Morale: Sabbaticals for Special Sailors


June 4, 2007: The U.S. Navy is putting together a really novel plan to help keep personnel in uniform. And the plan is all about letting NCOs and officers take an unpaid sabbatical, of up to two years, to do whatever they want to do. At the end of their sabbatical period, as long as they are still physically able, they can rejoin the navy, with their rank, time-in-grade and other benefits intact. The sabbatical can be used for anything from child care, or looking after an elderly parent, going to school, working on some weird project, or just getting away from the navy for a while.

Although the navy is still downsizing, it continues to have problems hanging on to key technical and command personnel. Chief Petty Officers in certain key areas (like electronics, nuclear power or special operations) are very expensive to replace. These men and women usually have ten or more years of service, and several years of schooling, in addition to job experience. That takes ten years, and several million dollars, to replace. So if the availability of a sabbatical will keep a few of these NCOs or officers in for twenty, or thirty, years of service, the program will be worth it.

The idea for these sabbaticals came up seven years ago, The idea was to change the way people serve, so that there are "on ramps" and "off ramps." One example used back then was navy computer specialists who were leaving for more exciting civilian opportunities. With the new plan, the Navy grants you two years sabbatical so's you can work in Bill Gates' super-secret skunk works or some such, and then you come back, possibly with a promotion and better pay, and lots of nifty new skills. The "on ramp" part of this plan, which is not being considered at the moment, suggested reaching out to recruit specialists from the civilian job market, offering special commissions or enlistments, and other benefits, to potential short term sailors.

The navy expects to have all the details of the sabbatical program worked out by the end of the year.


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