Deployment fly-ins and staying positive as deployment winds down.

If you ask 100 military significant others what part of deployment is the hardest, you will receive 100 different responses for 100 different reasons.

For me, the most difficult part of deployment is the week or so following separation – whether it’s in the beginning of a deployment or after a port call. My least favorite moment is when I return home to an empty, quiet house. I’ve written about all this before, I know.

We are now coming toward the end of this deployment and the spouses on base are getting excited for the squadron fly-ins. The fly-in is based on rank and necessity. The newest member of the squadron may get a ride in if, say, his wife has just given birth. Usually, though, the top ranking pilots and NFOs (Naval Flight Officers – not pilots, but they perform a function in the airplane, with duties depending on the plane) fly back to base a few days before the boat arrives in port. Each squadron has their own fly-in, but usually all the carrier squadrons’ fly-ins occur on the same day and around the same time. Each squadron’s jets fly in formation, and it’s quite a sight to behold. Some of the staff are allowed to fly a jet back to base or, more typically, they ride a COD back to base. COD stands for “Carrier Onboard Delivery”. Each aircraft carrier has a small squadron of CODs, which are small-ish planes that shuttle goods, mail, and personnel on and off the carrier.

Because my husband got to come home for those 10 days, he is riding the boat in to port instead of participating in a fly-in. It’s fair, but it’s also a little ironic — he’s the only one among his coworkers who is coming home to a significant other, and he’s the one who has to ride the boat in! Ha! 🙂 Normally I’d pick him up at the port, but we decided that he will instead take the base shuttle home and I will meet him on base. It will be a much more low-key homecoming then it would be at a fly-in or at the port.

Since I don’t have a fly-in to attend, I sent several COWs a message on FB asking if they need an extra had the day of the fly-in to arrange anything or to take pictures. One of them jumped on the offer immediately. I am REALLY excited to attend this particular squadron’s fly-in, since I know so many of the spouses in the squadron. It should be a really nice day. I wonder if I’ll be sad, or if I’ll not think too much about it because I just saw my husband for 10 days.

This will not be my first fly-in, so here are a few pointers about how the deployment fly-ins work:
– If you’re attending as a guest, be sure to look nice! Jeans are usually fine, but definitely pair your jeans with a dressy top and nice shoes. I will probably wear jeans and a nice sweater.
– If you are attending as the spouse or significant other of someone flying-in, dress up!! Lots of photos will be taken, and it’s a great opportunity to get a photo of your family in front of the jet with your spouse. Plus, it’s (usually) the first time your significant other has seen you in a long time … so there’s that too 😉
– Most squadrons ask their junior officers’ spouses, as well as the spouses of those flying in, to make signs, bring food and drink, etc. Sometimes they’re even asked to “staff” the event. Lots of the JO spouses grumble about this (and I would have, too, if my husband wasn’t flying-in), but once you’re there, you’ll see that it’s a big party. It is probably very sad to be there and know that YOUR spouse isn’t arriving for a few days, but I think that it’s worth going to anyway. Just my opinion, though!
– Lots of spouses bring a friend or hire a professional photographer to take pictures of the reunion. This is a really, really great idea. Sometimes squadrons hire someone, but there’s of course no guarantee that your individual reunion will be captured, so again I bring you back to the idea of having a friend there 😉
– Some spouses bring their whole family (both sets of parents, grandparents, kids, neighbors, etc), while other spouses will go solo. This is obviously a family decision, but I want to make one point: the fly-ins can be really emotional and maybe too confusing or too much for some family members. Also, I’ve seen a few crazy moments with family members fighting to get to the pilot first (there was tripping involved). Just a few thoughts about who to bring with you! Also, some squadrons put a cap on how many attendants each family can bring, so it may be that the squadron will kind of make the decision for you.

I’ve been extremely busy since my husband went back to the boat. I am LOVING working with my personal trainer — this is the best I’ve felt since we moved here. I’m excited about seeing results eventually, too. I’d really like to wear the other 90% of my wardrobe. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. All the working out and feeling good has helped me stay positive and focused as deployment draws to a close. I feel like having a major project like this helps me pass the time I could be sad about being lonely. Of course, my school work keeps me very busy too, but I’m in a groove with all that, so my main focus at the moment really is working out and figuring out how to be more healthy.

We decorated our Christmas tree while my husband was home, so here are a few pictures. It’s difficult to be sad when the tree is lit-up 🙂

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