You read very little what it is like for the Fleet Sailor out there.
Heck, I'm as guilty of that as the next guy - but enough of that, let's get a snapshot of what our Sailors are doing - and more importantly what they are thinking about and talking about.
(we completed) an 8 month deployment with the [REDACTED] Strike Group. We are getting ready to leave again ... for two more months of my cruise. I absolutely enjoy being part of a low-density, high requirement asset like the Electronic Attack platforms. I was sitting at the house on my two weeks off before I go back at work, the POM leave thing; while talking with my wife about the future of my career some thoughts have come together, ....Why do we still treat our Sailors like what is described in the last couple of paragraphs? Priorities and personalities, that's why. That, and because we can, we have, and we will.
As of this June I will have been in the Navy for [REDACTED] years. Out of that [REDACTED] years according to my latest LES, I have been drawing sea pay for just over half of that, or roughly [REDACTED] years. I am currently on my third sea tour and just extended myself to make the transition from the EA-6B over to the EA-18G. I have completed four cruises all of which have been extended anywhere from one month to two. My first was with the Big E in the summer of 2001 and my latest will be completed (if you add in us going out for two months for RIMPAC) in August of 2010. I have also done one shore based deployment to Iwakuni to gap the EA billet for the Marines in the summer of 2006. Interestingly enough, that was almost extended for a month because of the nuclear bomb testing and missile testing by the NORKS.
I am also a newlywed, since I got married just before my latest deployment. That has been a challenge and have had some interesting discussions about my career future with my new wife. I throw this at you mainly to let you know that there are some of us down in the trenches who look up at our leadership and wonder what the heck is going on. I perceive a leadership failing on the people at TypeCom and higher who aren’t throwing up the BS flag about deployments, doing more with less, and other BS bingo phrases/words. All they seem to care about is appeasing the civilian leadership above, while seemingly paying lip service to those of us below. Until the recent economic troubles, there seem to be a growing trend of personnel voting with their feet. I am not ready to be one of them, one because I have faith in that what I do is important, two I love my job of fixing airplanes on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, and three I am so close now to retirement (even with the threat of PTS over my head) that it only makes financial sense to stay until the end.
Transition for the Electronic Attack bubbas is going to be interesting and what is really throwing all of us for a loop right now ... the first deployment for the EA-18G is going to be shore based, expeditionary style to one of those fun tourist spots like [REDACTED]. Why? Because the CNO and all his OpNav advisors saw what happened to the USAF vis-a-via the F-22. The word on the flight line here in Oak Harbor is that after SecDef as the CG of the USAF what was the last mission the F-22 preformed was and then was basically told it was just now entering squadron and transition process. At which point the SecDef told them that their wonder weapon is done and the government isn’t wasting any more money on it.
There is probably a kernel of truth to that, but I would bet you the first two bottles of fine wine out of your choice Columbia River Valley that is why both LCS’s were sortied on deployments before all the kinks were shaken loose. Anyhow, as each one of the EA-6B carrier squadrons comes homes and enters the pipeline, one of the concrete (expeditionary) EA-6B outfits will replace it in the air wing. Only problem with that is this; there are three active and one reserve EA-6B squadron that are in the concrete role.
Those of us that are making transition are being told to sign open ended extensions, I just signed my on this morning. There were no dates in the when extension starts or ends and to expect at a minimum of three shore deployments to those tourist spots I mentioned earlier. The open ended extensions are to get us through schools, for example the [REDACTED] schooling takes about seven months out. We either go to [REDACTED] or [REDACTED] and go through the standard E/F schools for [REDACTED] stuff there and then return to [REDACTED] to finish up the [REDACTED]. So when we enter the training pipeline we enter the neutral duty loop. After we get out of the training pipeline they tack on a 24 month extension to our tour at the current command. If we choose not to go on the transition bus, then we get a phone call to the detailer and have to make a career decision in about five minutes.
This is really interesting to me that no one has applied lessons learned from the previous transitions like the F-14 to F-18E/F, A-7 to F-18, S-3 removal, SH-3 to H-60, etc. Not finding ways to have smoothed the process or taken the unknown factor out of this. Maybe it is because we are trying to do transition in the middle of a war, I don’t know. It just feels as if there are too many questions and too many “That is a great question, glad you asked that, let me get back to you about the answer…” replies or answers that seem to be set in snowballs being thrown in hell.
Besides the Sailor, the Detailer, and a dozen other people - who is going to know? ..........