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For married military couples, being deployed together has its advantages and drawbacks.
The Pints, on the other hand have managed to stay together for the entire deployment. In their small trailer, they’ve pushed two single beds together and decorated the space with pictures of their children.
“I’ve been in the Army 23 years now and I never thought the day would come when my spouse and I would be deployed together,” Pint said. When he first joined the army he shared a room with three other soldiers; the four of them were allowed one desk, one radio, and one TV and VCR to share.
Though deploying married couples together may seem like a radical change for the military, perhaps more than anything the shift may owe itself to the increasing number of women in the military, rather than a sweeping military policy change.
“Whereas it was it was a pretty rare thing [in the past] to have a dual military couple, it’s much more common now. It’s not the novelty it used to be, so people are used to that in the military in general, let alone during deployments,” said Laura Miller, a military sociologist at the RAND Corporation in Washington, D.C.
While women have served in the military in various capacities for centuries, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have highlighted how prevalent they have become among the ranks of today’s U.S. military. Women now make up at least 14 percent of the Army and although they’re not allowed to occupy combat roles, they serve in 91 percent of all Army occupations.
Acknowledgment of the mixed military and the issues surrounding it have become common enough that last year in Afghanistan commanders lifted a ban on soldiers having sex in the combat zone. However, they emphasized that despite the change in rules, intimacy was still strongly discouraged.
During previous wars, including Vietnam War or World War II, which involved a draft, the average conscript tended to be young, unmarried, and remained in the military for a short period of time, says Miller. Now with an all-volunteer force, soldiers are staying in the military longer and starting families. Consequently, the military has also begun making a greater effort to keep married soldiers together.
Despite these changes, over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a number of military couples have been forced to spend years apart due to different deployment schedules. It is not uncommon for one spouse to return from a deployment just as the other ships out for another deployment.
For those who do deploy together, one of the biggest challenges is often leaving children behind with family or friends. Both the Pints and the Smith have children back at home.
“I wonder if people realize the sacrifice. Being deployed together does not equal a marriage necessarily. It’s not the typical, realistic marriage that we envisioned,” Smith said.
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