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.