Deployment: Are You Prepared?

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- What would you do if you were told you had to deploy on a rapid response contingency? Are you prepared? This is what happened to me on Dec. 27, 2004 while traveling home from work. 

On Dec. 26, 2004, a massive underwater earthquake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, inundating coastal communities with waves up to 100 feet high and killing more than 225,000 people in 11 countries. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history, with Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand enduring the brunt of the disaster.

Immediately, 13th Air Force, headquartered at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, was directed to stand up a contingency response team to coordinate humanitarian relief efforts for Operation Unified Assistance. Within 12 hours, 48 members from Andersen AFB, including myself, were on a KC-135R en route to Thailand.

This is only one out of a hundred scenarios that USAF Airmen are tasked to respond to in a moment's notice. Due to these situations, it is imperative that you are prepared to go when tasked to do so. USAF members must ensure that they are physically, mentally and financially prepared. 

This is accomplished by ensuring you remain physically fit to meet the challenges of possible sleep deprivation or rigorous environmental settings. A key factor to this is ensuring you have current and up-to-date immunizations. Also, you should exercise throughout the week to include cardio and muscular strength training along with proper rest and a healthy diet. Continual exercise not only makes you physically fit, but allows you to mentally focus on your task.

Being mentally fit includes receiving enough information about the deployment environment. If possible, receive refresher training on skills you may need for that environment. This can be accomplished by completing training through the Air Force Advance Distributed Learning System, reviewing your Airman's Manual, and having your Unit Deployment Monitor schedule you for advance formal training. An additional tool for gaining insight concerning the deployed location is the U.S. Department of State website, www.state.gov. Under the travel tab, search for your destination. 

The greatest asset to mental preparation for deploying is ensuring your finances are in order. Obtain a MyPay Personal Identification Number to access your military pay account and make arrangements to ensure bills are paid and your dependents are cared for in your absence. 

Your base Legal office can assist you with preparing a will and establishing a power of attorney authority. Review your legal documents and keep them up to date. Marriage, divorce, births, deaths and changes in wealth are significant events that affect your legal interest. Furthermore, ensure your Servicemember's Group Life Insurance, or SGLI, is updated and accurate, and review your virtual Record of Emergency Data (DD Form 93) on the vMPF to make changes or corrections if needed.

Remember, you are not expected to do it all yourself. Your supervisor, Unit Training Manager, First Sergeant and the Airman and Family Readiness staff are here to assist you and your family for guidance and support. Finally, communicate with your family because this could be a stressful time for them as well. Ensure they have contact information for all the individuals previously mentioned.  

With a little preparation, short-notice deployments do not have to be stressful. Deployments should be smooth and swift, and being prepared is key to the Air Force's global mission. Do your part and prepare today for tomorrow.