Making the Most of Our Time During a Deployment: Mind, Body & SoulWe published this on July 15, 2016,
Since the beginning of both Operations in the Middle East, we have had the pleasure of viewing many videos featuring our service members goofing around while in a dangerous area (who can forget the “Call Me Maybe” spoof by the US Marines?). Along with the creative efforts that are behind them, most of these videos are done because of all of the idle time that they have. But what most people that are watching fail to notice is that when soldiers have too much time on their hands, they can also find themselves getting into trouble, and in some cases, getting kicked out of the military.
Our unit arrived in Iraq in 2010; 3 years removed from what many know as “The Surge”. The mission that was given to the units we were supporting was much different from what previous units experienced as it was geared towards maintaining a presence and “cleaning up” what was left. Because of all the down time that they now had, many soldiers were susceptible to getting into trouble and Commands were now faced with the challenge of keeping everyone busy enough to ensure they stayed away from doing anything that could adversely affect their military careers.
For many, deployments are viewed as a time to begin to improve our lives. When a service member gets deployed, they envision themselves coming back to a utopian place where all of the problems they had before they left are non-existent. Sure, most will have larger bank accounts, but sometimes the expectations that they have are way too high to meet and when they return home the disappointments can lead to many frustrations. It is during this time that we can truly get to reinvent ourselves, not only for our families, but also for our wellbeing.
Here are 3 easy ways we can make the best of our moments there and also find the time to be on the right side of going viral (“Lazy Ramadi” anyone?)
Feed the Mind:
One of the biggest concerns that I had when I found out that I was going to be deployed was how long it was going to take me to finish the Bachelors Degree I was currently working on. Fortunate for me, I was enrolled in the University of Phoenix and they offered online classes (Strayer and Kaplan are Universities that have similar programs known as Distance Learning). Once I was able to transfer to the online courses, Tuition Assistance (TA) paid for the classes. Every 5 weeks or so, I would finish a class and enroll in the next one. Before I knew it, the deployment was coming to an end and I was already planning on starting my Masters in Social Work (MSW). The idea is to keep the mind busy from everything that is going on back home and come back a step closer to your educational goals.
Build the Body:
To many this would seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised of all of the service members that return home packing on more pounds than they came with. Much of this is due to the fact that the food we are given over there is top notch (dining facilities are catered with steak, lobster, Baskin Robbins and even Krispy Kreme). Another issue that factors in with service members skipping workouts is that partaking in outdoor physical activities is not a very safe option in many bases. We can work around this by eating in moderation, and being creative with our routines. I’ve seen guys wear their battle gear and do push-ups in them to make sure they stayed in shape. Trust me on this one; if you put in the time to stay fit, when you come home to your loved one, everyone will be happy.
Nurture the Soul:
This is not to be confused with religion. Being spiritual means being connected with a greater force and refers more to having a great value system (ethics, moral compass etc.). If there is ever a time to connect with your spiritual side it is during a deployment. This period is the perfect opportunity to reflect and gives us the chance to find a sense of belonging, meaning and purpose in our lives. Start by developing kindness, compassion and empathy for everyone around the world. It helps our attitude when we are faced with situations of distress. I know that in some cases it is difficult to find a quiet place without any distractions but some bases have Resiliency Centers with rooms designed for meditation or prayer.
Everything that I have previously mentioned is just a simple and basic guide for you to stay focused, be stress free and become the version of yourself that you have always envisioned. The rest is up to you. Now if you please excuse me, I’m going to check on the latest “Pokémon GO” videos in Kuwait.
David J. Ortiz (MSW) is an Iraq war veteran educated in Military Behavioral Health. He is dedicated to assisting service members in living well-rounded, productive lives. Currently you can find him serving on Twitter as a #PTSDChat mentor as @balancedsoldier on Wednesdays 9pm (EST) or checkout his Facebook page for past posts @ facebook.com/balancedsoldierlife/