SASEBO, Japan - I originally had three-year orders out here with forward-deployed USS Essex (LHD 2). When it came time for me to pick my orders at my nine-month window, I met my future wife, Aya.
I let my nine-month window go by to spend about a month with her to see where it was going. Before I left on deployment, I had eight months left and I hadn't seen anything bad from this girl, so I decided to extend for four months to match my projected rotation date (PRD) to my end of active obligated service (EAOS). I wanted more to time to see if this was going to work between us.
Things started getting serious. When I got back from deployment in 2011, we picked up right where we left off. There were no hesitations. I re-enlisted for two years and dropped an Overseas Tour Enlistment Incentive Program (OTEIP) request.
After about 10 months of dating, I proposed to her and we got married.
I didn't want to pick orders with only eight months left, so I extended eight months to match my PRD to EAOS with an intention to re-enlist.
When it came time to pick orders again, I wanted to stay in Japan, more or less for my wife. I love the country. The atmosphere is great. I don't mind this work center. I don't mind the department. Sometimes the going gets rough, but it's what you make of it; just roll with the punches.
At my seven-month window, there were no orders. I just wanted to stay in Japan for one more tour. I called my detailer and asked what I needed to do to stay in Japan. Basically, he said the only way I could stay in Japan was to retour where I was assigned.
At this point, we had just done a hull swap from Essex to USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Then there was a mid-cycle inspection (MCI), a Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). For a whole year, there was inspection after inspection and I was getting burned out on this.
My wife said, “I'll go where ever you want to go.”
I told her, “How about two more years?”
I wouldn't have to start up from scratch. So I told the detailer, I want to extend here for another two years.
About a month later, my department head, the Maintenance Officer, said, “Hey man, what are you thinking?”
“What is that, sir?” I asked.
“Three more years on the BHR? Really?”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“I saw a message that said you chose three more years on the BHR.”
“Should be only two.”
“Nope. Definitely three.”
I immediately got on the phone and said, “Hey AO1, I thought you said I would be touring for two years?”
He said, “No, no, no. You see, when you retour, you have to fill the current billet your in. Your in a command sponsored billet.”
The hard copies were already coming.
That was almost three years ago. I finally got new orders recently.
For this PRD, I talked to my detailer and said, “Hey man, you gotta get me out of this place. I'm at seven years straight of forward-deployed sea duty and I need to go. I want shore duty anywhere. Anywhere. You can send me to the moon if they have a duty station up there.”
He emailed me and said hey, “I have some shore duty orders; AO2 billet in Atsugi.” I check out in October.
I stepped foot on the Essex on Aug. 21, 2008. I've been through two AMIs, which are the big Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) inspections, two INSURVs, one MCI, a hull swap, and the natural disaster, Operation Tomodachi.
We do a lot of good things on this boat. A lot of support missions, a lot of training missions.
I will say, now with having six months left here, it's time for me to go. When people get here, I still tell them to this day, it's what you make of it. I still have fun every day.
By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class James Mitchell
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6)
Provided through DVIDS
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