What should I expect in the first nine months of Navy Enlistment?
November 11, 2012 12:05 PM   Subscribe

What is the first year or two of Navy service generally like? I am such a planner and right now, I know nothing...

My husband, at 32, is about to ship off to boot camp. He is in great shape , feels mentally prepared and is genuinely happy to embark on this voyage. I am too! For the most part, but it's this first little bit I can't wrap my mind around. He will be at boot for about 8 weeks, it seems like some rounds of recruits get almost a week shaved off that eight weeks for holidays, but is there a schedule somewhere online that more clearly illustrates "if you leave Nov. 14, expect to be done x"?

Next question, some people have a gap between Boot and A School, some don't . Is there any rhyme or reason to whether you get a break in between/how long a break you get?

You aren't "really in" the Navy till a couple of weeks into boot camp, what about insurance coverage?

I'm struggling with my lease timing, prescription timing, if I should just pack up his stuff because he is unlikely to be at thi apartment gain, etc.

If you have any experience, insight, advice, etc on these subjects or whatever else you think I should know about being a Navy Wife in my 30s, I'd love to hear it.

He is going in as a E3, CTR if that matters.
posted by stormygrey to Work & Money (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's been 24 years since I went, but I can answer one part:

The break between boot camp and A school is purely a function of when they have enough people to launch a class. He may have to wait until some CTRs come out of other boot camp companies. Or, there may be too many for one class and he'll have to wait for the next.

In between, they usually get some temp job to do if its going to be more than a week or so. So, not just "go home and wait"

I would only expect to see him home on leave during the Christmas-season break until after A school. But not even then if its during the actual boot camp weeks.
posted by ctmf at 12:23 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can call the recruiter and ask about specific questions like the insurance. They might not know offhand, but can put you in touch with someone who does.
posted by ctmf at 12:27 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding "call the recruiter." This is a very vulnerable time for recruits, and the recruiter doesn't get credit for your husband until he ships to Basic. He or she should be bending over backward to make sure your husband - and therefore you -- are happy and not going to back out. However, "it varies" is likely to be a frequent answer, and no answer should be taken as gospel ever. There are dozens, even hundreds of things that can change even the most carved-in-stone plans.
posted by Etrigan at 1:00 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

The first year (for me, 12 years ago) was full of curtailed privileges And long hours, due to pressure to qualify for watchstations and warfare designation, without which and your husband will be (next to) useless dead weight.

in addition to the time between boot and a school, there may be a week or two before boot camp actually starts when he gets there, to wait for enough recruits to show up for his company/division/whatever they are calling them now.

These "In between" periods were very common when i was in. i even had one when i showed up at the base my ship was stationed at, since they were out at sea, and it wasn't scheduled to be back for a while.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 1:21 PM on November 11, 2012

I have a brother in the Marines and a cousin in the Air Force, and from what I understand there are timelines out there on the internet. They both found that kind of info on various forums that cater to new recruits and their families. Have you looked for that sort of thing for Navy folks?

That said, both of them had a lot of hand wavey "it might be this date or it might be that date, and then I might be home for Thanksgiving or I might not, and I might report for my next bout of training immediately or maybe not..." even beyond the timelines that they knew about.

Also, as ctmf and Etrigan have said, both of them went to their recruiter with logistical questions. That said, from what I understand there is lots of information available on those forums.
posted by Sara C. at 1:38 PM on November 11, 2012

Best answer: Welcome to the Navy!

Lesson one: "Hurry up and wait."
Lesson two: No one is responsible for your husband's career but himself. (that's just some advice I was given when I went to bootcamp... it served me well)

Everyone so far is giving you a pretty good answer... The timeline is gonna vary and be unpredictable. His 'Day 0' isn't even going to start until enough recruits have arrived to man up his Division. Same applies to A School. When I graduated boot camp, I was in a TPU (Transient Personnel Unit) for two weeks waiting on orders to A school, then when I finally got there I worked mess crank duty for two weeks while waiting for more students to show up to fill my class (I was an AC...).

You're likely not going to be relocated to wherever he is until he gets to his first duty station AFTER he finishes A school, so I'd recommend just sitting tight. Take each evolution one at a time. Get through bootcamp, get through A school, then make the moves. When he gets his first assignment, contact the ombudsman at that base/ship - they can help answer most things that will be coming your way.

Keep in mind that you ALSO are now in the Navy. You're a Navy Spouse, and while your husband is responsible for his own career, YOU are often the glue that holds his career together. You're getting ready for the adventure of a lifetime, no doubt! Stay strong, keep informed, get involved in your community once you get to his first duty station, and always, ALWAYS, embrace change.

Welcome to the family!

(I've been in the Navy for 17+ years now, both enlisted and officer, so memail me if you have any additional questions)
posted by matty at 1:43 PM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

The Bluejacket's Manual is an excellent reference. If you pick one up on eBay for five or ten bucks, make sure it's pretty recent.

