Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Why I'm Staying In The Navy

It seems to be fashionable now to post articles on why junior officers are leaving the Navy.  Everything from family reasons to hating white males has become acceptable to place onto the blogosphere.  If you just believed everything on the internet, the Navy would seem like a terrible place to work.

Obviously everything a disgruntled JO on the internet says is true! I heard it on a blog!

Is it really though?  Just like I doubt the young man above is French (although Rachel Dolezal may disagree), I don't think we can just take a young, disgruntled JOs opinion about the Navy at face value.

If you look at it financially, the Navy isn't too bad.  I couldn't have paid for my degree without taking loans, but the Navy gladly picked up the bill.  I haven't paid state taxes ever.  I don't even have to pay for health care, which is good because I don't know how much an anthrax vaccine shot would cost, and I've had quite a few doses now.  Even in my early years as a JO, I made enough money to buy a townhouse and still save 7% a year for TSP...which is also a good deal. And 30 days of leave a year is better than the 2 week average you get in the outside world.

And let's not forget the uniform...
Service Dress Blue has "stud" written all over it.  That's good, because I suck at buying clothes and deciding what to wear in the morning.

Most importantly, can you work in a more important job field now?  The United States depends on the Navy to keep sea lanes safe.  Most Americans, up until now, really haven't noticed because we did such a good job.  The rise of China's Navy, the resurgence of piracy and the (attempted) resurrection of the Russian Navy is bringing the focus back to where it belongs, namely America's Navy.

Start with China.  Who exactly is going to stop China from bullying its neighbors in the East and South China Seas, wiping out the Uighurs in the west and attempting to take Hawaii from the United States?  Most European navies can barely get underway, let alone challenge China.  If you care about international law and order, being a Naval Officer is the most meaningful thing you can do.  You'll certainly do more about International Relations than most people that majored in that field.

Steve McGarrett wouldn't give up Hawaii to the Chinese...and neither should you!
Even China cow-tows to pirates in Somalia though, to the tune of 4 million dollars.  Our response was to send out Naval warships and mop up pirates.  And when they take over an American ship, do we pay ransom?  Hell no!  We not only kill them with simultaneous gunfire from Navy destroyers, but we then make a hit movie about it.  What can be more American?

Shoot at the US Navy? Let me know how that works out for you...
What about Navy leadership, those old white males that are apparently fairly oppressive?  I've had the great fortune of working as an admirals aide, and can tell you that the Navy gets plenty of bang for its buck on Admirals.  The ones that I have gotten to see work up close have all been extremely smart and capable.  Some are set in their ways, to be sure, but that is something shared by other bureaucracies the size of ours.  Luckily for the Navy, we've had a history of giving great responsibility to Navy officers and letting them run with it.  While today's technology makes it easier for our leaders to micromanage, we certainly do better than most.

Offered commission by the Russians, claimed Key West for America, and told Japan to open up. Was once a JO.
Even Navy commercials have gotten better.  Rather than be the Global Force for Feel-Good, we've gone back to our roots in Godsmack and awesomeness and make cool commercials once again.
Everytime I send an email, Godsmack plays in the background.  It's true!

Let's not even start comparing ourselves to the Army.  While the Army and Air Force were busy getting wrapped up about finger shoes and PT belts, the Navy was busy killing Osama Bin Laden and Somali pirates. 
From AF Blues, original is here.
Am I biased?  Probably.  But I've now considered leaving the Navy twice.  The first was after a disastrous tour onboard a submarine, and the second was recently after dealing with a lot of difficulty at a staff job.  In both cases I took a deep look at civilian life, sent off my resume and interviewed for jobs.  I ran lots of financial spreadsheets and looked at quality of life.  And in both cases, I ended up staying.

I still haven't found a place where you can get the deep job satisfaction like the Navy.  I've driven a submarine, worked for an Admiral, programmed missiles, flown in a war zone and helped write US foreign policy.  As an engineer in a civilian job, I could have made more money and not had to move every few years.  But while that would make me a bit happier in some cases, I keep finding that the deep job satisfaction comes from working at a meaningful job, and that in the end that is what really matters.  At some point, we grow old and all the money in the world doesn't matter.  All we'll have is the memories and experiences from our time, plus the impact we've made in others lives. 

It doesn't mean every day is fun.  I remember not sleeping a lot on the submarine.  I remember the long deployments and missing birthdays, weddings and holidays.  I remember the tears when I had to leave, made worse when you can't talk about what you're doing.  I will never forget those times.  Far from regret them, they have made me value the times I do have with my family, friends and other people I care about.

If you're thinking about leaving the Navy, do the research.  Make your resume and apply to jobs.  Talk to your mentors about it.  In the end, make the choice one way or the other, but be sure it's YOUR choice, not because your friends are leaving or you want to fit in with another disgruntled junior officer.  And if you find the Navy is a pretty good place after all, stay in and help make it even better.