From Oklahoma City, OK — 12/09/2009
The Navy should have two categories, one for E-7 and above, and one for E-6 and below.
While it's a fairly common remark in the military, most of this job can easily be summed up by the phrase RHIP, or Rank Has It's Privledges. For the average joe who signed up to serve his country, and himself at the same time, it's a decent enough situation.
Come to work. Know your job. Do your job. Get a litte money. Deploy. Get a little more money. Come home. Take 15 days off. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. There's a few exceptional breaks in the cycle, but overall, that's how the wheel turns here.
Pay: This is an odd topic. Again, if you are a chief petty officer or recieving a commission, the pay it pretty decent. You live at about the 50kish a year range on average after bonuses and benefits. Never enough to live without planning carefully, unless you have progressed pretty high as an officer.
If you are E - 6 or below (the majority of the navy) it IS true that your base pay is at or about the "poverty line." That being said, we as Americans have a ridiculously high line of poverty. As an E-5 I can support two children, just bought a house, and not married so I'm working on a single income with an owned vehicle.
There was an officer earlier who, as most officers do, generalized all enlisted into a high school only class of money blowing vagabonds. He did however make a good point that most people in financial strains in the military are there because of bad or ignorant financial decisions.
Bottom Line: If you are single, you will make enough money to support yourself whether you live off base or on ship. If you are a family man, it's tough until at LEAST E-5, which can take anywhere from 2 to 8 years, depending on your rate and your test taking aptitude.
Respect: If you are E-7 or above, respect is pretty much certain, if not from anything else other than the mistrust between blueshirts and khakis, weighted by the Khakis ability to completely destroy the like of a E-6 or belows life on a whim to "teach them a lesson." If you arent a khaki wielding son of a gun, prepare to have words put in your mouth, boots in your $$, and a general dismissal of your thoughts and opinions unless it's right after a chiefs initation or you recieve one of the rare few people worthy of your followership in the navy as your superior.
Benefits: These are solid around the board and regardless of the moans and complaints about Navy Medical giving you nothing but Tylenol and Motrin, we don't have people dying of Scurvy or infection left and right. There IS a TSP/401k like program, but the goverment wont match it unless your a civilian working in government service.
Job Security: Unless you don't know how to maintain yourself as a person, it's top notch. A ensured pay raise every year and a fairly easy to reach retirement mark are hard to beat. Just don't get a DUI, get too fat, do drugs. Some rates are at risk of not advancing in time to reach time in rate thresholds, ( meaning advance to this paygrade in X years or get a severance package) but the Navy accomodates rate transfers to meet guidelines.
Work/Life Balance: This is also universal among all paygrades. You will deploy. You will stand watch. You will work late some days and get off at noon on others. The navy is a single mans profession in my opinion, but they have certain options for people with families. Some rates do not deploy as much as others, or can stay off a ship an entire term of service by meeting the needs of the navy on shore. There will complaints and scoffs when you ask about this, but its a right and a legitimate need the navy CAN accomodate. TAR/FTS is an acceptable program for a family sailor, even if it gets you labeled as "An anchor" by the officer in the post below mine.
Growth: This is varied by the rate you qualify for when entering the navy if enlisted, or by your ability to suck up or dodge blame, if commissioned. Each rating in the navy has a particular advancement availability. Do some research before joining. As a side note, showing EXTRA effort and studying for your tests are 80% of getting promoted.
Location: You have little control of where you go, and you will be lied to from time to time, or get the ol bait n switch if the navy wants you somewhere bad enough.
Co-Worker Competence: Your coworkers are people just like you, working, making money, serving the Navy. The only hitch is every year at evaluation time, they become your competition as well. This is where the navy's buddy-f*ck system comes in, as your ranking among peers determines your .. bonus points.. towards advancement. Always try to out perform the other guy.
Leadership: This isnt a listed category, but I'm adding it here because it needs addressed. Be careful who you trust. On a ship at sea, your Chief or Division Officer have the pretty much unhindered ability to ruin your life with little or no justification. Whether you are labeled as worthless and it's deserved, or you have made a mistake and you are being crucified, you will find many time where unjust punishment, and rewards, are handed out. Officers tend to overgeneralize the enlisted massess as uneducated laborers who would sink the ship with out them. Chiefs and above tend to end conversations with, "I'm right because I'm a chief.", and that's it. In no other organization, even other military branches, will you find as much corruption and ineptitude as you will between the ranks of E-7 and E-8, and O-1 to O-5.
I left out Master Chiefs and Captains and above. They got their humanity back when they stopped being a part of the greater rat race. All I'm saying is don't trust a person willing to step on you for their own benefit, or to use you as a pawn to gain bullets on their evaluations for the next rank. There are very few golden rarities, who have the leadership capabilties to inspire you to keep on in spite of the pettiness rampant in our leadership ranks.