FOB Couch: COVID Isolation, Deployments, and Coping Tips

With most of Americans entering week two or three of social distancing or quarantine, circumstances are taking on some rather familiar overtones for many of us.

Confined to one small area, save for periods of time where we leave the walls of safety and venture out into a hostile world – surrounded by a threat that we can’t see.

Stuck seeing the some few people every single day with the only communication with the outside world being texts and random calls.

Being unsure what day it is, because they all blend together.

Becoming obsessed about the doings of the people near us.

Making detailed charts concerning sightings of anything unusual.

Yep. This all feels too real for anyone who’s deployed.

That’s right, America, it’s deployment time. For *everyone.* So I’m here with a few tips to make your time more bearable and stave off boredom.

  1. Set a schedule. Make certain days meaningful. On Mondays, wear pants, just to acknowledge that it’s Monday. Wednesdays are wing night. That’s the law. We don’t talk about Thursdays. On Fridays, maybe use four squares of toilet paper instead of three. Live a little. Do karaoke or have a salsa dance party on Saturdays. Make some fancy coffee on Sundays. Assigning these little rituals to each day helps you measure the passage of time and avoid the “Groundhog Day” phenomenon, where each day just bleeds into the next.
  2. Record your activities. Using a daily log will help you remember what you did the day prior, as well as establish patterns of behavior of those around you. It will also help you monitor your neighbor’s activity, or finally figure out what those damn squirrels are up to. Using the SALUTE report template can be useful (Size, Activity, Location, Unit/Uniform, Time observed, Equipment). A staff duty log can also serve, especially when you pull your children in to have the Parental Update Brief every evening. Checking over their PowerPoint slides can serve to both educate them, and as a period of family bonding. Ensure that they know that anything in red text is bad and that they should avoid it. Encourage them to use phrases like “just turning the corner” and “our metrics show that we’re winning.”
  3. Maintain your physical fitness. Sure, you’re in a warzone, but that doesn’t mean it’s the time to stop getting combat fit. Now is about the right time to start doing Crossfit or some other fitness cult, because hey, everything’s insane anyways. Extra points if you start doing 5K runs just to pass the time. Also, it’s not really a fitness cult if you don’t also start bugging everyone you live with about it.
  4. Get some good playlists together for your patrols. When it’s time to gear up and head outside the wire, er, door for a logistics patrol, make sure you’ve got the right music for it. Something that either amps you up or chills you out. Whatever it is that you need to have blaring for when that person coughs right into your half open window and all hell breaks loose. Which brings us to…
  5. Good TTPs. If you’re gonna be rolling out, gotta make sure that your tactics, techniques, and procedures are rock solid. Develop a standard operating procedure. Drill them into your inmates, er, quarantine-mates. No one leaves the wire without their full kit of hand sanitizer, gloves, and fashionable scarf to use over your mouth. Do pre-combat checks and inspections. Windows are ALWAYS up in your vehicle. Head on a swivel. Safe distance from other vics when on a mounted movement. Do those 5s, 10s, and 25s for anyone close to your vehicle who might look ill when you dismount. During dismount patrols, keep a good six-foot personal bubble. Once you get these habits ingrained, you’ll feel more comfortable when you have to go out there. Plus, your kids will LOVE wearing a reflective belt around the house and getting a written counseling from you when they forget their hand sanitizer in the bathroom again. Builds character.
  6. Develop that sense of fatalism. Okay, I’m joking with this one. But there was a certain truth to the idea that no matter what you did, something *might* happen, and so you didn’t let fear paralyze you. You just sorta accepted that it was out there and went off and did your job. With the virus, it’s out there and we’ve got to do what we can to kill it. And right now, that means cutting off its spread and supporting those who are on the front lines of this thing – healthcare workers, first responders, and everyone manning the essential services: supply chains, food, water, sanitation, electricity, internet, and alcohol.

Nothing is forever and deployments fall into that category. This too, will end. We’ve got to help each other through it, and sometimes that means laughing at things that are scary. Which brings me to my last – unwritten – rule: Do silly things to keep from going crazy. This is a stressful time. So pull absurd pranks. Tell the dumbest dad jokes. Record ridiculous videos. Sing along to your favorite pop songs, at the top of your lungs. Laugh as much as you can. Because sometimes that’s all you can do. And that’s okay.

Hang in there, take care of each other, and stay together – but at least six feet apart. 


Cover Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Olen Bailey stands post in a guard tower on Forward Operating Base Mizan in Zabul province, Afghanistan, Sept. 10, 2009. Bailey is assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kris Eglin See more at www.army.mil