Navy Expands Incentives for Sailors to Extend Sea Duty Tours

Sailors man the rails on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), as the ship pulls into Busan for a scheduled port visit (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate/Released)
Sailors man the rails on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), as the ship pulls into Busan for a scheduled port visit (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate/Released)

The Navy wants sailors deployed on sea duty to Japan, Guam, or Rota, Spain, to consider staying out even longer.

A Navy administrative message, published Wednesday, offers sailors the chance to voluntarily extend their tours to a minimum of four years, in exchange for guaranteed shore duty at their next post, and "preferential consideration" for future billets.

Sailors who take this deal will also get a waiver for any time left on their prescribed sea tour, according to the message.

To get preferential consideration for detailing, sailors on sea tours to Japan, Guam, or Spain must extend their current tour by at least 12 months, according to the message.

"If multiple preferential applications are made for the same advertised billet, the best qualified member will be selected," the message states.

Sailors may also be eligible for the Overseas Tour Extension Incentives Program and Sea Duty Incentive Pay if they lengthen their tour.

A final provision of the message eliminates one possible obstacle for some sailors considering a longer sea tour: the prospect of extra time living as a married geobachelor. Effective immediately, first-term sailors in ranks E-3 and below will be authorized accompanied orders to locations for which dependents are already authorized.

Before now, sailors in these most junior ranks did not rate accompanied orders.

The array of new incentives signals demand for sailors at these forward-deployed posts.

"Our goal is to reward those sailors who volunteer to extend to meet the demands from the fleet," Rear Adm. John Meier, director, Career Management Department, Navy Personnel Command," said in a statement. "In addition to the incentives already in place, which remain options for sailors who meet extension criteria, these additional incentives should make it easier for sailors who make the decision to extend."

This news from the Navy comes a day after Navy Times reported the service had asked the Defense Department for permission to create longer sea duty tours.

Previously, tours were limited to a maximum of three years; but Navy officials told the outlet extending maximum tour length could help the service save on transfer costs and keep billets manned longer.

Last February, Navy Times reported that sea duty shortages had prompted the Navy to allow first-term sailors to extend their enlistments at sea.

To fill gaps, the Navy offered some 6,000 sailors the chance to extend in exchange for a waiver of "up or out" limits. The deal gave troops who might be struggling to advance within established limits extra time to make grade and continue on in their Navy career.

According to the new Navadmin, sailors who want to extend their sea-duty tour under the new policy must request to do so through a command career counselor 14 to 18 months prior to the projected rotation date.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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