4 Things to Know Before Going to War
by Dale Rider
A while back I wrote an article highlighting what I felt was important to know before deployment. That was at the beginning of my deployment, I’m now home and settled back in and wish to share another few points I picked up on that I wish I had known before I left. I hope this reaches even just one person who’s in that, “What do I do?” thought process.
- Packing (Yes, again.)
So, my last article on this topic I touched on packing, keep that in mind, but also consider some other tips coming up next.
First, pack as light as you can. Of course, that’s hard to say if you’re struggling to know what to pack. What I’m saying though is, seriously evaluate what you’re packing. Pack all the gear you’ve been told to, or seriously think you’ll need to have with you. As far as comfort items, keep that light. Family photos, a laptop or iPad (You don’t need both), and some other small items. If you can keep “comfort” items down to an assault bags worth of stuff, you’re doing.
Next, invest in some decent bags. You might have to check with leadership to be sure you aren’t getting bags that won’t be allowed on certain planes, but most likely you’ll have some big freedom on that. I only brought military issues bags, and I hated it. Later, when we started bouncing around different places, I got a big rolling bag with a zipper on the top for easy access. I lived out of that solely majority of my deployment. I would fold my clothes to fit in such a manner I could slide the bag out from under my cot and just pull out what I need, like a giant drawer. Then, when we started traveling home I sent forward a bunch of other items in a rucksack, and kept just a duffel and the black bag and I had room for all my clothes and all my gear that I’d have to turn back in. I owe a lot of thanks to that bag, no idea the brand on it, bought it in Iraq.
- Save your money.
You will hear these kind of warnings a hundred times, but here it is again, for good measure. Deployment is going to either provide you with a chance to save a lot, or spend a lot, and you should save it. On deployment, you don’t need to buy an x-box and have it sent to you (if you somehow have that free time), and especially if you already have one at home. When you get home, that new car with the stupid interest rate, is not, no matter what the salesman says, worth it. So, save your money.
Of course, you’ll still have a loan or credit card payment still going on (which some companies will drop interest rates, or even freeze them until you’re back) so, you’ll have to pay those. Still though, you won’t be home tempted to eat out, buy random things at Target, or stop by the liquor store to forget how annoying the new LT is. No, on deployment you can literally get away with only spending money on your basic bills, and pocket the rest. MRE’s and chow halls ran by locals aren’t amazing, but they’re free, and you have no other choice. Amazon, eBay, whatever, will get very tempting to order things to make you comfortable, but seriously weigh what you need (more ‘want’ than need), and remember whatever you buy, you’ll have to carry it whenever you move somewhere. I saw guys barely spend a dime on deployment and by the end they had an easy 10k extra than the rest of us.
- Drop social media.
This one will be short and simple, don’t get too caught up in your social media accounts. It’s nice to stay up-to-date with your friends, family, and the recent pop culture fads, but it can either make you frustrated, or even a bit sad. Think about it, all day you’re not home and probably thinking about it (if you have the chance to) and you’re working hard. You get back to your room/tent/spot on the ground and somehow get to check your news feed, and all you see is constant complaining, or something about the latest, stupid riot. You’re tired, both physically and mentally, and now your time you got to relax you waste it on reading aggravating posts. Can even get worse if you get online to see your friends out and about enjoying the nightlife while you’re still getting over your third time with some random food sickness from the lousy pop-up chow hall on your FOB. That’ll drag your emotions down in a hurry.
Just do yourself a favor, stay in contact with friends and family through a messenger, and ignore checking news feeds.
- Remember your purpose.
On deployment you most likely will get tasked out with some sort of task your duty. No matter how ridiculous it is, or how hard it is, stay motivated and take it seriously. Even if you’re tasked out with something simple like “being in charge of the MRE’s” own up to it and give it 100%. Look, you could just slack off and be a lazy, good for nothing, or you can realize you’re stuck on deployment whether you do great, or not, so might as well make the best of it. Besides, if you are doing good, you can feel proud about what you’re doing and no one will hate you either.
Also, remember your time on deployment can really define who you are and help you in the future. This time with your fellow teammates, and leadership, will show yourself, and them, what kind of person you are. If you’re there giving it your best and everything you got, when you leave you’ll have a sense of accomplishment and a sense of pride that only a very few can really understand, or obtain. If this is your first deployment, think of it like this: You’re deploying for the greatest country in the world to go and assist another country in their fight, or you yourself will fight, against the enemies of this nation, and the world. So, if you go and give it your best, even if your best wasn’t amazing and heroic, you will feel a lot better about yourself than if you had just sat around and slacked off.
Also, who wants to share stories to their grandchildren about how they slacked off, wouldn’t you want to talk about your accomplishments and what you made happen? Even if that meant simply there was enough MRE’s for the day?
Like in my previous article, I wrote this to help those who feel a bit unguided towards their deployment, I hope anyone who comes across this can put these small tips into action and it’ll help their time on deployment a bit more.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal November 8, 2018.