How to Transition From Shore Duty to Sea Duty

If you’re so lucky to experience it, shore duty (or a common freudian slip short duty), is a blessed period of time when your sailor has a job (you guessed it) on shore. Depending on the role, they likely are not experiencing any underways or extended periods away from home. Shore tours can last as short as 18 months or as long as three years.

But depending on their contract, sailors may be called back to sea duty once they’ve completed their shore time.

Preparing to join a new submarine can carry so many emotions. Your sailor might be excited and anxious, while you might be depressed and scared. Sometimes a chaotic PCS is thrown in-between, which makes the experience all the more stressful. Sometimes a previous deployment seems so long ago, you ask yourself how could I possibly do it again?

So we asked some fellow spouses forany advice they had:

  • Stay organized. The transition to sea duty almost always comes with a PCS for us, so I try to keep our house organized (my basement is giving me side-eye as I write this).

  • Keep a positive mindset. I try to spend time thinking about the best parts of every possible duty station.

  • Prioritze therapy. These transitions are difficult AF, even after so many of them, so I try to make sure I’m as mentally healthy as possible before I have to do everything solo.

  • Communicate! Communicate with your spouse re: expectations and the role you want to play in the command. Make sure you are on the same page.

  • Advocate for your needs. I try to find ways to make it easier on everyone if it is going to be challenging sea duty (deployments). We do Hello Fresh, I have a house cleaner come, and I look for ways to ease the loss having those extra pair of hands around. For more deployment ideas, click here.

  • Divide and conquer. We discuss ways to make our lives easier that we can budget in so when we do have downtime it’s not spent doing only chores. In the shipyard, since he has been home more, we divide chores and do a speed clean together so it’s done faster. He also takes care of the pets in the AM and I take care of them in the PM. Each tour has been different in their own way so we learn from past tours and implement what worked best into the new tour. If we have to pivot and make changes we make sure to communicate that.

  • Try to stick to a routine. This completely changes from tour to tour, based on the type of boat, the job, the ages of our kiddos, etc. I’ve found that I do best when I find things that will be consistent even in the chaos of sea tour — routines, activities, etc. that will keep some semblance of stability even when the hours and schedule fluctuate. Sometimes I do that before a tour, sometimes I forget and then find myself floundering a bit before I remember.

  • Expect the worst. The biggest thing for sure for myself is to go ahead and expect the worst as far as schedule, changes, times out to sea etc and when it’s even slightly better it’s a win. As for the kiddos, it’s just sitting down and being honest with them about what daddy might miss out on etc but making sure he can support them in other ways when he’s working or out to sea.

  • Take each day as it comes. If the schedule is high tempo, we do whatever we can to make time together, even if it is only 30 minutes. During his DH tour I did my best to have lunch with him every time he had time. That extra 30-60 mins in the daytime truly helped. We made sure to make stand downs for us and not for visiting family. We have a 24 hour rule in our house that you have 24 hours to be frustrated, sad, angry, irritated, vent, whatever it may be about a situation but after that 24 hours is up, it’s on the the next and focusing on making the best out of whatever the situation may be.

  • Check your expectations at the door. Every sea duty is different, every command is different, and each tour presents unique challenges. Embrace the change and take every opportunity to learn and grow.

  • Make connections with other spouses. Get involved in your Family Readiness Group (FRG) or wardroom and treat yourself when you need to. For more on FRGs, click here.

  • Make sure your wine fridge is STOCKED! 

For more resources on deployments and anticipated sea time, click here.

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