You're "really in" the Navy when you take the Oath at the MEPS. You get "on the books" around the fourth week of boot camp, when you (and your family members) get enrolled in DEERS. Once he's enrolled (and has enrolled you), you can visit any RAPIDS site to get your ID card, which is generally sufficient for base privileges and such.

For scheduling purposes, the Navy says 7-9 weeks. There's a couple of reasons for that ambiguity; as mentioned above, he might have to wait until Monday to be assigned to a recruit company, his schedule might get messed up with Thanksgiving and Christmas (e.g. 2nd week, 4th day (2-4) (Thanksgiving) isn't going to happen, so they'll push that to the following day, and then 2-5 and 2-6 will get pushed to the following week, and then it'll get further messed up with Christmas and New Year's holidays. First week of bootcamp, though, he'll have a schedule and should be able to tell when he's going to graduate.

...but... Folks get "rolled back" routinely. If he pops his knee during PT (ibuprofin!) and misses a half-day of knot tying or the two ungodly hours on how-to-fill-out-a-special-request-chit, no big deal. If he can't swim or float or he flunks a test or two, it's possible that they'll roll him back a few days to a company that's going to go through the phase of training again, which, of course, will delay his graduation.

Other folks have addressed the lag between schools. They class-up when they've got enough, folks waiting to class up are a pool of manpower (get used to that). I've painted lines on parking lots waiting in New London, and stripped/waxed/buffed the Admiral's stairwell every night for a couple weeks prior to another school.
posted by panmunjom at 1:47 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 10 year Navy Veteran here. Finally got out last year:

Your health care coverage and family housing benefits start the day the enlists-- when he signs the final paper and takes his oath and is sent to Boot Camp. You need to be proactive in working with your recruiter to make sure on that day you take the steps to get yourself and any children entered into DEERS (worldwide military database), get issued ID cards, and submit the paperwork that starts the financial payment that comes from having a family and is designed to cover your rent and utilities in the area where you live.

For a 32 year old man who is smart enough to be recruited as a CT, Boot Camp is likely to be very frustrating and disillusioning. He will be surrounded by scared 18-year-olds, most of whom come from a big city, from families with only one parent, with education and intelligence and manners and tolerance far below what he has probably ever seen before. Instead of the exciting military adventure, he will find that most of Boot Camp is about janitorial-style cleaning and (70%+) folding clothes the little fiddly way they want you to. The Navy abdicates most of the leadership and training time in Boot Camp to group leaders who are chosen from the recruit cohort, who do a predictably poor job. The recent addition (honestly-- I'm not making this stuff up) of theme-park style rides/"training exercises" may be interesting to him, or he may be like me and see it for an essentially hollow and wasteful display that provides no real training and sets up unreasonable expectations in the young recruits. The good news is it is over in eight weeks. He needs to bite his tongue, buckle down, and get through it without getting in trouble or shooting his mouth off, no matter how frustrated he might be. Also, if he is leaving soon, it will be really cold for him in Boot Camp, the training location is on the shore of Lake Michigan, near Chicago. As far as the gap between A-school and Boot Camp, that is just because of scheduling-- there is no conspiracy there. They will keep him more or less busy with meaningless, janitorial-style tasks while he waits for his class to form up. All of this, including his A-school and any follow-on training, are just preludes to the next six years. (If he is a CT, it is unlikely he will be able to enlist for any lesser amount of time.) The real business of being in the Navy begins when he gets to his first ship (or shore duty if he is unlucky). I'm pretty sure his school is in Florida, and I think he is probably too old to be recruited for submarines, but I'm not positive on either. As for what to do to fit in on his first ship, I'll have to leave that for another day, since I've written a lot already. If you have any other questions, drop me a memail and I'll be happy to respond in person.
posted by seasparrow at 1:48 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey that was some real negative stuff I wrote up there. ^^^ I just wanted to say because it wasn't clear in the previous post that I loved the Navy, and I'm proud of my service, and I think your husband is making the right choice-- particularly going into a highly-technical rate like CTR that will provide real technical skills. (Although if it is not too late, I'd recommend seeing if he can change to ET.) I also joined the Navy in my 30s, so I just felt capable of responding from my own experience. This is going to be a great adventure for him and you both if you approach it the right way with the right attitude and build up a military and family support network. Best of luck, and don't hesitate to contact me if you need any other help or advice.
posted by seasparrow at 1:55 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a scared 18 year old (the only demographic seasparrow got right in my particular case...), the two "old guys" in my boot camp company were immediately put in the leadership roles, and were extremely frustrated that kids that graduated High School only a month or two earlier didn't really have a clue. Herding cats and pushing rope. This will extend to his 'A' school as well.

It is quite possible that he will be older than his instructors (enlisting at 18 gives you 14 years in by age 32; chief before 14 isn't that hard).

