Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Retiring From Sea Duty Vs. Shore Duty

One of my classmates from SOAC, CDR John Kropcho III, was relieved as CO of USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) on Friday, and retired at the same ceremony. John's career was fairly unique, in that this was his 3rd sea tour aboard the Jacksonville; he had also done his JO and XO tours on the boat.

I haven't heard from John in a while, but I'm intrigued by his decision to retire at the end of a sea tour, especially considering the boat just returned from a six-month Atlantic deployment about 4 weeks ago. Normally, you see people retire from shore duty; this gives them a chance to do some job hunting while they're still on active duty, as well as making the scheduling of the required seminars / medical appointments easier. On the other hand, it would seem that being a CO might give one good connections within the boat's namesake city/state, and this could lead to some good opportunities. I'm sure John did what was right for himself, and I wish him Fair Winds and Following Seas as he embarks on the next phase of his life.

So what do you think? From what type of duty is it optimal to retire? Are there advantages to retiring from sea duty that I haven't thought of?

Update 0646 17 Dec 08: Pictures from the change of command / retirement ceremony are here and here.


Blogger Sandy Salt said...

Can't think of one advantage, but you can have a job lined up long before getting out. I was able to set one up 8 months before retiring with very little effort, so he might have been able to do the same.

12/15/2008 1:56 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Many moons ago I was involved with the detailing of 1120 O-5s and O-6s.

My advice to folks looking towards the door was 'get a twilight tour somewhere with a shot at real conflict-of-interest'. Or, past joking about it, at least position themselves for post-retirement employment.

Punching out directly from a sea tour strikes me as the least favorable way to get on with life. Certainly the tour gives one nothing of direct value in the civilian world.

12/15/2008 2:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One obvious benefit of punching out from a sea tour: it gives you 2-3 years more time to develop your civilian career before you retire from that one. If you get a good civilian job, that decision is almost certainly better than the twilight tour option (from a financial perspective).

If you're sure you want out of the Navy, then staying in for a 2-3 yr twilight tour is probably just a waste of your time. That was my rationale for forgoing a post-JO shore tour and going right to business school. (and it worked out well might I add)

Rubber ducky does make a good point about working yourself into the gears of the military-industrial complex, but that option is obviously not for everyone. I would think 20 yrs of fighting the Navy/gov't bureaucracy would enough for anyone, but I guess some people have a higher pain tolerance than others...

12/15/2008 2:17 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

It's just tough to network from a sea tour. Also tough to participate in the various preps courses that outfits like MOAA offer.

OTOH, if going straight to grad school, no downside.

12/15/2008 2:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the best of both worlds, retiring off a SSBN tour (no better shore duty in the world!). I took 50 days off (20 house/job hunt and 30 leave), sold back 30 days and started working for NUWC Keyport while still on active duty for 30 days. It was nice getting a full paycheck every week.

12/15/2008 2:41 PM

Blogger Navy Blue Cougar said...

I retired from sea duty. In fact, I was on deployment until June and I was on terminal leave at the beginning of August. I was put TDY to squadron when I got back to Hawaii. My only "job" at squadron was to do whatever I needed to get done for the transition back to the civilian side of things. I already had a place in school lined up before I got out and was able to return to the mainland. It gave me enough time to get settled in and even a few weeks to relax before school started. It was kind of fast-paced, but since I wasn't job hunting, it wasn't all that bad.

12/15/2008 3:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on him for retiring from the best job in the Navy, especially right after deployment.

Takes some guts. The counterargument (that he probably heard from the Commodore!) is that it "send a bad message" to the troops. Not sure I agree with that, but undoubtedly that's just one flavor of the flak that he took.

Gutsy move.

And, from what I hear, a move that is becoming more common. Lots of post-command but pre-major command retirements these days.

12/15/2008 4:57 PM

Anonymous Veemann said...

