As a single service member, it is important to have a personal network of peers, friends and family members to help you cope with the challenges that you may experience throughout a deployment cycle. They can help you feel connected to life at home, cope with the stress of a combat environment and help you readjust when you return from deployment. Try using the tips and suggestions below to help you strengthen and expand your personal support network.
Benefits of Using a Personal Support Network
A personal support network is a group of people you chose to have a relationship with based on mutual trust and respect. The people who make up your personal support network are ones who you care about and trust and who care about and trust you. Having a strong personal support network can lead to many benefits, including:
- Less stress, by turning to your support network of friends, family and peers who can provide practical and emotional support
- A stronger sense of belonging, by spending time with people who value and care about you
- Greater peace of mind, by knowing that you have people in your life that you can depend on
- More self-confidence, by being a part of someone else’s support network to help them cope with similar challenges that you experienced
A strong personal support network can help you become more resilient as you go through each phase of the deployment cycle. Building resilience will make you a stronger, more reliable and more effective warrior.
Get Involved: Single Service Member Programs
Single service member programs are a great way to develop new friendships and reinforce existing ones. These programs support the overall quality of single service members' lives by identifying common challenges, recommending ways to address these concerns through the chain of command, encouraging and assisting single service members in identifying and planning for recreation and leisure activities and providing single service members with the opportunity to participate in and contribute to their respective communities.
- Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) Program focuses on enhancing the quality of life and morale of active-duty single Army service members, but activities are also open to members of all services, National Guardsmen and reservists, Defense Department civilians and foreign service members. To get involved with a BOSS chapter, contact your installation’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) office or email IMWR-BOSS@conus.army.mil.
- Navy Liberty Program provides recreational opportunities for single service members in the Navy, ranging from day trips in your local area to group outings to sporting events. Additionally, your local Liberty Center offers movies, video games and recreational usage of computers and Wi-Fi so sailors can stay connected with their friends around the world. For more information, visit Military OneSource’s Installation Directory of MWR programs.
- Single Marine Program (SMP) offers quality of life, recreation and community involvement activities for single Marines. Each major Marine Corps installation has an established SMP council that meets regularly to plan and coordinate activities. For a full listing of participating installations and contact information, visit the SMP “Points of Contact and Installation Information” web page on the Marine Corps Community Services website.
- Airman and Family Readiness Centers provide single members of the Air Force with resources that foster a strong culture, mission and sense of community. For more information, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to search for your installation’s Morale Welfare and Recreation Center or Family Center.
- Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program which assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army Family. To find an event near you, visit the Strong Bonds website and search by component.
Tips to Strengthen Your Personal Network
Whether you’re deployed, preparing for deployment or reintegrating, there’s no time like the present to strengthen your personal network. Try incorporating the following tips into your relationships with family and friends:
- Keep in touch. Call, write, video chat or send emails frequently. Request a free calling card for a deployed service member from Cell Phones for Soldiers.
- Consider joining online networks that your friends and family enjoy. Facebook and Twitter are other ways you can communicate with friends and family when you can't call, write or visit.
- Remember special days. Call or send a card on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other days that are important to the people in your network. To help you remember these days, fill in a calendar or date book with the important dates.
- Turn to your friends and family in good times too. Your friends and family not only want to support you during challenging times, but they also want you to share your good news too.
- Maintain a positive outlook. Try to keep an optimistic attitude if faced with a difficult situation.
- Surround yourself with positive people. The attitudes and behaviors of others can affect your attitude and behavior, so surrounding yourself with optimistic people may help you to maintain a positive outlook. When you have to interact with people who tend to complain or have a pessimistic attitude, try to limit the time you spend with them.
- Show family and friends that they are important to you. Return their calls and messages and respond to invitations promptly when you are home. Tell them frequently that you appreciate them.
- Don't wait for people to tell you that they need support. People may be reluctant to ask for help, especially if they know you have a busy life. If you think a person in your network may need someone to talk to, offer to share your experiences overcoming challenges because you are your friend’s biggest support. If you feel a person is in danger of hurting themselves or others, seek help immediately by calling 911 or 800-273-8255 to speak with a trained professional.
- Make time for personal get-togethers when you are home. Even if you prefer to communicate by phone, text message or email, others may be more willing to open up in a face-to-face conversation. When you are home, make time for your significant other, friends and family by having a barbecue, attending a sporting event or concert together or going for a long walk.