Monday, July 30, 2012

Shore duty? Think again!






The US Navy goes to sea. A lot. When I used to work at Second Fleet on the Battle Watch, we would routinely have over 50% of the fleet deployed. Although 55% sounds small to an outsider, this is really a lot. Ships have maintenance cycles, depot repairs, stand downs, etc. that have to be performed to keep them operating successfully, and the crews need downtime to be home for a bit. When you go over 50% deployed, it starts taking a toll overall on the fleet.

The whole point of shore duty was to give sailors a break. Time to relax, be at home, work on a degree, go to schools, and occasionally use their leave. For many female sailors, this was the time to have kids. It also helped retention, since often folks get off a sea tour disgruntled and burnt out, but realize later on shore duty that they really do enjoy their jobs.

It seems big Navy is taking a crack at the whole shore duty thing though, as seen recently through NAVADMINS:

NAVADMIN 226/12, CHANGES IN ENLISTED DISTRIBUTION TO IMPROVE SEA DUTY MANNING

http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/NAVADMINS/NAV2012/NAV12226.txt

NAVADMIN 227/12, LIMITED DIRECTED DETAILING FOR ENLISTED SAILORS

http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/NAVADMINS/NAV2012/NAV12227.txt

NAVADMIN 229/12, VOLUNTARY SEA DUTY PROGRAM UPDATE TWO

http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/NAVADMINS/NAV2012/NAV12229.txt

NAVADMIN 230/12, CHIEF PETTY OFFICER EARLY RETURN TO SEA

http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/NAVADMINS/NAV2012/NAV12230.txt

NAVADMIN 231/12, SEA DUTY INCENTIVE PAY PROGRAM

http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/NAVADMINS/NAV2012/NAV12231.txt

Yup, 5 NAVADMINs in 4 days. If you don't think it's a big issue...you're an idiot.

So, first, how do you thrive in this environment?
- Accept that you'll be deployed a lot more, and setup your personal life for this. If you don't have Skype/email to stay in contact at home...get it. Set yourself up so that your bills and savings are on automatic, you're car is registered for a few years, and you know at least a few people to check on your house/take care of your dog.
- Use your underway time wisely. Work out and get in shape, since it's easier to watch what you eat. Get as many warfare qualifications as you can. Sign up early for college classes, JPME, acquisition courses, or joint courses. Plan out your deployment, setting milestones such as "I will test and board for SWO/TAO/IDWO/etc. by this date." The more you think ahead, the more successful you'll be.

I spent 6 months in Bahrain over two three month deployments. I had a lot of free time, since I didn't have my wife and kids to see after work. I spent plenty of time eating out and having fun, but I also ordered JPME Phase I materials and downloaded language learning software from NKO. In those 6 months, I managed to finish JPME and took the DLPT V in Indonesian, getting a 1+/1 score, nearly enough to get paid.

Ultimately I think this will fare poorly for the Navy, since people need downtime at home. While the Navy grapples with these questions, the best thing you can do for you and your sailors is figure out how to make the best of it.






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