All military moves and separations are difficult to some degree. Unaccompanied tours add a different type of angst because they equate to a separation by location, not war. Sometimes spouses choose to relocate to foreign countries unsponsored. This doesn’t happen very often because it is difficult to move without the military’s support. First, it is the family’s responsibility to move the spouse (and if applicable, kids) on their own dime. Flying space available is an option, however, unsponsored family members are the lowest priority. Second, pets have to remain behind, as well as furniture, toys, books, musical instruments, and anything else that won’t meet the airlines two piece per person luggage rule. Third, unsponsored families do not have the same privileges as sponsored family members.
Aside from the financial disadvantages to an unsponsored tour, the biggest obstacle to overcome (and the reason most families do not join their spouse during a year-long unaccompanied tour) is schooling. Unsponsored children may not attend the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDs) unless there is space available for them, which is determined after the school year has started and usually not available. Other areas impacted by being unsponsored are health care (which is available but changed to co-pay and off post in a foreign country), Child and Youth School Services (again space available only), driving privileges (this is a big one), visas, and more. All of these challenges generally contribute to the family members remaining stateside for the year.