USS INDIANA, credit: US Navy
As a follow up from our department head post, we were asked to gather feedback on spouses who have experienced an XO tour!
The “XO,” or Executive Officer, is second in command and reports directly to the Commanding Officer (CO). An XO is responsible to the captain for all ship’s work, drills, exercises, personnel organization, and the policing and inspection of the ship. The tour typically lasts up to two years.
Here’s what some experienced spouses had to share:
- Make a community for yourself outside of the command, preferably in the local community. I really enjoyed having my hiking group friends who didn’t know about/talk about the Navy as a respite from the sometimes intense nature of the tour.
- Find an interest, a passion, a hobby that is outside of Navy spouse life and find a community in it. It’s also a great opportunity to learn from the CO spouse.
- The XO tour was the tour where I learned to not be shocked at anything. It’s personnel-heavy and the issues your spouse sorts out often seem fictional, but are in fact real. The entire crew feels like your family, not just the wardroom. When they experience the highs, you do too! But when the lows hit, and they will, it helps to find a way to support them (and their families) as well as your spouse, and yourself. It also starts to get a little lonely. The more senior in leadership your spouse becomes, the more you may need to seek out friendships outside of the boat. Be sure to lean on your fellow XO spouses- they get it!
- I have found the XO tour to be a little lonely. During the JO and DH tour you have others in the same position right on your boat. Friendships with other XO spouses who get it are so important. Being busy and involved both in the navy community and in other local organizations makes it easier to not have everything revolve around being the XO and his wife.
- His XO tour felt like we were being called to sit at the grown-up table and I just wanted to go back to the fun of the kids’ table. I wasn’t ready for that and the loneliness, I found that bonding with the other triad spouses helped as did leaning on mentors and friends who had been there, done that.The overall best remedy for it was being my authentic self. Bringing all of me to the table, flaws, fun, and my favorite word included, helped me build lasting relationships with our entire boat, regardless of what job everyone’s spouse did.
- Be open with your spouse about his and your expectations of what your involvement will be with the command. It’s good to be on the same page as much as possible. I enjoyed planning and attending wardroom spouse events as well as having other friendships outside the boat. I was part of the local MOPS (moms with preschoolers) group and met some great friends through that. Find a ride or die buddy to have Friday night dinners and who will be there when you have those rough patches; they happen. XO tour did fly by for us as well and I really enjoyed it for the most part.
- There are so many factors to think of when I think of supporting my spouse during his XO tour. He was on a boat in Guam that had just come off a very long shipyard period and were all excited to get the boat out to do some real work. That turned into another extended shipyard period in San Diego . Add a COVID impacted deployment to the mix, it was stressful! His CO was geo batching and I leaned on our COB’s wife a lot. Having my spouse know I was in a strong community was the biggest help. Sea tours are a challenge for everyone!
- The best advice I can give is no advice. Everyone is going to have a different experience. Keep your mental health and well-being a priority and the rest almost falls into place. I dove deep into volunteering, working, play dates with other families and friends.
- RESOURCES are huge! I went to FRG trainings, OMB training, little classes/meet ups through CORE, etc. It comes in hand when newer spouses show up and look to more senior spouses for guidance. It was also a tour where I really learned to be diplomatic and intentional with my communications with everyone on the boat (my spouse included). Finding and connecting with other XO spouses also helped a ton as did having open conversations with my navy spouse mentors. It’s also important to establish relationships (even if it’s just working relationships) with the rest of the CST. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but you should be able to communicate and work together for the good of the boat/command.
- As negative as this sounds, I just became content with being without him and making sure there wasn’t anything he needed to worry about. He was gone so much and his life was stressful enough, he didn’t need to be worrying if the kids and I were going to be okay. I agree with all the others about XO tour being lonely. I’ll forever be thankful for the DH and JO spouses who took me in when drama hit our wardroom.
- I thought the loneliness aspect was just me! I thought our ward room just isn’t that close, but maybe it’s not entirely that. So much of the commentary here resonates deeply. It really IS like sitting at the grown up table. We’re a year into the XO tour and just wrapped up a deployment. I tried my best to support the FRG and the OMB, and I feel like I’ve done that reasonably well, which eases the burden on my husband to track on some of those things.
- Mostly I focus on keeping our family and home stable. He knows that if he’s gone, I have it under control and he doesn’t have to worry. And when he’s home, he can be in the moment and relax with us rather than needing to fix something or mow or anything like that.
- There is some great advice on this thread!! The only thing I would add is to remember that your own family/ household come first. I found on both our XO and CO tours that involvement with the CST, FRG, ombudsman and wardroom could take over my life if I allowed it and sometimes the demands of the boat can speak louder than your family, but, at the end of the day, my husband feels most supported when our family is taken care of. I tried to not allow the stress of my boat responsibilities to creep into my home life, which required social outlets for me as well as friends I could go to who would offer sound advice but weren’t connected to our command. Also, remember that it is not forever!! Even when it gets tough, it will be over at some point
- Don’t expect it to be short . I think the average is 20.4 months but my husband is going to end up being XO longer than he was a JO.
- So much of the commentary here resonates deeply. It really IS like sitting at the grown up table. We’re a year into the XO tour and just wrapped up a deployment. I tried my best to support the FRG and the OMB, and I feel like I’ve done that reasonably well, which eases the burden on my husband to track on some of those things. Mostly I focus on keeping our family and home stable. He knows that if he’s gone, I have it under control and he doesn’t have to worry. And when he’s home, he can be in the moment and relax with us rather than needing to fix something or mow or anything like that.
- I lean on non-boat friends more than any other sea tour. While I support the FRG and OMB and have a good relationship with them, I am careful to “stay in my lane” and not over advise. It’s not up to me to run or organize much of anything. As a result, I am freed up to volunteer with other organizations. Plus, my teenagers’ after school activities keep me busy. I also focus on my own hobbies.
- I feel like the best way I can support my husband is to make sure he knows I’ve got home covered so he can focus on the needs of the boat, and l listen when he needs to decompress. And he doesn’t realize it, but I pray over him a lot. And when he’s home, we can enjoy being together rather than trying to accomplish a bunch of chores. I call it “buying sanity.”
- We’re seeing the light at the end of our XO tour tunnel and it can’t come soon enough. We’ve had a great triad, but we’re at the shipyard in and moved peak-COVID so that has honestly sucked. There were no programs on base/in-person church/gyms open and available to meet new people and schools were all remote, so my school-aged kiddos hated it. It’s been much better since school started last fall and now masks mandates have been removed, so we’re FINALLY feeling a sense of normalcy. I’m hopeful for a great spring and summer! And now that we can do things as an FRG, I’ll (hopefully) get to see and meet more families.
- Our wardroom is very young and most of the guys are single, so there’s not been many gatherings, which is where I love making my ride-or-die friends. It’s been nice having him home every night, even if it’s late. Definitely communicate with each other about expectations, it’s a mentally tough and exhausting tour for your spouse, which in turn can be the same for you too. I hold it down at home and with the kiddos so he’s able to relax, unwind, and hang out with us in the evenings. We’ll miss the people on our boat when we leave, but we’re looking forward to shore duty!
- Our XO tour was challenging. It included a change of orders, geo baching, a change of homeport followed by the start of COVID, and then ended with me moving to Hawaii with my son while my husband finished his tour back in Norfolk. It’s not a tour I would want to repeat, but if I had to do it differently…I would have focused more on my own mental health, goals and support systems. I gave a lot to support my husband and now we are on shore duty and I’m almost playing “catch up” on my own life, if that makes sense.