TAs on Operational Tours - Families Stuff


Book Reviewer
Current issue of the Army Families Journal has a very useful dit on what partners and family might expect when the soldier in the house comes home - reprinted here courtesy of the gorgeous pouting editor,Cathy ,for those who don't often sight the AFJ:

Copyright AFF Families Journal 2005

Operational tours – coming home
‘I was made to feel like surplus baggage my soldier had inconveniently left behind!’

What’s the real story when your soldier comes home! Catharine Moss, AFJ Editor conducted a small survey to see what AFF staff had to say on the subject!

What happens when your soldier comes home from an operational tour?
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of spouses I surveyed said their soldier turned up on the right day! However, many made comments such as, ‘he arrived on the right day but in the wrong place, necessitating a midnight dash up the M6 to Birmingham’ and ‘turned up on the right day but only after I’d been notified of ten changes to the date’. One lady, who shall be nameless, turned up at the airport ‘commando’ just to please her mate, but a long flight delay cooled her ardour somewhat!

What sort of thing do you do to prepare for the homecoming?
When a Regiment comes back the local beauticians must have a field day, lots of waxing seems to be the norm. Those with children fell into two categories. One didn’t like to make any fuss or even tell the children when dad was due, as they’d suffered too many disappointments in the past with him not turning up on time. The other went down the ‘Blue Peter’ route with lots of posters and banners being created to bedeck the house. I used to do this with my children until recently when after I suggested we should make a poster ready for Daddy coming home, my youngest said, ‘oh we don’t have to bother – I kept the one we made last time’.

So the beers in the fridge and you’ve cleared a path to the laundry, you’ve cooked their favourite dinner and are glammed up to the eyeballs, thoroughly rested and ready for anything! They turn up having spent 27 hours travelling back, their uniform looks as though it might walk to the washing machine by itself and, after the initial flurry of excitement and some of the seven S’s (ask your soldier), they go to sleep!

After the honeymoon period, you have the serious business of settling back into a normal family routine, one comment was, ‘by the third week the house was a mess, the kids were ignoring me and the food bills had doubled!’ Reality hits. Half of those surveyed found it difficult to settle back into a relationship, the other half found it very easy. Funnily enough many old hands said that it’s different each time and very circumstance driven.

What did we find hard?
The power struggle over the remote control was mentioned more than once and some people had difficulties in sharing the house-hold responsibilities – some couldn’t wait to get rid of them! What we have to bear in mind is that soldiers find it hard as well, routines have changed and they’re left unsure about their role – everything’s running so smoothly, they sometimes feel surplus to requirement. The children often don’t even recognise them or their authority in the house and constantly defer decisions back to ‘mum’.

My next question about sex provoked comments such as, ‘separation has been great for our sex life – it’s relieved the boredom!’, ‘neither of us is 18 any more!’ and ‘the reunions are so great I could do with him going away more often!’

What help did you receive from the Army?
Interaction and help received from the Army welfare system whilst they were away varied considerably. Those on block operational postings generally received the most support. Those who were individually posted received virtually no support whatsoever; any they did receive was personality driven rather than part of welfare procedure. One comment was, ‘I work for AFF and have always been supportive of the welfare structure. However, I received absolutely no support from the Army when my husband was on an operational tour and am now rather disenchanted about the whole system’. Of course there were some shining stars out there ‘the UWO and families office were excellent, we had fabulous trips and Sunday lunches as well as a monthly newsletter from Iraq’ and ‘regular newsletters and families events – I had all the help I needed’.

Most who lived on a patch said that the support they received from their friends and neighbours, who understood what they were going through, was invaluable. One lady who was living in a hiring – by necessity not choice – was incensed that she was treated by the Army and other Army spouses as though she had opted out of the system because she didn’t live in SFA!

Finance was an interesting area, split straight down the middle. Half said they’d always done the finances and wouldn’t dream of handing over responsibility to their spouse; ‘not on your nelly – he’s hopeless with money’. Others were heartily relieved to get rid of it; ‘I handed back the bills, but not the spending!’

The overriding impression I received from this mini survey was how resilient Army spouses are. Most felt they had become more capable and felt stronger for having had to cope alone. However, the majority didn’t like the fact that they were having to spend more and more time apart but were resigned to, ‘just get on with it’.

Top Tips from the Survey
Get the CEA claim in early
Don’t waste your phone time with moans and groans about your day – unless they’re the good kind!
Don’t obsessively watch the news
Read the AWS returning home leaflets

What would make life easier?
Fixing a return date and sticking to it came up again and again – a lot of hope is pinned on that date
Regular contact from the Unit needs to be made with families, even if they don’t want any help they should be given information to
make the choice themselves
Some felt that when soldiers came back on R and R the leave should start from when they arrived home and not when they left their Unit – travel time can sometimes reduce R and R by up to two days!
Increase LSSA and make it non-taxable
When deployments happen in between postings, the family still needs to be looked after – perhaps by a Global UWO!
Whilst much of this is obviously aimed more at Regulars, TA families often feel that their left out of the loop when it comes to Welfare. The AFF have a full-time staff member ,Tina Thornber, who is completely TA focussed. She can be contacted via the Army Families Federation and by email at info @ familiesjournal.org.uk .

If you decide to contact AFF, do tell them you heard about it from ARRSE !

pip pip y'all, 8)

Le Chevre

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