HOW TO BE MARRIED TO A MARINE FIGHTER PILOT--A Marine Corps pilot's wife: F-4s, F/A-18s and aviators from my perspective.

Friday, August 12, 2011

TADs and Deployments #3


Never liked them.

When I was first married, even a night away from my guy brought lonely to live at my house until he returned. Later, before kids, I learned to tolerate it--appreciating the time to get projects done: a special Christmas present, putting mirror and redwood panels in our bath (It was 1976!), or just to have a day or two to read a book or visit friends without needing to cook dinner or hurry home. After kids, having him gone at all meant no relief at the end of the long day, no adult ear to listen to my joys and woes and ain’t-our-kid-cute? stories.

But all those short cross-countries had a different quality than the TADs. Most of those lasted two or three weeks somewhere else: Tyndall AFB, or Nellis AFB, or Fallon NAS. When my husband left on a TAD, something always happened to remind me why he was indispensible around the house. TAD might as well stand for Things Always Deteriorated.

One time my guy was TAD to Fallon. First, the car quit working. Of course. Then I opened the door to the tow-truck operator and my dog leaped in the air with shark eyes to bite him. I put my hand out to stop her and she bit me. The red feather pulsing out of my arm told me the bite had punctured an artery.

Thank goodness for my civilian neighbors who drove me to the hospital, cleaned up the blood and watched my three young girls. We no longer see each other across the street, but I remember and am grateful. Pennies for Heaven.

Later, when I shared my tale of woe with Andy, he felt bad but he couldn’t do anything about it. I remember he was angry and worried and helpless all at the same time. He flew fast jets, practiced Air Combat Maneuvers--ACMs; control and situational analysis were his mantras. When Things Always Deteriorated when he wasn't around us, he had no control and he couldn't watch out for the bogeys. He’d rather be with us at night then go back to a BOQ room. I’d rather have had him with me at night, too.

But he did love the flying.

So many of our military today are serving back-to-back-to-back deployments, mostly in a war zone. This blog post is for those who stay at home, who take care of the kids and the house and the car and their hearts so there is something to come home to. Make friends with your neighbors--even if they don’t understand what your spouse does. Who knows, your car might break down.

And to the neighbors of our military families--reach out.

Thinking of all of you today.


  1. very nice story. it hits very close to home for me. i wonder, have you ever had to deal with being away from him? i'm in a relationship with a soon-to-be USMC pilot, he's almost through with primary training and has another year left until he gets winged. i have to admit that i have struggled through this first phase of training, the distance, being last on his list of priorities, being "ok" with not seeing each other for weeks, and i think i have done a pretty good job at being understanding and patient through it all but sometimes i wonder "when will this be over?!!" "when will you put in the effort?". sometimes i just feel like i'm the only one trying, that i'm the only thing holding this relationship together. i know he's busy, and i know that i can't even begin to imagine the stress he's under, but i just wonder if this is normal? if this is something i just have to grin and bear and hope that after he gets his wings that everything will be ok. we don't live together, and while we're in the same state, seeing each other is a struggle. maybe once every 3 weeks? i'm looking for advice and insight, as well as experience and motivation. help?

  2. My heart goes out to you both. Yes, we spent time away from each other. My guy dated me in California from Kingsville, Texas. We saw each other about once a month--not often enough--and then I did my student teaching in Mexico City for five months. We saw each other twice then. He was also sent overseas unaccompanied to Okinawa, Japan for a year. That year I had my second daughter who was two and a half months old when he met her for the first time.

    Also, flight training is all-consuming. To be a Marine pilot? Wow, that's the holy grail of flying. He is learning a lot of things you want him to learn well so he can be good and safe and so he gets the aircraft he wants to qualify for.

    All that you write of is normal. This time period is probably the most intensive of all--at least until he gets his wings and goes to the RAG to fly the aircraft he will be flying. I didn't date or marry my guy until he was a senior USMC captain so I never went through this. I had lots of friends who did and they all said the same thing--you don't see much of them and you don't talk much to them during training. Then it gets better.

    Separation is a fact of life in the service. Pilots have to train to stay current (and safe). Girlfriends and spouses need to have their own lives to keep them busy, and focus on loving their pilot. I have friends who could not handle the separations--out of sight, out of mind. For me it was absence made my heart fonder (Usually. It took awhile to forgive him for being gone that year, even though it wasn't his choice.)

    You'll have to decide for yourself if it's worth it--if he's worth it. In my book I tell the story of a young wife stepping into the world of the fighter pilot and the decisions I had to make. You see, I think it is all about we can handle. If you make a commitment to someone for life do you want them to give up the thing they love best or do you deal with it--with love?

  3. I can give a little experience, hope it helps. While I am married to a US Navy Aircrewman (enlisted, not a pilot)...much of the training and deployments and TADs and whatnot are very similar. We have been married for 18 years, and lived through 9 deployments and too many TADs to count. I married my husband right after he had completed his RAG training as well, so I didn't have to deal with the training issues, that is until his aircraft was decommissioned and he was sent to train on a new one. Training sucks, but it does get better, a little once he gets to his squadron. As Marcia says, separation is a fact of life. You need to know going into it that that part of it is NOT going to get better.

    Make peace with this lifestyle now and go into your marriage knowing that this is part of the "for better or for worse" section of the vows!! I've learned to live with the separations, although the small unexpected overnights and TADs are the worst by far. Deployments I find I can handle better. I miss him terribly when he is gone, but have also learned just how strong I can be raising 3 children, running a household, and going to school to earn my degree...ALL BY MYSELF. I feel worse for him for all the 'firsts' he has missed, all the milestones of his kids lives that he will never see. Things we have done and memories that we (me and the kids) have that he cannot share...

    Anyway, like Marcia, I decided early on that I felt it was worth it, and that he was worth it. I wasn't about to ask him to give up what he loved to do, just to please me. I haven't regretted it for a minute. We are still married, still happy, still in love and he is still serving on active duty as a full-time Aircrewman after 21 years in the Navy. Best of luck to you!