Don’t Skip This Step! Avoid the last-minute deployment scramble. Take care of these easy-to-forget tasks now. by Janine Boldrin
When deploying becomes routine, it’s easy to think you can remember everything you need to do before heading out the door. But forgetting important pre-deployment steps will leave you with lots of heartache and less money. Whether this is your first or
• Protect your identity by placing an Active Duty Alert on your credit reports. Learn how by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s web site that has a step-by-step guide on how to place alerts (www. consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0273-active-duty-alerts). Warszawski also recommends setting up online account access for your bank accounts to monitor any changes to your finances while you are away.
fifth deployment, build in time to take care of these important tasks so you can focus on your mission.
Deployment-proof your finances
Keep cash in your bank accounts by squaring away some often-forgotten areas of finances. Be sure to:
• Check in with your bank or credit union. “We advise service members to make us aware of their deployment to be able to extend the resources offered to them such as personal finance management tailored to active duty needs, and money saving products and services with low to no fees,” says Claudia Warszawski, Manager, Personal Finance Management, Navy Federal Credit Union. Notifying your financial institution will also help to avoid accounts being suspended for unusual overseas activity.
• Notify your creditors of your deployment and make sure they have a way to contact you if there is a problem. Understand your rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) which caps the interest rate on outstanding credit card debt. Some credit card issuers have additional protections they offer to service members who are deployed but you can’t take advantage of them until your creditors have proof that you are leaving.
Connect with your children’s community/schools Make sure the important people in your child’s life know you are deploying. Bringing caring individuals into the situation will help you become aware of any problems that may arise while you are gone. Consider these steps:
• Talk with your children’s school. Even if you live on a military installation where deployments have become routine, be sure to let your child’s teacher and counselor know that you are leaving. Find out what programs are in place to help your child through the deployment. Discuss how they will notify you or your spouse if they identify an issue, and encourage the teacher to reach out to you on a regular basis with updates on your child’s progress or even events in which you can participate.
• Engage your neighbors. This step is especially important if you live in a non-military town. Don’t assume that your community knows that your unit will be deploying. Your neighbors can provide assistance to both your spouse and children in your absence. While you should be aware of maintaining PERSEC by avoiding outward displays of your absence, you can find help by engaging individuals who might be able to assist with rides, snow shoveling, or being a caring friend to your child in your absence.
$ • Take time for very important people. Spend time with your child before you leave, engaging in activities they enjoy and talking about the upcoming deployment. For experienced military families, this may be something that is forgotten when you’ve been through many deployments. But as they get older, your children’s needs change and their feelings about being separated from a parent can be intense. Be sure to engage your child prior to each deployment to let them know you care about how they are feeling plus discuss how you will maintain contact with them throughout the deployment.
Protect your pets One of the biggest mistakes service members make is waiting until the last minute to figure out what do with their dog, cat, or other beloved animal. Don’t wait to:
• Talk to your spouse about the pet. Maybe Rex was the big dog you always wanted but your wife doesn’t like to walk him. “The pet has to be a family pet and the spouse has to be able to control him prior to the soldier leaving,” says Shawna Michaud, Southeast Regional Director, Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet, an organization that helps to find foster homes for dogs and cats for deployed soldiers, homeless veterans, wounded warriors, and surviving spouses. “What happens is the soldier is the one who is used to walking the dog and then (when he’s gone) the dog has behavioral issues.” Before you deploy, figure out if your spouse is unwilling or unable to care for the pet so you can make other arrangements for the care of the animal.
• Put a solid care plan in place. Don’t leave a pet with a friend who is not prepared to take care of your pets; instead, leave them with someone familiar or willing to learn about your animal. Ask if the caretaker expects to move while you are deployed and whether they can keep your animal in a safe environment. Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet has often received phone calls halfway through a deployment from a soldier scrambling to find a new home for a pet. “Our organization finds a foster home through our network of volunteers and they go through an application process and are screened,”
says Michaud. When considering a care giver, find out whether the yard is fenced, if the landlord allows animals, and how your pet might react to the caretaker’s own pets.
• Get supplies together for the months you’ll be away. Make sure your pet’s shots are up to date and will remain current for the entire length of the deployment. Remember to save up to buy a year’s supply of heart worm and tick medication, along with money for cat litter, food, and treats so care is not a hardship on the person helping with your animals. Check all of your pet’s equipment to see if there is anything that needs to be replace — from leashes and collars to crates. Create a list of important information including where to take the pet for care and details on feeding, bathing, and usual daytime schedule.
Cover the cars While not as important as having a plan for a child or a pet, you must make arrangements for your beloved wheels or junky clunker so you don’t end up losing money while you are gone. Don’t assume your previous vehicle plan will work this time. Remember to:
• Schedule a regular maintenance appointment with a trusted mechanic in advance of leaving. Find out what you should do to prepare your car for storage or to ensure it is fit for the road if you are leaving it with a friend or family member.
• Make a plan with the person who will be caring for the car. Discuss how often the vehicle needs to be driven, who will pay for maintenance, how the car will be protected from the elements, and who is allowed to drive the vehicle.
• Find a safe place to store the car. Leaving your vehicle in an unprotected parking spot is not a good option as it may be towed, damaged, or stolen without your knowledge. Long-term storage may cause damage like a flat tire or damaged rotors because of the car not being driven, so plan to take the vehicle in for maintenance when you return to ensure the car is fit to drive. continued on page 12
continued from page 11
Prepare your home Whether you rent a townhouse or own a home with a spouse, don’t forgot to go over some basic steps before you head out the door. Make time to:
• Leave a list. If you are a homeowner, ensure that your home is maintained in a way that helps keep its value. Sit down with your spouse and go over the list of items that need to be done on a regular basis. If she is unable to care for the home, enlist help through friends, a religious organization, local non-profit, or hire help if you can afford it. If your spouse is uncomfortable executing any of your usual tasks, take time to show her in person how to fix the issues rather than trying to explain it over Skype from thousands of miles away.
• Organize home helpers. Gathering a list of reliable companies that can use to maintain your home will make it much easier to call in an expert in case of an emergency. Ask for recommendations from friends and neighbors. If a problem happens, you’ll feel better knowing your money isn’t being wasted and that you have a person you can contact to fix the problem right away.
• Plan for the year. Do your sprinklers need to be winterized? The house sprayed for bugs? Maybe you need to hire someone to mow the lawn. Or the air conditioning needs to be regularly serviced. If possible, pre-schedule as much work as possible to take the worry away on whether regular maintenance is being completed. There’s a lot to get done before leaving for a deployment! While your list might be long, completing these important steps will help lower stress levels while you are away. Make the time now to keep your life in order so you can return to good finances, a happy family, a working car, healthy pet, and well-maintained home.
Start to tune in to programs for deployed soldiers and their families There are a ton of programs out there meant to help service members who are deployed. Trying to find out which ones you can benefit from can be overwhelming. For instance, did you know that some military families are eligible to receive partial reimbursement for childcare during a deployment? Check out the NACCRA web site (www.naccrra.org/militaryfamilies) to find out more. From your bank to getting a Christmas tree, keep your eyes open prior to leaving for information on how others want to help your military family through this deployment so you don’t have to shoulder the burden alone.
Janine Boldrin is a freelance writer and military spouse living near Fort Campbell, KY.