This post will help you learn all that you can about deployments. I’ve done three deployments, one as a General Medical Officer (GMO) during the initial invasion of Iraq, and two after residency. In 2010, I deployed with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and in 2016 I deployed to Guantanamo Bay (GTMO). In addition, as both a Detailer and Emergency Medicine Specialty Leader I’ve deployed a number of physicians, so I’m pretty familiar with all the details of the current deployment situation.
In the current operational environment, there are a few types of deployments. They include platform-based deployments, individual augmentee (IA) deployments, global support assignment (GSA) deployments, and what I’ll call parent unit deployments.
Let’s deal with the last one first because it is the easiest to explain. For what I’ll call a parent unit deployment, you deploy when your parent unit deploys. For example, if you are assigned to the Marine Corps with a MEU, when that MEU deploys so do you. You go with the unit you are primarily assigned to. The same could be said for a medical battalion, a Preventive Medicine Unit, and many other units.
A platform-based deployment happens to people who are stationed at Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Commands/Units (NMRTC/NMRTUs). Some people who are primarily stationed at NMRTCs are assigned to what is called a “platform.” A platform is an operational unit of some kind. It could be the MERCY or COMFORT, a Marine Corps unit, an Expeditionary Medical Facility, etc. In essence, it is an operational unit who “owns” you if they get activated or deployed. In other words, if your platform is a medical battalion and that medical battalion gets deployed, you would go with them because it is your platform. If your platform regularly drills or does exercises, since it is your platform you may have to participate in these drills and get pulled away from your primary duties at your NMRTC.
How is it decided whether you get placed on a platform, and if so which one? The main determinant is most likely which billet you get orders into. Some billets at NMRTCs have secondary assignments to platforms. For example, the billet I was in at NMRTC Portsmouth was “mobilized to” or “MOB’ed to” an Expeditionary Medical Facility. That was my platform. To be honest, sometimes commands will rearrange platforms, so it is not always determined by the billet you are in. If you want to know if you are on a platform, you will have to go to your command’s Plans, Operations, Medical Intelligence or POMI officer. They are the ones who manage platforms and can tell you if you are on one.
Platform based deployments are the wave of the future in Navy Medicine, and you can expect an increased focus on platforms, platforms training, and deployments as a platform.
An individual augmentee or IA deployment is when a request in placed by an operational unit somewhere for an individual person, you are selected to fill that requirement, and you individually augment that unit. When they deploy, you deploy with them as an IA but stay attached administratively to your parent command. In other words, if you are at NMRTC Portsmouth but deploy as an IA, you stay attached to NMRTC Portsmouth the entire time you are deployed. This is the type of deployment most of us have experienced for the majority of our career, but the Navy is trying to get out of the “IA business” and is shifting, as already mentioned, to platforms.
The final type of deployment is a global support assignment (GSA). With this type, you detach from your current command, move or execute a permanent change of station (PCS) to a processing center that becomes your new military command, and then you are given orders to deploy. For example, my last deployment was a GSA. I detached from Navy Personnel Command, my old command, PCS’ed to my new command, the processing center in Norfolk, and then was given deployment orders to go to my unit in GTMO. During this time my parent command was Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center or ECRC, the processing center, and they were primarily responsible for my fitreps and pay issues.
The unique part of a GSA deployment is that pretty much as soon as you report to the processing center you have to contact your Detailer and Specialty Leader to get orders to your next command. The GSA orders usually only last up to a year, and you’ll need orders so you can PCS to your next command when you get back from the deployment. This is the major downside that people complain about with a GSA…the fact that you get PCS orders and have to leave your old command, which people may not want to do. On the other hand, it can be a major benefit. If you are stationed somewhere you don’t want to be, volunteering for a GSA can get you out of there because you’ll PCS away. In addition, because you are volunteering or accepting a deployment, it may give you some leverage with the Detailer or Specialty Leader. For example, you could say, “I’ll deploy on this GSA, but only if you are willing to write me orders to Hawaii as follow-on orders.” That may not always work, but it is worth a try.
Those are the major types of deployments that currently exist, and here are some additional resources: