Single in the Navy, Part 1: Guest Post by Roger Morris

[Bella’s intro: Recently, a retired Navy veteran, Roger Morris, wrote to say that while he believed there was some singlism in the Navy, he also thought there were advantages to being a Navy single. I asked if he would elaborate on his perspective and share his wisdom with “All Things Single (and More)” readers and he very kindly agreed. In fact, he has so much to say that I’m presenting his essay in two parts. This is the first. Many thanks to you, Roger Morris, for the time you took to do this important research and writing. By the way, readers, see all that red on the map image accompanying this post? It shows all the places Roger Morris has been!]

Conversations with a Navy Single

Guest Post by Roger Morris

 INTRODUCTION:

I have never married nor fathered children.  I am also a 23-year Navy veteran who recently read Singled Out but who has discussed and counseled many Sailors on the single military life countless times during his active duty career.  I thought it would be interesting to add my own perspective in the form of many of those conversations.

PART I:

      “Come in, Seaman Jones.  You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, sir!  I just read Singled Out.”

“Good book!  Loved the research in it!”

“So you’re familiar with the section called ‘The Command Team Wears Wedding Bands’?”

“Sure.  And you’ve probably heard some of the same complaints, too.”

“So there is Singlism in the Navy then, right?

“Of course there is.  The Navy’s unfair to everyone in one way or another.  The military is a life of sacrifice.”

“Still, what I really want to know is this: do I have to ‘get married or get out’, sir?”

“What are you?  Stupid?”  (By the way, this is the verbatim reply of a senior enlisted Sailor the first time I overheard a single junior Sailor ask this type of question.  I personally never called any Sailor “stupid”.  Misguided, thoughtless or uniformed at times, but never stupid.)

“But, sir!  What about Singled Out?  Married Sailors get more pay and…”

“Just a minute!  Dr. DePaulo merely advises this: ‘Service members draw their own conclusions as to what these statistics mean.’  So let’s analyze that and draw our own conclusions.  Have you ever known anyone who enlisted to become wealthy?”

“Of course not, sir!”

“And you’d be a fool if you did.  Could you support a dependent on a junior enlisted salary?”

“Well, no, but married Sailors get…”

“Hold on a sec and think about it.  Everything in the military is decided almost solely on the basis of military effectiveness and efficiency.  For right now, if the Navy didn’t provide wages that could sustain a family, then every Sailor who got married, had a child or became sole support of a family member would have to be discharged from the Navy for ‘hardship’.  We’ve put a lot of time, effort and money in every Sailor’s training, and all that would be lost if every Sailor with a dependent had to be discharged.  In addition, every Sailor who didn’t like his orders could simply get married to get out.  Readiness would suffer, and it just wouldn’t work.”

“Well, it’s still not fair, sir!  Married Sailors still get more pay than Single Sailors.”

“Really?  Unfortunately, I’ve known Sailors with dependents who had to go on food stamps.  I’ve never known a Sailor without dependents who had to go on food stamps, and I’ve been in for 23 years.  Is that fair?”

“I guess not, but they get more money.”  (See Here)

“Maybe their dependents do, but who gets the best pay, benefits and housing in the Navy: senior enlisted or junior enlisted?”

“Well, the senior enlisted do, of course.”

“Really.  Now who gets more pay?  A married E-4 with dependents or a single E-7 without dependents?”

“Well, a single E-7 without dependents, of course, but that’s not really a fair comparison.  Single Sailors without dependents still have to work harder because they have to live on the ship or in the barracks, and they get called up for special details all the time.”

“That’s right.  And because of that, they get seen more by their superiors, get more training from their superiors on those details, get more commendations for those special details and training, and advance faster than married Sailors.”

“Is that true, sir?”

“A few years back, an official OASD study for the CBO reported that ‘although married soldiers get promoted to E-4 in a similar time frame as those who are single, promotion to the more competitive enlisted grades (E-5 to E-9) typically occurs at a faster rate for single soldiers. Further, single soldiers report having fewer problems responding to No-Notice alerts and to No-Notice unit deployments’.”  (See Here.)

