred. It's also my responsibility to ensure my Airmen will be well taken care of.

Preparation is key. These little twists and turns have forced me to look at potential problems and have helped me create contingency plans. While I still feel the anguish of leaving my family, my mind is focused. As a Warrior Airmen, it is my obligation to make certain aspects of my personal and professional life are squared away. After all, life has to go on even if I'm not here.

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