Seems kind of nuts to me to retire directly from a sea tour, not to mention one where you are the CO. Raises a red flag in my mind. I see no good reason to leave at this point because of reasons stated by Rubber Ducky and others. Reasons I would speculate he left now are: 1) Offer he couldn't refuse - job lined up, family money, taking over the family business, etc. or 2) Personal or family issues - spouse, elderly parent, EFM, had enough. 3) Some other issue in his history that made it prudent to get out vice stay in. I don't know the guy and will give him the BOTD that it was positive vice negative reason he got out. Just seems a little wierd to me.

12/15/2008 7:11 PM

Anonymous Ross Kline said...

I retired right after a return from and SSBN patrol. The original schedule had me taking leave during the run, but manning issues killed that. I took a combination of terminal leave / househunting TAD. My retirement date was the 30th of September and I started my new job the 7th of it worked out well.

12/15/2008 7:17 PM

Blogger Bigbill said...

I will likely retire after my next sea tour that starts in August 09. My PRD will be August 2012 which will put me at 27 years. I am a 6400 LDO and the O-5 selection is slim. For now, I don't see the point of hanging out to 29-30 to see if I can make CDR. My next tour is a check in the block for CDR so I'm not burning any bridges but I need to realistic. I may just go the 2340 path since I will retire while in a yard period at Puget and I qualified on S8G and A4W. My kid could stay in the same school district plus I really like this house.

12/15/2008 7:53 PM

Blogger BlueShirtO said...

In response to Veemann, John Kropcho is a boat school classmate of mine - a real stand up guy. I have the highest respect for him, even if we haven't connected for a couple decades. As a matter of fact, I left from my JO tour - had a plan lined up, and felt that life was too short to tread water for 2 years. Finish well and move on. That's probably what John is doing.

12/15/2008 10:44 PM

Anonymous Chuck ETC(SS) nuc said...

I retired from an SSN in PH. I was nearing 20 years with a 4% advancement chance so I had planned to retire when the tour was up. The last year I had the support of a great Skipper and I did three trips to the East Coast from Hawaii, all on MAC flights, to hire a contractor, get a building loan, and to job hunt. I found my new career online and interviewed in June, to start on Dec 11th, prior to me transferring to FR on Dec 31st. We returned from sea on a Weds, my retirement ceremony was Friday, and I flew off the island on Monday. I was ready, butonly because I had planned it out and had command support.

12/16/2008 7:51 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note the fact that he had 24 yrs in the Navy-- i.e. he was prior enlisted.

I can promise you that his decision to retire didn't help the upward mobility of those prior guys coming up for CO & XO selection, and will probably result in more flag level pressure on any other CO who wants to retire straight out of command.

12/16/2008 8:49 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...

Retiring from sea duty can be damn tough, especially if you lack command support for your transition. A friend of mine retired from an SSN. He was initially only offered 30 days of terminal leave and NO TAD Job/Househunting. As the time neared, his command reneged on the 30 days and informed him he could extend for 30 days and get the terminal leave, but he was needed for ORSE. He balked, and they kept him onboard. He ended up on the engineering drill team, not on watch, not running the division. His replacement was already onboard and was running the show. In fact, he BSP'd off the boat on his EAOS date right into retirement. Nothing like sending a 20 year Chief off with a bitter feeling!

12/16/2008 10:36 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...

Retiring from sea duty can be damn tough, especially if you lack command support for your transition. A friend of mine retired from an SSN. He was initially only offered 30 days of terminal leave and NO TAD Job/Househunting. As the time neared, his command reneged on the 30 days and informed him he could extend for 30 days and get the terminal leave, but he was needed for ORSE. He balked, and they kept him onboard. He ended up on the engineering drill team, not on watch, not running the division. His replacement was already onboard and was running the show. In fact, he BSP'd off the boat on his EAOS date right into retirement. Nothing like sending a 20 year Chief off with a bitter feeling!

12/16/2008 10:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I retired from shore and took a pretty big pay cut doing it. About $1000 a month for the last 3 years on active duty. Loss of Sea Pay, Sub Pay, lower Nuke Pay. I don't regret it one bit. I also went on terminal and am working at NUWC Keyport. Three months on terminal after I started here. What a nice paycheck! I probably could not have done that from seaduty.

12/16/2008 10:42 AM

Blogger Marty said...

