Misawa sailors get rare visit from top Navy leader
Stars and Stripes June 25, 2007
NAVAL AIR FACILITY, Misawa — For more than an hour Friday morning, sailors E-6 and below from Japan’s northernmost U.S. Navy installation had the ear of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen.
The all-hands call was a rare opportunity for the Misawa-based sailors and was Mullen’s last stop in the Pacific during a trip that included a visit to Yokosuka Naval Base on Tuesday.
“I’ve been in the Far East for 10 years and I’ve never seen the CNO visit this [area of operation],” said Chief Petty Officer Earl Burpo, with NAF Misawa’s environmental department. He was one of eight sailors the four-star admiral re-enlisted during his visit.
“I think it’s good for service men and women and dependents to get a chance to meet him and see what he has to say about our future,” Burpo said.
Mullen told sailors change lies ahead — “how you get trained, how we develop our leaders, how we advance in the future.”
Down the road, he said, the Navy is looking at “geographic stability” by keeping sailors at duty locations longer so spouses can have a career and children can attend the same school system longer.
“We’re not going to walk away from sea-to-shore rotations, but I don’t think it will be what it [has been] up until now,” he said.
Mullen also opened the floor to questions.
One sailor asked if advancement changes are going to do away with high-year tenure rules, asserting that “high-year tenure does away with a lot of good people.”
Mullen said he doesn’t foresee changes to the policy. But as the Navy “flattens out” with ongoing force reductions, “I think advancement opportunities will go up,” he said. He encouraged sailors in a tight rate to consider making a lateral move to less competitive Navy careers.
Another sailor asked whether it’s possible to get back unused Montgomery GI Bill benefits or to transfer them to one’s spouse or children.
“I’m not familiar with getting your money back,” Mullen said. But he noted the Army, through a pilot program, is evaluating authorizing use of that money by dependents. “We’ll take the results of that to answer that question,” Mullen said.
Asked about the Navy’s new service uniform, Mullen said those likely will be issued starting next spring or summer.
Mullen also was asked whether the Navy’s Consecutive Overseas Tour (COT) and Assignment Incentive Pay policies were justified, given they can cost the Navy more in both permanent change-of-station moves and bonuses.
Mullen stood firm on COT, which currently does not guarantee automatic overseas tour extension requests. “I believe you have to have a fresh flow of people into overseas places,” he said.
As for AIP, Mullen said it helps the Navy “put the right person in the right job.”
In response to another question, Mullen said he has no plans to change the Navy’s current fitness standards.
He noted in fiscal 2006, the first year for the new, higher standards, the Navy lost about 2,000 sailors due to fitness issues. This year, the Navy is on track to lose 1,500 to 1,600 sailors, he said.
“If you’re going to have a standard, you’ve got to enforce it, otherwise it’s a waste of time,” he said.