The Army has a few ways it breaks down deployments, chief among them is the "Army Force Generation Cycle." But that looks at how Big Army assigns different units to different missions. Here's how deployment cycles actually work for soldiers.
1. It starts by getting sweet new uniforms.
Photo: US Army Capt. William Carraway
Getting to that "Welcome Home!" banner is basically repeating steps two and three. Pack, pack, pack, get onto a crammed plane, build up a thick layer of funk, and then march into a hangar to hug family members and friends. Then, party.