“It’s still not fair.”

“Not fair to the married Sailors, maybe, but the Navy is unfair to everyone in some ways.  Maybe single Sailors just have more incentive to advance than married Sailors do.  Maybe while you’re focusing on your advancement, married Sailors have less off-duty time for training and special details.”

“But you still admit they get more pay, sir!”

“I’ll admit married Sailors get more gross pay, better benefits and better housing per paygrade, or maybe their spouses do.  Single Sailors get more net pay per paygrade, and since they advance faster, single Sailors get more pay over the course of a 20-year career than married Sailors.”

“Wait, sir!  Got one more from the book!  A married Sailor can build up equity in a house.”

“A single Sailor can, too.  I own 2 properties myself and rent them out.  Single Sailors who get promoted faster than married Sailors can also afford to buy property if they wish.”

“What if the single Sailor gets reassigned, though?”

“Same for a married Sailor who’s reassigned.”

“But a married Sailor’s tour is 3 years, not 2.”

“And to build equity in a house, anyone generally should keep the house for at least 5 years before selling it.  If the single Sailor gets reassigned, he or she can rent or sublet for the price of the mortgage and insurance, building equity without any real cost.  The married Sailor either has to rent out one house and still pay for living quarters for his dependents, or he has to be separated from his family and live onboard the ship or in government barracks while sending that ‘extra pay’ back to his dependents.”

About the Author:

Roger Morris joined the U.S. Navy to see the world.  After 23 years, 184 countries and 34 states, he retired to southern Illinois where he lives alone and enjoys being boring.

Stay tuned for Part 2, to be posted in the next few days.

    9 thoughts on “Single in the Navy, Part 1: Guest Post by Roger Morris

    1. As I read this I was thinking…

      If it’s essentially impossible to support dependents upon a an enlisted sailor’s salary, then perhaps the pay of all sailors should be increased across the board, rather than just paying the married sailors more. Or maybe the spouse of a sailor could work too.

      And if the spouse worked, there’d be no dependents, unless there were children. In which case we’re talking more about families with children vs families without, and not couples vs singles.

      And I can’t help but notice that this isn’t consistent with practices in the civilian world, where they (ideally) pay you based upon your qualifications, how well you perform, and how much in demand your skills are. Job turnover can have a major impact in the civilian world of work too, but they don’t make special arrangements with married employees to keep them on.

    2. Alan, thank you for your thoughts. I necessarily had to condense and simply (over-simplify?) military pay, but here is more information for your consideration.

      The spouse of a Sailor is considered to be a dependent whether or not the spouse works. It doesn’t matter how much the spouse makes, either. “Dependent” is an official term, rather than a description. Sorry for not making that clear enough.

      Increasing the pay of all Sailors across the board is one possible solution, but of course it would require our tax dollars. On the other hand, the Navy is not a business, and pay is not dependent on qualifications or performance for the simple reason that if all service members are not doing their jobs extremely well, then people sooner or later will die, whether it’s the Soldiers, Airmen, Marines or Sailors on your team or the civilians you’re trying to protect. I do wonder how different DoD pay is from other non-profit organizations where volunteer workers are paid subsistence wages. I frankly don’t know.

      After reading “Handouts for Husbands” in Singled Out, it seems the civilian world does make special arrangements with married employees, whether or not its for retention. One other interesting point you brought up is about job turnover. Turnover can have a major impact in the civilian world. In the military, turnover of everyone in their current job (from the President on down to the Seaman) will absolutely occur, and amelioration of its impacts is constantly considered. In Part 2, I do give my thoughts on how that turnover can have also a beneficial effect in the evolution of the organization.

