24 August 2010

Taking a Pass on Taking a Pass

There's been a lot of Family Readiness Group (F.R.G.) talk on Facebook about the times 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division soldiers might be allowed a 4-day pass from their pre-deployment training.

Not all soldiers will take their passes at the same times--or in the same places--making it an administrative nightmare and a potential gold mine for travel agents. Soldiers are restricted to travel within 300 miles of their duty station, which means they'll not be able to return to Iowa.

Not to be too contrary, but passes, in my opinion, can be a mixed blessing. Sure, it sounds great, getting together with your soldier for a few "extra" days before they leave for Afghanistan. Please remember, however, that not everyone--especially lower-ranking soldiers and their families--has the resources to spend money and time on travel, lodging, daycare, and whatever else it takes to get from Iowa to Mississippi for four days.

That doesn't mean they don't love their soldiers. That doesn't mean they don't want to see them. That does mean, however, that you should watch what you say. You may think you're only asking about someone's plans to visit their soldier ("aren't you SO EXCITED about SEEING YOUR SOLDIER?!"), but what they may be hearing is "if you don't visit your soldier, something is wrong with you and your family."

All of this is only one soldier's opinion, of course. Here are some other tips to consider regarding pre-deployment passes:

Talk honestly and directly with other family members about your expectations. One Red Bull spouse reports getting pressure from a not-so-passive-aggressive mother-in-law. Mother-in-law wants to visit her baby boy during pass-time. Meanwhile, Mrs. Red Bull wants a romantic stress-and-kids-free interlude before her husband disappears for 12 months. Please do not put your Red Bull soldier in such a crossfire.

Don't talk about times, dates, and places on public venues such as Facebook. I say again: Don't do it. It confuses other people, and causes them stress. Your soldier may have different opportunities than my soldier. What you've heard about Joe's unit doesn't necessarily apply to Joan's. Focus on your own family.

There's also something the Army calls "Operational Security" or "OPSEC." Basically, OPSEC means "keep Army stuff out of public view." If you were going on a family vacation, you'd lock your doors, put the lights on timers, and stop your mail and newspaper deliveries, right? Now, if you're careful enough to hide your departure in those common-sense ways, why would you announce publicly the dates of your upcoming visit with your Red Bull soldier?

Think about the trip home, too. Not all families may want to re-visit the pain of having to say good-bye. Only recently did my wife tell me how painful it was to leave after we said goodbye after a 4-day pass at my 2003 mobilization station. It was a long, long way home, and she kept bursting into tears. People kept asking if she was all right, and all she wanted was to be left alone. Knowing that story now, I wouldn't ask her to visit me this time--particularly if she were traveling with our two kids.

Other soldiers and their families, of course, might choose differently. And that's really my point, no matter how grinchy I may sound today: We need to give each other's families the spaces to make those decisions.

Godspeed the Red Bull families, and their soldiers.

1 comment:

  1. It's a fifteen hour drive!
    Things being what they are --unless a family has cold hard cash, they're looking at credit cards to pay for transportation, lodging and what not. At 27% interest, that payoff will be long and expensive. So it's something to consider.


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