The most important concern when someone is deployed is how to keep in contact with them. There are now many methods of communication which are getting better with time and technology. By looking at all of these methods, you should be able to keep a regular dialogue with the deployed person. Some detachments/operations will not have all of these facilities but others will have more localised arrangements which may exceed your expectations.
RAF HIVE Operational Deployment Pack (ODP)
Since June 2009 HIVE have issued an Operational Deployment Pack which covers the various means of keeping in touch with a deployed Service person throughout the deployment period, as well as useful local, welfare and Service information and contact details. Contact your local HIVE if you have not received yours.
The Head of the RAF HIVE has commissioned a booklet outlining the various methods of communication when on Ops. A link to this publication is provided below:
Forces Free Air Letters (known as Blueys) can be obtained from the Post Office or the HIVE and can be sent FREEPOST to most British Forces Post Office (BFPO) numbers. Alternatively, letters in envelopes must have stamps and 'By Airmail' written on them. Use these to send photos and small gifts. Always use full name and Service number and the full address with the BFPO number to ensure you are charged at the UK mail rate. Full details are available on the BFPO website below:
Over the last few years, the BFPO have developed the e-Bluey. The electronic Bluey is delivered to the recipient sealed and secure. This saves on transportation and sorting but the impact on morale with letters arriving in hours rather than days has been dramatic and positive. It is important that users know that this is fully secure and at no time will the text of your letter appear on any IT system other than your own! We recommend that you look at this as a key part of your efforts to keep in touch; more details below:
Paradigm provide many email terminals on most deployments; also, there may be other email facilities on the deployment from different sources. The deploying Service person is advised to set up an email account prior to deploying, if they don't already have one. This is a quick and easy way of keeping in touch with family and friends. At home, you should find that the Unit's HIVE, Training Training Centre and/or Coffee Shop have email facilities readily available.
Messages/Requests on BFBS
You can send messages and radio requests to most detachments where British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) is established. To arrange for a request to be played you should log onto:
RAF Community Support has recently provided a range of booklets to aid communication between the deployed person and their family. 'Hello from Home' is an activity booklet for under 9's and provides letters, games, secret puzzles and stickers. There is also a colouring book that is designed for under 9's. Both can be obtained from the HIVE and PSF or, they can be downloaded as printables from this site.
Point of Contact Scheme
Every time a Serviceman deploys, they are afforded the opportunity to nominate a Point of Contact for their families. During the detachment you may have many questions regarding the nature of the deployment, and it is important that you are aware of the support that will be available to you from a number of agencies in the Royal Air Force. The Station will probably enclose some of their Station literature to try to address local queries although this information may be of no relevance to your situation; however they will wish to provide the best service possible for you in the months of the detachment.
We recommend that you take part in this scheme. You can determine the level of contact you want and ensure that you maintain a link to the Station whilst your family member is away. You may wish to discuss this important topic with your spouse/partner before they deploy to ensure that they have nominated the correct person as a Point of Contact. Often, families complain that they have not received any communication from the Station during the deployment. Unbeknown to them, their spouse/partner has advised the Station that the family should not be contacted during the deployment!
Further details on how your local scheme will operate can be obtained from the Unit HR Section, SCSO or HIVE. Once you have this information you can decide if the scheme is for you.
Most of us now utilise Social Networking in one way or another. However, it can have its pitfalls, allowing you to reveal more about yourself and your family than you really wanted to. The leaflet below provides some guidance to help you arrange your settings to prevent such problems: