Deployment lessons from a not so old Navy Veteran.

In the past few weeks I have seen incredible kindness and generosity amongst communities. They are coming together to support the vulnerable and there has been a plethora of offerings from business to help other business.

Having seen catastrophe films in the past, I have always wondered what we would actually do if the shit really did hit the fan… now we know!

People, in general, are good people especially in a crisis. And yet I am still concerned. I have seen this before…

In the run up to a military deployment there is always this hive of enthusiastic activity and spirits are high. You are preparing, training, getting into new routine and getting to know new people. I say new, they are people you know, but you’re getting to know them in a different context.

Things are beginning to take shape and you’re realising just how long you’re going to be on this tin can and in a potentially hostile environment.

Working, eating, living and exercising with the same people for 9 months.

Then you go on a run ashore in Malta and forget that anxiety because you’re too busy getting over the hangover from hell and trying to figure out how the f@*k you managed to get back to your cabin at 3am having had to negotiate a gangway, narrow passageways and near vertical ladders without breaking your neck in the process.

Once in your area of operations, the first wave of enthusiasm subsides, the monotony begins to set in..

Work, eat, sleep, repeat…

And you can’t get off or go home. You are stuck.

And recently, I have been trying to figure out how we, as military folk, do it. How do we get on with things?

First and foremost – Service and Duty. We signed up for this, we knew the gig and to a certain extent what we were letting ourselves in for. And something intrinsic keeps us coming back for more.

We have a choice.

Second – Training. Our basic training instilled a sense of pride in our work and the resilience to cope in strange environments. That training continues and prior to a deployment we have extra training tailored to the environment we are going to.

We are prepared.

Thirdly – Pay. We get good pay. It isn’t the be all and end all, but it helps. In the dips we can imagine saving some extra and paying a chunk off the mortgage, or a new car or saving to start a family. It’s extrinsic, and they are needed sometimes. Equally, many military personnel have the opportunity for promotion following a challenging deployment, so there is some intrinsic satisfaction too.

We have a motivator.

Lastly – End date. Deployments are designed for a finite period of time. Some do get extended, the plan shifts right or you don’t make that scheduled port stop. Time keeps ticking, the days roll on, the first of the month keeps coming around.

We have finality.

“So what?”, you’re thinking. “I have none of that.”

Or do you?

Indulge yourself and just for moment put the judgement aside. Think really hard about where the choice might be. Where are the opportunities and are you even looking for them? How has your life so far prepared you for this time? What skills do you normally use in your home life that could now be a great asset for you in your work life? And flip that… what are you good at in work that you can now use at home? What is motivating your actions and is it helping? Because if it isn’t, what other motivations could be kinder on your soul?

End date???? – Ok I will concede on that one because at the moment there isn’t one and this is where this story falls down. But, should that let you off the hook and stop planning?

I say no. All that means is, you need a different plan and a different set of actions to make that plan real.

Because some of the more positive habits you’ll create over the coming months don’t have to stop. 

And as for the more positive changes we’ll make to our culture, education and ways of working… well, they don’t need to stop either.

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