Totally agree with Veemann. The chances of making O-6, in the absence of any mitigating factors, has got to be over 90%. There is no good (obvious) reason for him to retire right after Command. But I hope he does have good reasons as Veemann cites, not bad. I have known a couple of post-command types who had to retire because of the ... "bad".

12/16/2008 11:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I retired from shore tour at CSP Staff on November 30 1977. I retired one month before "constructive time" transfers to Fleet Reserve were abolished. I went out on 20 while actually serving 18 years 3 months and 27 days.

when I left SS-580 in 1975 for a staff job I was actually unsure about staying or going. I gave myself six months to investigate CWO/LDO program or retirement. After talking with shipmates who had gone that route, I decided to retire. At the time I'd just had enough of submarines and sub weapons. Enrolled as part time student at UH Manoa using tuition assistance program and had two and half years completed on my BS degree by retirement date. My boss N-612 sent me TAD for a week during my last month on active duty to do a Training Assist and to be part of the MK 48 torpedo cert team (TCT). CDR in charge of MK 48 TCT tried to get me to pull my retirement papers and come over to his team for a sea duty tour. I said thanks but no thanks. I worked right up to retirement day as there was no such thing as "terminal leave" back then.

Stayed in Hawaii two more years and completed my B.S. About a year after retirement I was approached by a former shipmate, a retired CDR and former CSP N-61, with a job offer with a defense contractor. It would have required me to start riding boats going to the Barking Sands Range. didn't even hesitate saying no. I was having to much fun as a student at UH Manoa.

Shore duty retirement worked out best for me. I have no idea what I would have ended up doing in post Navy life retiring directly from sea duty.

Keep a zero bubble......


12/16/2008 12:47 PM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

While it was over twenty years ago, I retired after two two year shore duty tours that permitted me to get my MBA on the GI Bill before hitting the job market. Doing the after hours MBA took the four years, so I retired, received my MBA and went to work in a two month period. I could not have done that off of a sea tour. But each retirement/leaving the service is an individual decision that has to be made in a manner best for that person. Since he got an LOM for his command tour, I am sure that he is not a slacker and has things mapped out to his satisfaction. I just hope the current economic situation doesn't mess up his plans.

12/16/2008 12:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I propose that this blog be renamed the submarine prattling wives' club. (kidding, kind of)

For me the bottom line is that anyone with the focus required to survive in a submarine crew can make things happen if chooses to do so (like getting a job, or getting into grad school). So the question isn't whether he'll be better off becoming a civilian - the numbers will almost always work out for the better, meaning ~2x in 2yrs for the lucky ones - it's whether he *wants* to become a civilian.

All of these objections to punching out from a sea tour sound like they're coming from people who never even gave it a shot, who will obviously write off the option as a bad idea (otherwise they would be forced to believe that they made the wrong decisions, and we all know how good 26-yr post-command officers are at that).

The last point above really is the best one: everyone has to go for what he wants. Want money? Go civilian immediately. Want security? Stay in till they kick you out. Want something new? Get out. Love the Navy? Stay in. Want to live in a major American city? Punch out. Love moving every 3 yrs? Sign on the dotted line. And so on and so forth ad nauseum. It's different for everyone; there's no OP-1 for planning your life.

I doubt this guy is a retard, so I'd guess that he found a good opportunity and went for it. Good for him.

12/16/2008 3:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point about him getting the LOM and
RADM Grooms was the guest speaker. He must have been in good standing.

But the comments about his age are valid: I am sure that the detailers would cringe at too many due course O-4s and O-5s who would be past 20 at the end of their XO &/or CO tours. Detailers lose control of people when people have retirement as an option.

So good on him for getting out after sea duty. Big balls! I like it.

12/16/2008 5:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heard a great story in late 80's while working for DOD in Europe. Seems that getting a CHENG for USS Coral Sea CVA-43 for her last Med deployment in 86, two of the O-5 nominee's had enough time to retire which they did rather than take orders to her. Ended up sending a twice deep-selected O-5, as CHENG who didn't have enough time to retire for his "opportunity to excel." Never heard how he made out, however Coral Sea completed her Med committment and launched strikes at Libya after the terrorist bombing of the club in Berlin. another quickie..

