Congratulations! You have orders to your first ship. Upon further research, it’s on deployment, and you have to meet it overseas. Whether you’re just graduating from your ‘A’ school, just receiving your commission, or whether you’ve been in for ten years & haven’t had the honor of serving at sea, there are some things you need to know.
It is the Navy’s responsibility to get you to your ship. However, you have the reciprocal responsibility of being aware of your surroundings, and to have enough insight & flexibility to anticipate things that may happen, which can affect your trip. The more you know, and the more you can do, the easier it will be to get you to your destination.
- Make sure you have your orders & your port call message. Your port call message will serve as an update to your orders, and will direct SATO to generate an accurate itinerary based on the ship’s schedule. Keep copies of these documents at all times.
- Make sure you have a current, valid passport. If you do not, apply for one as quickly as possible, and make sure that SATO & NAVPTO know you do not have one. The last thing you, or your ship needs, is for you to fly into a country & deal with customs issues because your ID and orders are insufficient. Egypt & Turkey are notorious for this.
- Make sure you have valid vaccinations & medications for where you are going. For example, if your ship is in 5thFleet, and you are supposed to meet it in Djibouti, make sure you check with Medical for malaria medicine. Also, if you have prescriptions, make sure you have enough to get you through the next 30 or even 60 days. A lot of people end up in 5thFleet, and are on hold for weeks due to operational commitments.
- If you do not have a travel card, make sure PSD is aware of this. You will most likely need travel advances for lodging & food, or at least a sufficient credit card ceiling to get you through the next several weeks. Check the per diem rates for the location you expect to end up, and make sure you calculate accordingly.
- Make sure you have established POC’s when you leave. If you don’t know who will be helping you at your destination, make sure you have someone to reach back to when you land.
- Keep in consideration time differences. Trying to reach back to PSD Norfolk from Bahrain, only to find out they won’t open for another 5 hours is frustrating. Instead, look up the closest, local activity. Online research prior to will help immensely.
- A reliable resource is the Logistics Support Center (LSC), operated by the FISC’s. Overseas, you will be working with LSC’s from either FISC Sigonella (5th& 6thFleet), FISC Pearl Harbor (3rd/7thFleet), or Yokosuka (7thFleet). You can find more information by researching each FISC on: www.navsup.navy.mil. In addition to each FISC location, LSC’s also operate in Rota, Naples, Souda Bay, Bahrain, Mildenhall (UK), Djibouti, Sasebo, Guam, Singapore, and Pearl Harbor.
Any more advice would probably be confusing. However, the most important advice is to keep common sense in mind. Landing in the Djibouti-Ambouli airport, located about 10 miles north of Somalia, and getting into a cab driven by a person who is almost sure to be consuming khat (a known hallucinogen) is dumb. Instead, make contact with the correct people to ensure that someone’s at the airport waiting for you when you land.