Emotional Cycles of Deployment: An Army Mom’s Overview

Contributor Tracie Ciambotti and her son Josh on his deployment day, June 2011, at Fort Carson, CO.

Every traumatic event we encounter in life triggers a cycle of emotional responses; military families experience this emotional roller coaster continuously due to the frequency of deployments.

The Army’s website, US Army Hooah4Health, outlines the following 7-stage cycle that military families go through with each deployment:

Stage 1 – Anticipation of Departure: Begins when the service member receives an order for deployment and ends when he or she actually leaves.

Stage 2 – Detachment and Withdrawal:  Final weeks prior to deployment

Stage 3 – Emotional Disorganization:  First six weeks of the deployment

Stage 4 – Recovery and Stabilization:  Two months into the deployment to a few weeks before the end of deployment

Stage 5 – Anticipation of Return:  Final weeks of deployment

Stage 6 – Return Adjustment and Renegotiation: First six weeks post deployment

Stage 7 – Reintegration and Stabilization: Up to six months post deployment[1]

This model was updated in 2006 by Jennifer Morse, M.D., Navy CAPT (Ret), San Diego, CA because of the increased occurrence of deployments that military families experience.

Josh and Alison, his wife, when he returned from his second deployment in Iraq--August of 2009.

The detailed description provided in this model pertains to the service member and his or her spouse and children—there is no mention of parents in this emotional cycle.  As the mother of an Army sergeant, currently serving his third deployment, I can personally testify that parents go through an emotional roller coaster too.

Through a series of posts on this topic, I will share a personal look into the stages of the deployment cycle from the perspectives of various members of my military family: a mother, a wife, and the soldier.  I hope to generate an understanding of the challenges faced by the entire family as we experience deployments together.


[1] Morse, J., (2006).The new emotional cycles of deployment. Retrieved pdf June 28, 2007 from the U.S. Department of Defense: Deployment Health and Family Readiness Library: San Diego, CA

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An Army Mom’s Deployment Day: June 11, 2011

The line-up of duffle bags as soldiers ready for deployment from Ft. Carson.

Saturday was deployment day for many Army families from Fort Carson.  The site of the duffel bags lined up on the side of the parking lot was unsettling; I knew each one represented a family that was about to say good-bye.  I didn’t count the bags, but estimated that close to 300 soldiers left for a year-long deployment in Afghanistan–my son was one of them.  Although this is Josh’s third deployment, it was the first time that I was with him on the day of his departure.

We started at the company command location on post and while the soldiers stood in line to draw their weapons, which they carry with them the entire trip, the families waited outside.

Families and thier loved ones spend precious minutes together prior to the call for formation and a year-long deployment in Afghanistan.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting most of the men in my son’s squad and some of their wives.  Several of these couples are experiencing deployment for the first time.

Tracie Ciambotti takes a walk with her son, Josh, before his third deployment since joining the Army.

Next, we went to the gymnasium parking lot where families huddled close together, taking every opportunity afforded to them to get one more kiss or another hug.  Every direction I looked, I saw a family savoring every minute they had left together.  One soldier knelt down as his young daughter inspected his weapon; another held a newborn baby while his wife and two daughters clung to him; many soldiers posed with their families for that last photo.

A call to formation was ordered and the troops immediately responded, each one taking his place in the line-up as role-call began.    As each name was shouted out that soldier proceeded to the gym entrance, made sure his back pack fit into the required box for the carry-ons, and then disappeared into the gymnasium.

The call for formation.

Soon they emerged from the other end of the building and rejoined their families.  Josh’s squad gathered in one area as we waited for the moment we all dreaded–the final role-call.

That call came and each soldier reached for the final hugs and kisses, grabbed his weapon and back pack, and headed for the building as his name was called.  My son said, “Okay mama, I gotta go” as he reached down for our final hug.  I said, “Take care, I love you and will be praying for you every day”.  He replied, “I know Mom, love you too”.  After Josh and Alison shared their final embrace, he headed into the building.

Alison’s Facebook post Saturday night said, “There are no words to describe the pain of watching him walk into that gym. May our countdown start now!”

Tracie’s son Josh hugs his wife Alison.

Tracie Ciambotti is the Co-founder of Military Families Ministry (MFM) and mother of an Army sergeant. Her previous blog contributions:

Deployment Week: A Mom’s Realities

Deployment Week: Packing, Pictures and Prayers

A Day to Honor Mothers: They Serve in Many Ways

How Do You Define True Patriotism?

When War Gets Personal

An Army Mom Connects Military Families and Churches

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