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The Naval Support Activity Bethesda’s (NSAB) Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) is currently offering deployment support services to service members and families preparing for an upcoming deployment and those returning home from a deployment.

Once a month, a pre-deployment brief, a return and reunion brief and a “Hearts Apart” meeting are presented to help service members start and end a successful deployment.

“The pre-deployment brief is to primarily get individual augmentees (IA) ready for a deployment,” said Caitlin Mullins, work and family life/deployment specialist. “We have visitors from Tricare who talk about getting everything [medical] in line before you deploy, we have a personal financial manager that comes in and talks about finances and then the legal office comes in and talks about the wills and power of attorney. They actually provide the paperwork and make the appointments right then and there with the people so they could just go ahead and get the ball rolling.”

During the return and reunion brief, service members and their dependants get the opportunity to talk about the stress and relationship issues caused by a deployment.

“This coming month for the return and reunion brief, we will have what is called a heartfelt homecoming, presented by life skills,” said Mullins. “That specifically is on re-uniting relationships and the cycle of emotions you go through because of deployment. Also for the return and reunion, we have a financial counselor that comes in and talks. The biggest thing [they talk about] is money because normally you have a lot of money after you deploy so they touch on car buying and playing it smart.”

The last deployment support service that FFSC offers, is the Hearts Apart meetings, which is where spouses and family members of deployed service members offer to be support for one another.

“The “Hearts Apart” meetings are basically a social hour for families, spouses and loved ones to come together and share their experiences, be support for one another and network,” said Mullins. “Kids are invited and they will be provided activities.”

Mullins believes the programs offered by FFSC are vital to a successful deployment and allow family members to be included in the deployment process.

“As a military spouse myself, I understand the importance of needing to be in the pre-deployment process as well as the re-integration process,” said Mullins. “It’s important that families are invited to these programs. Having that support while your spouse is away is extremely important with the Hearts Apart because it can feel very isolating, especially in this sort of area where it’s a very rushed environment and the big city can be new. As far as IA’s (Individual Augmentee), which are not deploying as a unit, it’s incredibly important that they have some sort of support because you don’t have this unit to rely on.”

Christy Howard, system engineer at Accenture and spouse of a soon to be deployed service member, believes going to the briefs is very valuable. “I thought it was really useful on one hand to just be able to get away from work and focus on everything associated with his leaving for an extended period of time,” said Howard.

“They reviewed a number of different areas. For the spouses primarily they went over Tricare and explained how it works to make sure the spouse is properly covered,” said Howard. “I was previously active duty and I’ve been a spouse for 12 years and I learned more about Tricare at [the pre-deployment brief] then I ever have before. It was a really useful brief. The other two couples were recently married, so I know that was really good information for them as well.”

“I think that it [the pre-deployment brief] helped a lot, especially in terms of all the practical stuff you have to prepare for like having a power of attorney so I can submit our taxes and sign for both of us,” said Howard. “I feel like we have a handle on all the stuff that we need to take care of before he leaves.”

For more information on the deployment support services offered by FFSC or to sign up for a class contact the FFSC at 301-319-4087 or contact Mullins at 301-295-2709.