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Hello/Goodbye

One of the funny things about of our current high operations tempo is that reintegration and deployment preparation often look and feel exactly the same. And by “funny,” I actually mean “annoying.”

Think about what you hear in the training for each. Listening skills lectures? Check. Ideas for things to talk about with your husband? Check. Encouragement to seek marital intervention and family counseling? Check.

Part of the reason for this is that those exercises, like learning communications skills, are just a good idea anyway, military family experts say. But the other side is this: when you’re dealing with the current deployment schedule, there’s not much space between coming home and leaving again.

“It takes 24 to 26 months to recover from a one year deployment. The reality has been for the last 5 years we’ve been deploying closer to one year out one year home,” said Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff at the Military Officers Association of America meeting last fall. “The fact is we haven’t been able to have soldiers have sufficient times at home … (and that) has accumulative effects, and those accumulative effects will be with us for awhile.”

Part of that fallout, he indicated, is that both types of training are often done together. For example, Kirsten Woodward, family programs division director for the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, said their intervention program FOCUS actively rolls reintegration in with preparation for the next separation.

“If you look at a deployment cycle in general … your dwell time is very much less than your predeployment time,” she said. “That’s what we do with reintegration. We look at the [the current problem] and then prepare for that for the next time.”

Obviously, each section has some information specific to it alone. You probably won’t be told during reintegration to update your will, just like during predeployment no one will school you on the signs of PTSD. But the overarching themes of each cycle are similar — because, as Casey said, they have to be.

Of course, in a perfect world, he said, dwell time would be much longer — and maybe soon it will be. But for now it’s not, and a reintegration that looks like predeployment is what we’re stuck with.

There are obvious downsides to this, including that there is never time before he leaves again to take care of a myriad of relationship problems that are specific to having your spouse physically present in your life. We already know all about that.

But it is possible that there are also upsides. How many civilian couples do you know that have the chance or take the time to love on their marriage relationship the way we can on the military’s dime, should we choose to take advantage of it?

The answer is not many. And while, yes, it can be hard to track down the resources available to us, they are out there. Even if if feels like you are always getting ready for something, isn’t it all worth it if it means you can successfully hold it together so that you can welcome him home even while saying “goodbye?”

About Amy Bushatz

Amy is the managing editor of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is an Associate Editor. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on NPR and in the New York Times. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.