Ryan left dark and early Monday morning for his first TDY of 2020 and, yet again, our family is adjusting to change on both ends. This is hard for Ryan. He navigated reintegration like a pro, enjoyed a semblance of consistency with our family, spent a whirlwind month in South Africa, and then got thrust right back in. So, while he’s adjusting to TDY tempo, we’re back at JBLM, once again adjusting to having daddy away. Here’s the thing: this TDY isn’t long. He’ll be back soon. Then he’ll likely leave again for another few weeks. On the one hand, that sounds ideal, right? We get him back sooner, we don’t have so much time apart…it’s awesome. But I’m going to share an unpopular opinion with you; I prefer deployment to TDY.
First and foremost, let me assure you that my preference is in no way, shape, or form, out of a lack of love for my husband or concern for his well-being. I’m completely and acutely aware of the impact a deployment can have on service members both physically and mentally. But there are two sides to every coin. While a deployment is hard on everyone, it’s constant. It’s consistent. You get used to it, for better or for worse, because you have to. With a TDY, it’s a constant state of flux.
For those who don’t know what a TDY is, it’s defined as a “temporary duty assignment,” or “temporary additional duty” in which a service member travels to a new location or assignment other than their current permanent duty station. Since arriving at JBLM, Ryan has underwent no less than five TDYs.
When your service member deploys, you have no choice but to carry on because most deployments are long – at least 3 months and, if you’re in the Army, more along the lines of 9 months. They are awful, and they invite in a period of transition for everybody, but once you make it through that period, you find your new normal. You find what works for you, your children, and your schedule. You adapt. With a TDY, however, it can be anywhere from a week to up to 189 days. Most of Ryan’s TDYs have been around 4-6 weeks; just enough time to establish a routine and have it thrown into chaos again when they return.
For our children, this is especially hard. At five, three, and 10 months, our children have no concept of time. They are, however, completely aware of Ryan’s absence, and trying to explain to them and rationalize that he will be back much sooner isn’t easy. They undergo those stages of grief in their own way, letting it wash over them, and they come out stronger – only to have Ryan back right as they adjust. And it’s good for them, but there is no consistency.
And then, for the service member, I imagine there’s a transition in there that’s hard in its own right. Ryan adapts pretty well, and I’m insanely proud of how well he rolls with each and every punch, but I know how hard it is each time to pick up and leave. TDYs are good in the respect that they are shorter, and the return him to a sense of normalcy sooner. However, they can repeat, and each repetition gets harder and harder, picking away at any semblance of stability that he might otherwise have.
So, while I realize it’s an unpopular opinion, I’ll maintain to the grave that I prefer deployment to TDY.