Armed Forces News

South China Sea - July 2016: Sailors take a lunch break from the high operational tempo of the Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (Navy photo by MCS 1st Class Elijah G. Leinaar)

Taking more “Me Time” could help thwart long deployment blues, military health officials say. In a recent online letter to the Defense Health Agency’s “Ask The Doc” column, a sailor lamented about a Covid 19-driven “unusually long deployment” that required the crew to remain onboard during port calls, with no chance of any real liberty.

“I’m worried that my mental sharpness and focus on the mission was impacted,” the sailor wrote. “I … definitely didn’t feel like I was doing my best work.”

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The columnist replied by acknowledging the innate difficulties deployments can pose, which are made all the more acute by the pandemic. The columnist posed the sailor’s issues to Lt. Chad Haan, a Navy chaplain stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia. The “Me Time,” Haan said, should entail spiritual, emotional and professional approaches. Talking to chaplains, counselors and mentors helps.

“Don’t think of ‘Me Time’ as being selfish,” Haan said. “You have to take care of your personal health in order to do your job well and take care of your shipmates.”

Haan also offered advice regarding communications with loved ones. Life at sea doesn’t change very much, he said. As such, continuous and repetitive communications could become redundant and chore-like. Also, much of what takes place while on duty on deployment cannot be shared. Setting expectations about communication before deploying, and being ready to adapt those expectations as situations change during deployment, could help. Arranging to read the same books and watch the same movies as loved ones at home could help foster good communication, Haan said.