This is a commentary by Chelsea Iliff of the "Fort Huachuca Scout."
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Army News Service, Aug. 30, 2007) - Alone in a foreign country, in a new apartment, with no vehicle and no household goods, I was forced to make friends when my husband deployed to Iraq for the first time in October 2003.
We were stationed in Germany and he had been there a month before I was allowed to come. He deployed a little over 48 hours after I arrived and I didn't see my husband again for ten months.
I believe good friends are critical in sustaining throughout a deployment. Just like our Soldiers, these friends become our battle buddies, our confidantes, our family.
While one can tell you where you'll find your closest friends or how to build your spouse network, it doesn't hurt to have a cookout with neighbors, attend family readiness group meetings, have coffee with co-workers or volunteer for a local organization.
A battle buddy is someone who truly experiences the difficulties of a deployment with you. This could be a family member or an old friend, but I've found the best battle buddies are other spouses who live through the pain of war and separation alongside you.
I met my battle buddy while working for the education center on post. We conducted briefings back to back for weeks and finally met for coffee. Our husbands were friends and roommates in Iraq and this allowed us to experience the separation as a collective team.
Here are a few ways you and your battle buddies can get through a deployment together:
• Go out and travel! If you have kids, take them along. Because we were in Europe, my girlfriends and I experienced Christmas markets in Germany, pottery shopping in Poland, theatre-hopping in London and road-tripping through France and Switzerland. We had equal amounts of fun traveling in and around our small community. We went to the market and museums and theatres. There's a lot to do right around your doorstep.
• Volunteer for the local community club or other organizations. The Fort Huachuca Community Spouses Club hosts monthly luncheons and other fun events and is open to everyone in the community. You'll discover that this is a great way to build your spouse network.
• Grab a few friends and start a dinner group. Rotate hosting duties and enjoy weekly or monthly meetings. After dinner, let each person talk uninterrupted for fifteen minutes. I got this idea when I attended the American Women's Activities in Germany annual conference in 2006. It's a very basic idea, but it allows you to share your feelings with your friends and in turn, become a better listener.
• Exercise together. I'm not one who loves to hit the gym, but I do enjoy going for walks. Play tennis, play basketball, be creative. My battle buddy and I used to walk from our apartment downtown. We do a little shopping in the market and have breakfast. It was a great way to spend a day.
• Start a poker group or a bunco group. Again, rotate houses and refreshments and get together for some fun. You will be surprised at how other spouses will jump at the opportunity to be involved with a group.
You don't need to do anything fancy or expensive to build your spouse network. Sometimes watching American Idol together or going to the movies may be all you and your battle buddy need to help each other through these long separations.
Find yourself a battle buddy and find yourself a friend for life.