The Impact of a Shipyard Sea Tour

During tours, sailors normally spend a significant amount of time at sea. However, for some sailors that isn’t the case. My husband is attached to a submarine in a shipyard. He will never deploy on his boat. Even though no deployment sounds like a dream come true, there are still a lot of challenges that come along with being in shipyard. Mainly, longer workdays, frequent duty days and shift work, and with mixed feelings about career advancement.

When my husband played his first slate (ranking where we would like to be stationed) we asked for an active boat out of Virginia. Unfortunately, his submarine was slated to go to shipyard and would not be deployed for the next three to five years. For perspective, he is only attached to his boat for 32 months. So, this meant he would never actually deploy on his own submarine.

We had some mixed emotions about this. It meant he wouldn’t be deployed, and he would be home most nights (aside from duty). But we were also frustrated. My husband had spent almost two years training to be attached to an active submarine and looking forward to deployments. In a way, we were looking forward to him deploying. Shipyard is hard. They work incredibly long hours most days and sometimes are on shift work in order to complete projects. There is a fine balance between the Navy and the shipyard when it comes to priorities. It’s also hard to keep the crew motivated since they know they will never deploy on their boat.

Being attached to a shipyard boat also complicates the process of a submariner qualifying. A significant amount of the checkouts required to qualify on a submarine requires being underway. My husband had a few sporadic underways on other boats in order to complete his qualification. Often, this process of sending people underway on other boats to qualify causes a personnel strain on his submarine. Fewer crew members on board means more frequent duty days and taking on additional jobs. This also impacts leave schedules as the boat is not able to support additional time off.

As we near the end of our shipyard sea tour, we are incredibly thankful that my husband has been able to be home so much over the last two-and-a-half years. At the same time, we can’t help but feel like we could have been utilized more. In our case, we decided to have my husband extend on board, and he will be deploying on another boat before finishing his sea tour. After his sea tour, he will be completing a shore tour. Following a sea tour, we haven’t finalized what our next step will be. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough experience on an active submarine to come to a complete decision.

Shipyard is a difficult but necessary step in order to maintain the safety of the Navy fleet. It’s a strain on crew members ─ between tight schedules, morale and sporadic underways to complete qualifications. It’s not the sea tour we wanted but the sea tour we got. But we are incredibly excited for my husband’s future deployment so we can do what he has been trained to do.

When it Comes to Domestic Abuse, Be an Upstander, not a Bystander

You don’t have to live in an abusive household to have a story about domestic violence. After all, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men in the U.S. report being directly impacted by their experiences with relationship abuse. It seems nearly everyone has a story about a time at a restaurant, the grocery store, or even school drop-off when they heard or saw something that just seemed “off.” Maybe you heard someone speak to their significant other with hostility or disrespect, maybe body language made us take a second look, or maybe there was even a glimpse of physical violence.

Granted, a one-time encounter with a seemingly off situation is tough to judge. We all go through moods, and I’m not suggesting you call the Family Advocacy Program because you got a gut feeling in the cracker aisle of the commissary. But at the end of the day, you can decide whether or not to pay attention to signs that something is wrong and take action to support someone who may be too afraid to ask for help. You can be a bystander, avert your eyes, and pretend you don’t see or hear anything. Or, you can be an upstander and extend a word of encouragement, or a listening ear to someone who may be experiencing relationship abuse.

What are some signs to look for?

Witnessing an isolated incident makes intervening a little tricky. We all have off days. We argue. We have emotional outbursts in public and do things we aren’t proud of. But all of us in the military community have a duty to recognize the line between couples who can’t seem to communicate and often disagree, and relationships where one partner seems to always have the upper hand, belittle the other, or act with aggression. Before you choose to reach out to someone who may be at risk, consider the following warning signs from the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

  • Their partner puts them down in front of other people
  • They are constantly worried about making their partner angry
  • They make excuses for their partner’s behavior
  • Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive
  • They have unexplained marks or injuries
  • They’ve stopped spending time with friends and family
  • They are depressed or anxious

If you know the person well, you are likely to pick up on sudden personality changes. For instance, a friend who is usually outgoing and social begins to flake on plans or becomes reserved and secretive.

How can I be an upstander without making the situation worse or risking my own safety?

First, if you witness violence firsthand, or have reason to fear for the immediate safety of yourself or someone you know, you must call 911 or base law enforcement.

For situations that are concerning but are not emergencies, you can share available resources and support. If someone you care about is experiencing domestic abuse, it can be very difficult to know what to do. Your gut instinct may be to try and “save” them from their relationship or convince them to leave the person who is harming them. The key thing to remember is that your job as an upstander is to support the choices of the victim—not to make decisions based on what you would do yourself. Domestic abuse is about power and control, so one of the best ways you can help a person in an abusive relationship is to consider how you might empower them to choose for themselves what is best for their safety and healing.

On base, your best bet is the Family Advocacy Program. Save the number in your phone for a quick reference. Off base, victims (or loved ones concerned for a victim’s safety) can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or chat with someone online. The Hotline can refer you or the victim to resources outside the gate, including legal assistance and emergency and transitional housing options.

If you know the victim —if it’s your friend, neighbor or colleague — it’s OK to ask the obvious question. “Do you feel safe at home?” It’s OK to be concerned, and you can show your support by:

  • Talking about the Family Advocacy Program, doing your best to remove the stigma and assure them that FAP can be a resource for their safety, and the safety of any children in the home.
  • Telling your friend to keep records of harmful or threatening actions including texts, emails and social posts. These items can be useful to identify patterns of behavior to create a safety plan, or down the line as evidence for law enforcement, if the abuse is severe and an unrestricted report is made.
  • Offering to keep copies of these records for safekeeping where they will not be found by the alleged abuser.

If you’re ever in doubt, think, “If I was in their shoes, what kind of support would I want someone to give to me?” Assure your friend, or anyone you know who may be experiencing domestic abuse, that they are not alone – the military community has their back. You can call Military OneSource at any time to get advice on how to connect to your local Family Advocacy Program, or speak with a non-medical counselor for help navigating what can be a stressful but critical time as a friend, family member, or loved one of somebody who is in a domestic abuse situation.

Thankful for a Terrible Assignment

Every branch of service has a base or two that are considered “terrible” assignments. Minot AFB in North Dakota is definitely at the top of the terrible list for the Air Force.

When we received orders to Minot AFB, we heard all of the horror stories, but tried to stay positive about this new assignment. Then, the winter of 2019 arrived and brought with it the coldest February that Minot had experienced in more than 80 years. 80 years! When I say cold, I mean life threatening cold! Wind chills as low as -53 and extreme cold temperatures extending for weeks at a time. WHAT???!!!!!

During the long, cold month of February 2019, the wise words of, “every assignment is what you make of it” were difficult to swallow. However, when my son uttered the words, “Mom, I hate Minot,” I was stunned.

First, I wanted to join in the misery of my son and say that I wasn’t a Minot fan either. But thankfully his words kicked me into “fix it” mode. I acknowledged my son’s feeling of the current challenges Minot was giving us and then immediately asked him to list all of the things we LOVED about Minot. I had to list the first three things to love to get him started, but he soon joined in and couldn’t stop! Together, we named at least 20 things we loved about Minot and the current feeling of Minot dislike disappeared. It really was that easy.

Although you may get stationed at one of those “terrible” bases you truly need to focus on the positive, not only for yourself, but for your family.

So, just one tip…
One line of advice…
When all else fails, list the things you love about your current duty station and hopefully the challenging things won’t seem so bad…at least for a little while.

We’re thankful for every moment we have at Minot! It’s not so terrible after all!

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