Sea Legs - Deployments and Coast Guard Operations
Deployment is a major facet of Coast Guard life. To conduct operational missions and to maintain the highest readiness standards possible, units and cutters deploy on a regular basis. Coast Guardsmen and their families need to discuss and plan for important financial and legal matters prior to deployments. Time away can be as short as a few days or as long as several months. This section includes a few things to consider when planning for a deployment.
Temporary Duty (TDY)
Coast Guard members who are required to travel for official purposes perform Temporary Duty (TDY). Some of the entitlements that may be authorized when TDY is required: transportation tickets; an allowance for mileage; and a daily allowance (per diem) to cover food, lodging and incidental expenses. The actual amount of the per diem depends upon the geographic location of the TDY.
Preparing for deployment and reunion starts long before the ship gets underway. Discuss financial and household responsibilities before your loved one departs and make sure arrangements are made with other family members to share responsibilities during the deployment. Discuss your family’s long-term needs and take steps to make sure those needs will be met while your spouse is away. Organize financial matters and have plans in case of emergencies. Patience, a sense of humor and good communications are vital for all family members. Be sure to attend the unit pre-deployment briefing if one is offered by your unit.
It helps to keep busy during deployments. It often helps to get involved in activities with other spouses through the spouses’ club. Volunteer organizations, such as the American Red Cross and other groups in your local community, are always in need of volunteers. There are also many social media pages available for Coast Guard spouses and other loved ones. Check with your ombudsman to find one in your area.
Balancing Coast Guard and Family Commitments
The Coast Guard has policies on the operational tempo (OPTEMPO) and personnel tempo (PERSTEMPO) that limit time away from home port. With the increase in OPTEMPO in recent years, Coast Guardsmen and their families must maintain a state of constant preparedness. Whether in port or on shore duty, regular duties and watches sometimes require long hours on the job. When a Coast Guardsman is married, the obligation to the Coast Guard stays the same. This requires a balancing act between commitment to the Coast Guard and commitment to family. Good preparation, dedication and hard work are essential toward successfully merging the two lifestyles.
The CG SUPRT Program can assist in the resolution of personal problems and life challenges before having a negative impact on one’s health, relationships with others or job performance. You can contact the program 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 855-CG-SUPRT (855-247-8778) or by going to the CG SUPRT website at www.CGSUPRT.com.
Your ombudsman is your link with the command. Selected by the commanding officer, the Coast Guard ombudsman is a volunteer who serves as the official liaison between the command and its families. The ombudsman:
- Works directly under the commanding officer’s guidance;
- Is selected on the basis of his/her maturity, social skills, willingness to help and available time to serve;
- Receives Coast Guard ombudsman standardized formal training;
- Informs family members about the command’s policies and wishes;
- Informs the command of the families’ needs and concerns;
- Is friendly, approachable and is required by federal law to keep confidences;
- Serves as a source of important information and referral; and
- Is always ready to help in case of an emergency.
Your ombudsman is a very important resource to use while your Coast Guardsman is deployed. Your command has arranged for rapid communication between the ombudsman and the commanding officer in the event of family problems and emergencies. Make sure to have your unit ombudsman’s contact information readily available at all times; post it on your refrigerator and carry it in your wallet. In addition, make sure your ombudsman has your contact information, in the event there is an emergency that requires evacuations or accountability of family members. You may also use the “Contact Your Ombudsman” section at www.cgombudsmanregistry.org or by downloading the Coast Guard Health, Safety and Work-Life (CG HSWL) app to your mobile device.
Spouses’ clubs are a great way to meet other Coast Guard spouses and family members and to learn more about the Coast Guard lifestyle. These groups enhance family support by providing activities during deployment, mentoring new family members and assisting families in times of personal or unit crises. Spouses’ clubs plan, coordinate and conduct social, informational, care-taking and morale-building activities. They may coordinate deployment farewells and homecomings and assist with welcoming new families.
Membership in the spouses’ club is typically comprised of spouses, parents, siblings, relatives and approved friends of military personnel. For more information about your local spouses’ club, contact your command ombudsman or visit http://nationalcouncilofcgsc.org/index.html.
Family Care Plan
A Family Care Plan is required for Reserve members and ensures that dual military and/or single Coast Guardsmen with dependents have established adequate childcare arrangements for deployments, mobilizations, temporary duty or other periods during which the service member is unavailable. The designated guardian must be fully prepared physically and financially to assume this responsibility and become immersed in the deployment process. The guardian must have a power of attorney to act on behalf of the Coast Guardsman with respect to the children’s medical care and Coast Guard support services. It is important for the guardian to know how to contact the command’s ombudsman, the local Work-Life office, the legal office and the Chaplain. The Coast Guardsman should provide all of this information and more in the Family Care Plan.
Who should consider having a Family Care Plan?
- Coast Guardsmen with primary or shared physical custody of a minor child or children;
- Coast Guardsmen who are not married to the natural or adoptive parent of the minor child or children;
- Both service members of a married, dual military couple where one or both have primary or shared physical custody of a minor child or children; and
- Emergency-essential civilian and contractor personnel meeting the same parental status as active duty and Reserve personnel are also encouraged to develop a Family Care Plan.
Establish a safe place to file your important papers, including marriage certificate, birth certificates, Social Security cards, copy of DEERS enrollment and other Coast Guard records, passports, wills, power of attorney, insurance policies, tax returns, deeds and receipts/warranties for big-ticket items.
Always keep the originals of important documents. If you cannot locate the originals, certified copies may be obtained by writing to the county clerk or re-order the documents from the location or entity that originally issued them. There may be a charge for official copies, but fees are sometimes waived for military reasons. Regularly review your military paperwork to ensure information is current and correct.
