One of the most important things that you can do when taking on a new job in overseas security contracting is to get into the habit of planning for the worst. That’s why I feel so strongly about things like wills, life insurance, and crisis planning. But what happen when the worst doesn’t happen, but things are still pretty bad? For example, an EFP strikes your convoy and doesn’t actually kill anybody, but you just found out that you’re missing a couple of your legs.
What happens next? Well-established processes are put into motion on two continents. Most importantly, you’ll receive immediate medical treatment at the nearest facility in theater until you’re somewhat stable, then flown out to Germany in an Air Force transport where you’ll sit in a hospital for a period of several days or weeks. Back home, your company’s representative will make contact with your next of kin (you did fill out that emergency contact form, and you’ve been keeping it updated with changes of address, right?), so that your folks can sit at home and worry about you.
Does this sound okay to you? Or would you rather have someone you know waiting to meet you at the hospital in Europe, to at least be with you if they can’t do anything else? I know what I’d choose, and that’s why it’s so important to have a “Bug Out Bag” packed and ready for your family back home.
You might hear a Bug Out Bag called by several names- a go bag, a 72-hour assault pack- but it’s basically everything you’d need to get by for a few days for those times when you have to travel on short notice. You’ve already gotten in the habit of packing a toothbrush and a change of socks and drawers whenever you go outside the wire in case of route closures or weather delays, but what if your family had to travel to meet you on short notice? What things would they need to keep ready?
First, just like you, no one’s going anywhere without a passport. That’s a complete dealbreaker. Yes, there are ways to get them passports on short notice, but since time will be a factor, it’s much easier to just make sure that your spouse already has a passport in hand before you even leave the country to start work. Don’t forget about your kids, either. Since both parents have to be present when processing a child’s passport application, get this done well in advance of your deployment date. Keep everyone’s passports stored in your bank’s safe deposit box, and throw at least $1000 cash from your first paycheck in there, too. That’ll help cover any food or lodging for them, at least for the first couple of days, if they have any trouble using credit cards overseas.
Also, take an hour or so before you leave to write down a list of contact information for your everyone that you might need to get a hold of. Include everyone: your neighbors, your kids’ school, even your doctors and your utility providers. Keep a copy of that list with you when you’re out of the country, and another in the safe deposit box as part of your family’s bug out bag. If your family has to leave the country to meet you on short notice, this will help them get hold of someone to pick up the mail, mow the lawn, reschedule any personal appointments or even pay bills. Knowing that the lights will still be on when they get back home is priceless.
I sincerely hope that you’ll never find yourself in that sort of situation, but like I said before, it’s important to plan for the worst. Why? Because working in a war zone, things absolutely NEVER go smoothly. If you’ve been planning to fly your family to Australia for your first vacation in six months, it’s almost a certainty that there’ll be some kind of snag in your travel. Either your company will change your vacation dates to keep a required percentage of employees in country, or dust storms will shut down flights out of your FOB. Having a bug out bag prepared will help reduce the stress that comes with last-minute changes to your plans, which means that you might actually be able to relax for a few days during your vacation.
No matter if you’re facing a few days’ delay in your travels or a complex IED attack, one thing will always be true: when the stuff hits the fan, it’s too late to start planning. Do yourself, your family, and your fellow employees a favor, and get your contingency plans laid out in advance.