Expectation management is key - the "real negative stuff" in seasparrow's third paragraph is spot on.
posted by panmunjom at 2:08 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone so far! We're both very excited and as ready as we can be. We've both had nearly ten year careers (he in special ed, I in land use policy/planning) and are just prepared to cede some control and embrace an adventure. From the application, it's clear I'm in the Navy too! My parents too for that matter, it's a good thing we are a plain and simple lot. I am so grateful to hear from other people kind of like me, sincerely, thank you.
posted by stormygrey at 4:21 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

The timeline is gonna vary and be unpredictable.
Do understand that... everything is going to be like this going forward. I was just talking to my parents today about Thanksgiving plans for this year and all I could tell them was "plan without us and we will show up if we can" just because I have no idea where my husband will be that week. It's lovely having your mom accuse you of being a flake in situations well beyond your control - I hate to say get used to it, but you have to be calm about it and just recognize that you can only control how you deal with the nonsense tossed your way.

I met my husband after he'd been in military for a few years so I missed the bootcamp period, but I've seen a lot of hurry up and wait for TAD's (temporary assigned duty, i think that's what it stands for-- it's when you're ordered to go somewhere but it's not a permanent move), PCS (permanent change of station- ie, you are moving), and deployments. You will also learn a huge number of acronyms and weird phrases, it's like they speak a whole different language in there.

I've read several times that whether you have a good experience as a military wife or a bad experience is 90% the attitude you go into it with. I've tried to go in with the philosophy of "try me - I deal with worse at my job, so I can manage this" and it's worked OK so far, although situations like the one above with parents or friends who are insulated from the crazy can be trying.

Like you say, embrace the adventure - you'll meet a lot of really cool people, and if you can go with the flow it should all work out.
posted by lyra4 at 5:29 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just thought I'd add... Like your husband, I went into Great Mistakes (hehe - Great Lakes) bootcamp at an older age. I was a 26 year old surrounded by mostly 18 or 19 year olds - but there were a few 'older' guys. Your husband should be prepared to be the camp counselor, cause the kids are gonna treat him that way wether he likes it or not.

Other random thoughts from throughout my career to date that you both might find helpful:

- The fastest way out of boot camp is to graduate. Sickness, injury, failing, quitting, etc will keep you there much longer than just graduating.

- In bootcamp, be a wall flower whenever possible.

- When graduating top of your class from A School, you often get to pick from the available billets as to where you'll be stationed. At least I did. ;-)

- If given the opportunity, get stationed overseas (if you're assigned to a shore station). It's temporary - you will make it back to the States for visits. it's a wonderful opportunity, and it's great to have in your husbands service record when competition gets tight come promotion time years down the road- albeit it's a review process he'll likely never be aware of at the BUPERS level. (Bureau of Personnel)

- As mentioned above, 90% of the key to success for both of you in your respective roles is attitude! Can't really stress this enough. As an older guy, he's gonna find himself in situations that feel stupid, misguided, maybe even beneath him at times. Just put up with it - things won't always be that way. He will find himself reporting to people much MUCH younger than him, with attitudes through the roof. But at the same time, he'll make friends, earn respect as he excels at his trade, and if he works hard become an expert in his field. Age has it's advantages in maturity - he'll advance quickly if he works hard and doesn't do anything stupid (like get ripping drunk on his first port call...). I've had Commanding Officers who I felt were inept, but I respected their position. I've had other CO's that to this very day I'd work for again anywhere, anytime.

Thanks for reading this far, and with one last insight I'll shut up:

The Navy is what you make of it. Hard work, attitude, and knowledge are the keys to success. That being said, the Navy saved my life. I was without direction and somewhat apathetic when I joined, and was turned around - and found my passion! - real quick. It felt good to be part of a team again, and like I mattered and could still make a difference in the world. The Navy has always given me everything I asked of it, as long as I did what it asked of me. I asked to be an AC - navy said ok. I asked to be stationed in Florida - Navy said ok. I asked to go to Officer Candidate School - Navy said ok. I asked to fly E-2Cs, Navy said ok. The list goes on and on. I just had to put in the hard work. Point is that the Navy will lead you and your husband to places and goals you never imagined... and in a couple of years you'll honestly wonder how you got to where you are now. Life is gonna change a LOT!

I'm personally excited for you and your husband, as it's a great adventure if you approach it the right way.

Good luck and congratulations!
posted by matty at 6:21 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

DO get familiar/make friends with the people in the spouse's club for his ship/unit (which is a ways off for now.)

DON'T believe anything they say about official matters. If you hear anything that sounds important, like deployment schedules, things you're entitled or not entitled to, etc., have your husband check it out at work.

I was in 20 years, and my wife will tell you that most (but not all :) of the flip-flop hope-and-disappointment stuff came directly from premature rumors from the official "support group". It's a good source of support and advice from old hands at the Navy game. It's not a reliable source of planning information.

Plus, they tend to be excellent sources of catty high-school drama.

Also from my wife: everywhere you go, make an effort to make non-Navy friends. You will enjoy your duty stations much more and feel less like a temp. visitor in your own town. If you're older, these 19-year-old Navy wives with no experience away from home, high school to having babies, are going to drive you nuts sometimes. Perfectly fine people, most of them, just... have other friends, too. Trust me.
posted by ctmf at 6:52 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

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