In late 86 I went to work for the USAF at RAF Bentwaters-Woodbridge. Walking through the 81st TFW Support Group Commanders parking lot on the way to his staff meeting I spotted a car with the following on the left hand side of the rear window:
As I got closer to the car the small print became apparent as follows:
Your Ass

Keep a zero bubble.....


12/16/2008 6:58 PM

Blogger Chap said...

I've got no knowledge of this officer--wouldn't talk in public if I did--and I'm talking in generalities here.

So if you're a departing CO, you're going to be detailer fodder for the shortage of control grade billets. Squadron rider, DC, et cetera. You're going from king of the world to dude in a cubicle, working for half pay, and already having achieved the thing submarine officers have drilled into their heads since birth as the ultimate goal. You aren't going back to sea, unless as an N6 staffie for a carrier; the things to look forward to are major command after a couple of tours and that's about it unless you think you have a shot at flag, or transition to AP.

If you stay for O-6, you lock yourself into about two shore staff tours because it takes about a year to be in zone, then a year to pin it on, then three years before you can retire at that rank.

The guy might have looked at all that and punched out, or he had a good offer, or he decided it was time to be home with the kids, or he decided an ex-wife was going to take too much of his paycheck to be worth staying in, or he was making a rash decision. No way to tell without better insight.

Oh, and for anon 3:58, competence in one field doesn't always mean competence in another. I've seen some really sharp operators not do well at some basic life skills, seen some senior officers completely hose their finances and retire with less to their name than I have in cash, et cetera. That time of life is tough for some senior folks as well--witness the prevalence of "loss of pants casualties" at about three years into O-6.

12/17/2008 10:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

SSN CO's wife here...I could totally see my husband doing this. In fact, I'd say the odds are at least 50/50 at this point. He's sort of manipulated the buy-a-nuke contract to work such that his bonus ends right at the end of his command tour. If he does this, he will retire right after returning from deployment. Why stick around? He will have just accomplished his goal; after that, it's time to move on.

12/17/2008 12:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not a question of "if" you punch out but a question of "when" as this post addresses. Everyone puts a value on all the issues mentioned above-and then makes the decision. The best advice I will pass on is that once the decision is made "Don't look back!"

12/17/2008 1:42 PM

Blogger RM1(SS) (ret) said...

I was on Jax with Kropcho as a JO - good officer. (And a very nice wife, IIRC.)

I returned from deployment in early Aug 03 and started stand-down. We returned to work on a Monday morning in early Sep, and I started terminal leave on Thursday morning, three days later.

It was nice keeping sea pay all the way up until retirement.

12/17/2008 6:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I don't know why CDR Kropcho retired, and I don't care. I've had numerous experiences with him and he's a stand-up solid guy.

Congrats to him on a successful command tour and deployment. I hope enjoys his hard earned retirement!!

12/19/2008 8:43 PM

Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

I've seen a number of guys retire straight from command. I once heard that used to be a reason for a DFC, if you just asked. But that might be a rumor. Typically, those speeches are awesome--absolutely free to say what you think. I don't know John even though he was a USNA classmate, but I doubt he had 4 years prior to USNA...and academy time does not count for squat.

I wish him the best, and on a selfish note, it's always nice to have less competition in the game.

1/04/2009 1:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, mystery solved. He was YG88. The media folks counted his USNA time but he was really retiring with 20 years on the books. (He was a VGEPer so that delayed him 1 year prior to nuc school, this his timing was perfect for retiring out of command!)

Again, ballsy. I heard the same thing that srvdssnco heard: ask to retire and you'll be granted both permission and a DFC.

I think he did like EVERY tour in Norfolk. So the prospect of moving (which is effectively guaranteed after a short deputy/npeb/tre gig).


5/19/2009 7:41 PM

Anonymous said...

Goodness, there is a lot of useful data here!

10/05/2011 1:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's married to a superior ranking officer in the Air Force. I'm sure he was just fine job hunting from his home vs. staying on and doing a shore tour. 24 years is long enough for anyone.

3/18/2013 12:36 PM


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