It's the Length of DEPLOYMENT, Navy


Dear Big Navy,

I’m worried about you. Have you really forgotten how the length of deployment affects retention? Have you really forgotten that the primary influence on retention is the husband or wife or partner of the sailor?  Really?


Last week a Navy retention survey told you that sailors are unhappy. The survey said they were unhappy with deployment, the op tempo, the current attack on benefits. They were so unhappy that half of them didn’t even want their bosses job.  The 2014 Blue Star Family Survey came out and announced that the top stressor for military families was deployment.  (They made this cool infographic just for you.)

You looked at those results and decided to worry about… making sailors want their boss’s job.  Can that be right?

In the civilian world they don’t worry when not everyone wants the boss’s job. According to a recent Pew survey, 43% of civilians don’t want their boss’s job. Unlike the 75% of bosses who think of their jobs as a career, those workers think of their employment as just a job.

Shocking as it may seem, a lot of young sailors don’t think of the Navy as their career, either.

Why is that? I betcha the conversations about whether or not to continue in the Navy are not about whether or not the sailor is advancing rapidly enough.  I betcha it is the length of the deployments and the expectation that those deployments will only get longer that is fueling that unhappiness.

Nearly half of those sailors surveyed expected their next deployment to last eight to ten months. That doesn’t include the months of work-ups that occur before the deployment. That doesn’t include the months and years of deployment prior to that or the ones that will follow.

That increasingly long deployment cycle is a hard sell for a single sailor. It is a harder sell when that sailor has a husband or partner or wife at home.  It is the hardest sell when extra months of deployment are measured in baby steps, in spelling words, in good night kisses.  Some of those misses are expected.  Too many tip the scale toward getting out.

While we spouses totally understand that if you are going to be a Global Force For Good, the Navy needs to operate at sea. At the same time, we all know that the increasing length of deployments is problematic for retention.

Can’t you just say that? Instead of throwing our sailors a bone because you have to say something, would it hurt to come out and say the deployment length is too long now?

Then tell us why. Tell us what you can and cannot do about it. Make us all believe that you remember just how long the difference from six months to ten months to a year really is. And convince us that this matters to you-- as much as it matters to us.


Photos courtesy of U.S. Navy.

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