    3. What a nice read for a sunny day here in rural south central Arkansas about Roger Morris joined the U.S. Navy to see the world. After 23 years, 184 countries and 34 states, he retired to southern Illinois where he lives alone and enjoys being boring.
      I say 4 stars to you Mr. Morris for your wonderful, exciting and creative long life! I cannot wait to read part two. This is so sad, but true: “I’ll admit married Sailors get more gross pay, better benefits and better housing per paygrade, or maybe their spouses do.”
      No harm intended, but your obit Mr. Morris, would be nice to read in the future. Here is mine in draft form (2012), OBITUARY Arkansas, Friday, February 17, 2069 – 12:00 AM — Arkansas State Oldest Citizen Slips Away in her Sleep
      Mena – Miss Dew Frederic, PhD, 116 of Hot Springs passed away peacefully in her sleep at the tiny home with her caregiver and friends, Saturday, December 2, 2069. Born in Jacksonville, Florida February 18, 1953, the only child of the late Carlton Bryan and Josephine Frederic Bryan. Miss Frederic enjoyed her childhood with a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and church members in sunny Florida, which she wrote about in her biography after the age of 110, ‘Five Oceans: Behind this Quiet and Eventful Life’. She attended schools in Jacksonville, Florida, and graduate from high school. A retired educator, she graduate from Henderson State University with a Master of Arts in Education, and the Loyola University of Chicago with a PhD in Philosophy. Dr. Frederick was a lifelong member of The Sierra Club. She spent most of her life outside in nature, and was a past volunteer with the Hot Springs VIPS program. She also enjoyed playing cards and sharing with her large circle of friends, sewing, art, gymnastics, especially quilting, was an avid reader, and enjoyed traveling. She gave up driving a car early in her life and walked instead. She never married, but leaves an enormous legacy of good. There are no known survivors. A public celebration of her life will be held by friends at Queen Wilhelmina State Park in the Ouachita Mountains atop 2,681-foot Rich Mountain, Arkansas’s second highest mountain, home to the Arkansas Native Plant and Wildlife Center. The body has been cremated. Ashes will be scattered at a later date. Arrangements are by Kirby & Family and Cremation Services. Visit online obituary/guestbook at http://www.kirbyandfamily.com.
      Remember, readers, Obits, after all, give credit for living, not just dying.
      Elderberry not seeking a boysenberry in rural Arkansas
      (I love boredom. smiles)

    4. In the meantime, I added this short bio, while waiting to read Part Two of Mr. Morris’ life in the navy. February 18, 2012–John Fairfax, Who Rowed Across Oceans, Dies at 74 By MARGALIT FOX

      “Ms. Cook, who became an upholsterer and spent the rest of her life quietly on dry land (though she remained a close friend of Mr. Fairfax), lives outside London.” “He’s always been a gambler,” Ms. Cook, 73, recalled by telephone on Wednesday. “He was going to the casino every night when I met him — it was craps in those days. At 13, in thrall to Tarzan, he ran away from home to live in the jungle. He survived there as a trapper with the aid of local peasants, returning to town periodically to sell the jaguar and ocelot skins he had collected. He crossed the Atlantic because it was there, and the Pacific because it was also there.
      He made both crossings in a rowboat because it, too, was there, and because the lure of sea, spray and sinew, and the history-making chance to traverse two oceans without steam or sail, proved irresistible. In 1969, after six months alone on the Atlantic battling storms, sharks and encroaching madness, John Fairfax, who died this month at 74, became the first lone oarsman in recorded history to traverse any ocean. In 1972, he and his girlfriend, Sylvia Cook, sharing a boat, became the first people to row across the Pacific, a yearlong ordeal during which their craft was thought lost. (The couple survived the voyage, and so, for quite some time, did their romance.) Both journeys were the subject of fevered coverage by the news media. They inspired two memoirs by Mr. Fairfax, “Britannia: Rowing Alone Across the Atlantic” and, with Ms. Cook, “Oars Across the Pacific,” both published in the early 1970s. Mr. Fairfax died on Feb. 8 at his home in Henderson, Nev., near Las Vegas. The apparent cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Tiffany. A professional astrologer, she is his only immediate survivor.