It is very important for families to communicate during a deployment. You may send emails, letters, postcards, videos, photographs and newspaper clippings. Send items in a well-wrapped, sturdy container. Mail delivery may be sporadic and it is not unusual for mail to be returned to sender if mailed to the ship’s home port. Always use the FPO address when available.
Keep In Touch
It is important for families to keep in touch and communicate during a deployment. Email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Facetime and text messaging can be the most efficient means of communication, but they may not be appropriate for all members of the family. Also not all deployed units have consistent connectivity capability, especially when underway. Letters and postcards can, and should be, used to communicate with your spouse. The time it takes a letter to reach you at home depends on the deployed unit’s operating schedule. Check the postage mailing dates on each piece of mail you receive – a letter mailed on Monday may arrive after one mailed on Thursday. A tried and true suggestion from military families is to number each piece of mail, in sequence, on the outside of the envelope for very easy reference.
United Through Reading
Untied Through Reading provides an opportunity for powerful emotional connections that help to relieve the stress of separation by having deployed parents read aloud to children via DVD. Participation boosts family morale, serves to ease children’s fears about their parent’s absence and allows deployed service members to parent from afar.
This program can be used by all deployed personnel, as they may choose to read aloud to a younger brother or sister, grandchild or even a child they are mentoring. Visit www.unitedthroughreading.org to view current program locations.
Quick and easy, email is great for staying in touch. Discuss email expectations with your Coast Guardsman prior to deploying:
- Will email be readily available?
- If so, how often will you send emails?
- What address do you use?
Email, Skype, Facebook and Twitter posts are not a great way to communicate when you are angry or upset. If you really have a need to get your feelings off your chest, go ahead and write the email, but save it for 24 hours and reread it before you hit send. It is usually best to communicate strong feelings over the phone. Also, remember emails are not confidential; they may be seen by others.
Never email sensitive information about ship locations or movements, as this may jeopardize the operational security of your Coast Guardsman’s command. Review Operations Security (OPSEC) information below.
Never use email, Facebook or Twitter to pass along gossip, and use caution when communicating news about other families within the command. A good approach is to let other families communicate their own news to their own Coast Guardsman.
Operations Security (OPSEC)
As a family member of the military community, you are a vital player. You play a crucial role in ensuring your loved one’s safety. You accomplish this by protecting the information that you know. This is known in the military as operations security — or OPSEC.
OPSEC is founded on the idea that the accumulation of many sensitive or unclassified pieces of information could compromise security by revealing classified information. OPSEC is an analytic process used to deny adversaries’ pieces of the information puzzle that, while unclassified, are still valuable. Effective OPSEC minimizes the risk that critical information might be inadvertently given away.
Be alert, be careful and protect critical information. Avoid discussing command/personnel movements, port calls, Temporary Additional Duty (TAD) locations at CGX, commissary, restrooms, library, etc. Do not post sensitive information, such as law enforcement and joint operational ship movements on Facebook, Twitter, or in your email. Predictable behavior, casual conversations, discarded documents and routine acquisitions are all indicators associated with planning processes or operations, and can give away valuable information about an organization’s missions or activities. It is everyone’s responsibility to be safe and protect privacy.
For additional information on safeguarding your internet privacy, review the U.S. Coast Guard Social Media Handbook at http://static.dvidshub.net/media/pubs/pdf_25224.pdf.
Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response
Many Coast Guard families live in coastal areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters. This makes keeping a file of important papers even more essential. Maintain an emergency kit containing items such as water, food, clothing, flashlights, etc. Families should also have a potential evacuation plan. Note, you and your family may not be together when a disaster strikes, it is crucial to formalize your plans and preparations to ensure an effective response. Essential preparations include:
- Be Informed – Know the potential threats that may affect your area and complete Emergency Contact Cards for each family member;
- Have a Plan – Create a Family Emergency Plan; and
- Make a Kit – Create an Emergency Supplies Kit.
For information visit Ready.gov and www.ready.gov/considerations/military-family-preparedness.
In Case of Emergency (ICE)
In Case of Emergency (ICE) is a program that enables first responders (paramedics, firefighters and police officers) to identify persons and contact their next of kin to obtain important medical information. In each family member’s cell phone, store the word ICE in the address book. For that entry, enter the telephone number of the person you would want to be contacted “in case of an emergency.”
Coast Guard Personal Accountability and Assessment System (CGPAAS)
Coast Guard Personal Accountability and Assessment System (CGPAAS) standardizes a method for the Coast Guard to account, manage, and monitor the recovery process for personnel and their families affected and/or scattered by a widespread catastrophic event. CGPAAS provides valuable information at all levels of the Coast Guard chain of command, allowing commanders to make strategic decisions, which facilitate a return to stability.
CGPAAS allows Coast Guard personnel to do the following:
- Report accounting status
- Update contact/location information
- View reference information
All military and civilian members are required to use CGPAAS in the event an Order-To- Account (OTA) is given. Sponsors can account for themselves and dependents by logging into CGPAAS at https://cgpaas.uscg.mil.
No matter how long it may seem, the deployment will end one day and you’ll be able to plan for a reunion with your loved one. After a long deployment, you may find the need to get reacquainted. Spend some time together. Be patient. Talk about things that may have occurred while they were gone. There may be a realization that you can run things by yourself and that you’re good at it. That’s healthy, because you both can bring new, individual strengths and abilities to your relationship that will make it stronger in the long run. However, sometimes adjusting to this new normal can have its challenges. If there are problems that seem difficult to work out, seek help at CG SUPRT, from your Chaplain or at your place of worship.