A New Program Promises More Pay and Perks for Sailors to Stay at Sea

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USS Nimitz flight deck
U.S. Navy Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Fernando Marquez, from El Paso, Texas, assigned to USS Nimitz (CVN 68) looks out to the flight deck while performing a daily maintenance check a tow tractor aboard USS Nimitz, Dec. 09, 2017, in the Pacific Ocean. (Ignacio D. Perez/U.S. Navy)

The Navy is rolling out an experimental new program that aims to put sailors in select occupations out to sea for longer tours while offering hefty pay and promotion incentives.

Starting on March 1, 2022, the program, called the Detailing Marketplace Assignment Policy, or DMAP, will allow sailors in four sea-intensive jobs to volunteer to follow up an initial four years at sea with another three years.

In exchange, once on that second assignment, sailors will earn extra incentive pay, get promoted to E-5, and have more priority for orders for a shore-duty assignment after their seven years at sea.

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To start, aircraft fuel specialists, aircraft handlers, gas turbine mechanics and culinary specialists will be able to volunteer for the program, which was unveiled Thursday.

Rear Adm. James Waters, the Navy's director of military personnel, plans and policy, told reporters that he hopes the program will be a win-win for both sailors and the Navy.

"At that four-year mark at sea, the sailor is just developing a critical skill set for us, and we value that," Waters said. "We want that experience to remain at sea, and we're willing to offer some real incentives to keep it there."

The cash incentives will range between $200 a month and $800 a month depending on location and type of sea duty, Waters explained. This pay would be in addition to the "sea pay" bonus the Navy offers sailors who are stationed aboard ships.

However, Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer emphasized that the program aims to offer sailors more than just money. "Geographic stability and advancement are extremely strong incentives for sailors," Koshoffer said.

"The money is nice; the advancement is very nice; and perhaps the stability is also much desired," he added.

The Navy has acknowledged that it needs to do more to retain sailors past their first enlistment. One study conducted by Navy researchers showed that sailors are more likely to stay if they feel they are given a sense of belonging and treated more like family. Meanwhile, an Army survey showed that the impact of service on family relationships and goals were top reasons for getting out.

Officials said they hope to get about 250 sailors to volunteer for an extra sea tour from each of the four specialties in the first phase of the program.

The program will break the Navy's five-year limit on sea time that has existed for the past 50 years, but the service says that the lack of sailors in sea-intensive jobs is having serious impacts on the fleet.

"Under-manning at sea impacts the implementation of circadian rhythm watch bills, affects the number of in-port duty sections, contributes to degraded materiel readiness, limits time to train and reduces opportunities for leave and liberty," the message announcing the policy explained.

Waters said that the Navy will run the program for about nine months to a year before it considers broadening it to more sea-intensive specialties. He listed 12 specialties that might be included in a second phase, including three aviation jobs, as well as navigators, retail specialists, electricians, and damage control specialists.

This program is hardly the first time the Navy has tried to incentivize sailors to stay at sea. The branch has offered money to sailors to stay at forward-deployed locations and, more recently, to fight shortages in manning caused by COVID-19.

"We're trying to have a range of incentives to ensure that those specific reasons people would stay at sea can be incentivized or rewarded, based on how the Navy benefits from that as well as the sailor," Waters said.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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