    5. • guardian.co.uk, Sunday 19 February 2012 13.28 EST— Elizabeth Connell as Leonore and James McCracken as Florestan in Fidelio at the San Francisco opera house in 1987. Photograph: Ron Scherl/Redferns — The internationally acclaimed dramatic soprano Elizabeth Connell, who has died at the age of 65 of cancer, was a dedicated artist with a popular following who paced her career to perfection. Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, she studied in Britain at the London Opera Centre and made her debut as a mezzo-soprano at Wexford as Varvara in Kát’a Kabanová (1972). Between 1975 and 1980 she sang regularly at English National Opera, tackling major roles such as Eboli in Don Carlos, Azucena in Il Trovatore, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and Judith in Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. After singing Ortrud in Lohengrin and Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde at Bayreuth (1980-82), she made the switch from mezzo to soprano in 1983, following which she took on a wide range of challenging roles including Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Marie in Wozzeck, Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, Leonore in Fidelio, Norma, Senta in The Flying Dutchman and Ariadne. Then, just as she might have been expected to begin to wind down, she blossomed in her 60s in immensely taxing roles such as Turandot and Elektra, her voice sounding as youthful as ever. Benefiting from her own research into the history and technique of singing and a shrewd management of vocal resources, she continued to give audiences immense pleasure with her fresh, intelligent, often thrilling performances. At a solo recital at St John’s Smith Square, London, in November 2010, she delivered an amusing self-deprecating diva’s farewell, written for her by Betty Roe: “When a diva says she’s going/There’s no earthly way of knowing/Just how long her going’s going to protract.” Retirement at that point was not in fact her intention: she was bidding farewell to Britain only to take up more engagements in Australia. Sadly, illness intervened the following year and she died back at her home in Richmond-on-Thames, displaying to the end her sly wit and indomitable spirit.
      She first came to Britain in 1970 and studied with Otakar Kraus, rapidly making a reputation for herself in Britain and Australia. The years 1975 to 1980, when she sang a number of mezzo roles with ENO, were a golden period for both her and her many London fans. Particularly outstanding in these years were her girlish, almost flirtatious Sieglinde (Die Walküre), an intensely moving Waltraute (Götterdämmerung) and a stunning Eboli, while the youthfulness of her tone offered new insights into the roles of Amneris (Aida) and the Kostelnicka, the churchwarden’s widow (Jenufa). In the Italian Girl in Algiers she displayed impressive coloratura and an unexpected comic gift.
      She also made her Covent Garden debut at this time as Viclina in I Lombardi (1976). It was during her three-year stint at Bayreuth at the start of the 1980s that she began to realise that low-lying roles such as Kundry (a part she was covering) were not suitable for her. Reinventing herself as a dramatic soprano, she graced the major international stages – including La Scala, the Metropolitan, Munich, Hamburg, Glyndebourne, Vienna and San Franciso – with a succession of roles in which she demonstrated flawless diction, a dynamic stage personality that verged on the hyperactive and above all an engaging vocal quality. Her recordings included Guillaume Tell under Riccardo Chailly, Mahler’s Symphony No 8 under Klaus Tennstedt, Franz Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten under Lothar Zagrosek, Schubert lieder with Graham Johnson, operatic scenes by Wagner and Strauss under Muhai Tang, and Owen Wingrave under Richard Hickox. Her 1997 recording of the role of Isolde under Eve Queler demonstrated both her burnished, jewel-like tone and a legato line made up of animated phrases alert to text. The character’s anger and sarcasm in Act I were conveyed through biting consonants and tonal colouring rather than weight of voice; the Liebestod too was characteristically infused with humanity. Over a decade later, by which time she was 62, Connell delighted audiences yet again with her Turandot at Covent Garden (a role she had taken previously in Hamburg, Prague and with Opera Australia). Here once more her voice sounded astonishingly youthful, yet was also notable for its warmth and generosity – a welcome change from the steely tone traditionally evinced by the ice princess. The character she projected was still formidable but also touchingly vulnerable. She is survived by her three brothers, John, Peter and Paul, and her sister, Rosemary. • Elizabeth Connell, opera singer, born 22 October 1946; died 18 February 2012
      She was one of my favorite singers. Just in case you missed this announcement. Single in Arkansas

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