Hello all! 🙂
First, a quick overview about me and then onto the first post for Becoming Deployment Champs!
My name is Kaitlin Haugen. I am 20 years old, a full-time student at the University of Nevada in Reno and am the game day producer for the Arizona Diamondbacks Triple-A affiliate, Reno Aces.
My fiancé’s name is Taylor Ritchie. He is a C-130 crew chief in the United States Air Force and is stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Taylor and I started dating October 20, 2009. He was a senior in high school and I was a junior.
On November 21, 2010 he left for boot camp and from there our long distance relationship started and continues today. I remember thinking that if we were meant to be then the distance would only make the heart grow fonder and we would only become stronger and that we did!
When he graduated from boot camp January 20, 2011 I was more in love with him than I ever had been. I had spent two months missing my best friend and realizing that life without him was not only impossible, but unimaginable – as I’m sure many of you all understand!
We have been together for a little over 3 and a half years and in a long distance relationship for about 2 and a half years. It has not been easy, but all the coming and going to and from Arkansas is worth it because I know someday it will lead to staying. This past December he was able to come home for Christmas before his first deployment in January. We went out to dinner with both of our families and he asked me to be his wife.
I have been through high school, boot camp, distance, and now a deployment with my fiancé and hope I can be of help to other military couples.
Together we can all become champions!
I remember the day Taylor told me he was going to deploy. At first I thought, “This will be good…I am ready for this.”
Taylor and I had been through a lot together and I knew one of the last military related obstacles we had left to overcome was a deployment. Needless to say I was ready to get it going and get it over with. However, it was not as easy said as done. I remember being all right about it after I watched him get onto the bus, and still all right on my flight back to Nevada, but as soon as I laid in bed I really thought about where he was going and it hit me. Half of my heart was in Afghanistan…and it was tough.
Luckily, I had a few days at home with my parents and siblings before having to return back to school and that really helped. I also spent quite a bit of time over at his house and his mom and I put together his first care package. It is pretty tough especially at first, but with a good support system and enough to keep you busy the time will fly and you will get through it.
To start off the series I am going to give a brief overview to deployment and answer some pretty basic questions. These were the first things running through my mind when Taylor told me that he was deploying.
In the Air Force, deployment time depends on your significant other’s job. However, most USAF deployments are between 4 and 6 months. Taylor is a C-130 crew chief and because they have to rotate out the planes that are overseas he was only over there for a little over 4 months.
This was probably one of my biggest concerns. Because Taylor and I are in a long distance relationship we talk and text everyday and try to Skype as often as possible. Right before he left we would have movie date nights over the phone where we would choose a movie on Netflix and hit play at the same time. I got used to our routine and knew that with him being overseas it was going to change.
However, it really doesn’t change – it’s just different. Because they have Wi-Fi over there, they are able to get on social media sites and Skype, so we would Skype quite a bit and used Facebook messenger everyday.
There are also other apps that can be downloaded like Viber that allows you to call and receive calls from overseas free of charge. I have a few other friends who either have a spouse, or parent in the military who strongly suggest downloading this app. Make sure it is downloaded before your significant other leaves the United States or else they will not be able to download it overseas. Taylor and I made this mistake, but he was able to download an app called Magic Jack that gave him a new number while he was deployed, which allowed him to call me. I did not need the app for it to work. He would just call my regular phone number from a different number that the app gave him and we would be able to talk on the phone.
Communication is important in becoming a deployment champion. I will dive more into communication later on in the series!
In today’s social media driven world, the Air Force has been very hushed about deployment departure and return dates.
For Taylor’s deployment they told us he could be leaving anywhere from January 3rd-10th. About 4 days before he left, he got a phone call to report to the squadron building on January 6th to leave for Afghanistan. So if you want to be there to see your airman off make sure you have an open schedule! It is frustrating, but with the rising popularity of social media sites it is just what they have to do for security purposes. Luckily for me it was my winter break from school when Taylor was scheduled to deploy.
After he was in Nevada for Christmas, he and I flew back to Arkansas together on December 30tth and I was with able to be with him until he deployed. I bought a one-way ticket because I was not sure when I would be flying back and how many days I was going to get with him before he left, so if you are in a long distance relationship like I am, make sure you have money saved just for plane tickets. Getting to deployment departures and arrivals is not cheap because you are given the dates in such short notice.
Just like when they deploy, knowing when they are coming home is something you will not know until last minute. When Taylor left we thought he would be coming home May 15th, but once he got there they told him it would be anywhere from May 15th-25th. Once again this is frustrating, but just remember it is a safety precaution taken by the Air Force to ensure the safety of your airman.
It was not until May 3rd that I knew that the exact day he would be coming home would be May 20th. Normally I have a full Facebook countdown about going to see Taylor, but I knew how important it was to keep it off social media. It was not until his plane landed on the flight line and I was in his arms again that I put anything on Facebook.
The answer to this question is different for everyone – My best advice is to keep busy and find some sort of a support group.
There are support groups for wives that your airman’s section will have that you can join. When I went to see Taylor off, the wives of his section were there and if you were a wife you could sign up and receive invitations to different events they hold during the deployment. It is a good support system and a good way to get to know the other spouses in your airman’s section.
For me though this was different because I am not a wife and I live in Nevada. Luckily for me I have some great friends and I live a little less than an hour away from Taylor’s family and mine. They were all very supportive and always there for me when I needed them.
The other thing is to keep busy. Thankfully, this was not tough for me. I took 16 credits in the spring semester while Taylor was deployed and it definitely kept me busy. I also have a job, which I absolutely love. I was so focused on making my grades, performing well at work, and keeping in contact with Taylor that before I knew it I was done with my sophomore year of college and he was out processing from Bagram, Afghanistan and getting ready to begin his journey home.
Next week I will be posting about What to Expect Before Deployment, what that last day with your airman is like and what to expect when you show up with your significant other at their squadron building to see them off. This is a hard day, but I am hoping I can help make it a little easier 🙂
Becoming Deployment Champs! Posts: