Written by Kaye S.
NOTE: Procedures for boomers are different from fast attacks, and each sub WILL have different routines.
Movement dates for a sub are like due dates for babies... they are approximate at best and will be earlier or later without notice!
Your sailor has only an idea of these dates. Please don't expect him to be precise. And there are so many systems that must be in working order before a sub leaves port that no one knows exactly when they’re leaving.
The Ombudsman is given the planned date of departure, but can’t share it with anyone not listed on a sailor’s “Page 2” (where he designates next of kin) and she can’t share it via email – only in personal phone calls. For girlfriends and others not listed, she’ll give an approximate timeframe. She’ll say something like, “later this month,” or “early April.”
Your sailor will most likely call you the night before departure; however, there have been times I’ve been called by a sailor standing atop a sub which is leaving within the hour! He cannot say he’s about to depart. However, you’ll know by the tone of his voice or the things he says that departure is imminent.
You must not share this information with anyone! A repair or other issue might delay the departure by hours or a day, and if you’ve told others the boat is leaving, you’re putting the crew/sub at risk. Once you know the boat is safely at sea, you may tell others that your sailor is deployed. Personally, I don’t even say what day… I just say, “He left this week.”
The same is true for homecomings. The exact date of return won’t be given to the Ombudsman until usually within the week before – and sometimes, only 2-3 days before. Like before, if you learn the date of a return, you must not share it! When others ask, I usually say, “Gosh, I hope it’s soon - I’m tired of waiting!”
Homecoming can also change without warning. (True story: our boat’s Gold crew was on its way to port when North Korea conducted an un-anticipated nuclear bomb test. Their return was delayed for another two weeks).
Again, the Ombudsman is your source of information (remember that son’s emails are screened). She will tell you IF (big IF) there’s going to be:
- a “Tiger Cruise” (where family members meet the sub and ride in to port)
- a pier-side welcome, with or without tours of the boat
- Or if crew will be bussed to a meeting place on base to greet families.
This is where boomers and fast attacks are very different. Fast attacks have pier-side greetings more often and with less hassle. Pier-side security is much stricter for boomers. IF a boomer is having a pier-side greeting, it includes getting your name on a list days in advance for the background checks, not learning the date of return until a few days before (hard to make travel plans), meeting at a common location to board a shuttle bus hours in advance, and then waiting, waiting, waiting, for the appearance. Non-nukes disembark first, with nukes taking about two hours more. He might have to get back on to finish work, meaning he may or may not be able to ride with you back to base, taking even longer to get him to yourself.
But, in contrast, here is Gaileann’s experience: (edited for brevity)
We (met) the HM Jackson (which is a boomer). Our Son put us on the list and we just made sure we were there close to arrival date; a guess, but not too bad. We were at the base a couple of hours before getting on the bus to lower base, (getting there) maybe an hour or two before the boat came in. There were port-a-potties available to us. It takes the boat quite a while to (dock, and crew start to disembark). We were lucky; our son was the first one off. (His) wife and daughter (had met) the boat and (ridden in with it). We were allowed to go on board and tour the boat with him… (Afterward), the buses (took us back to upper base). All in all, it was a good experience and we look forward to doing it again. I will assume not every boat does things the same, but the HM Jackson made it easy for us…If you can work it out, meeting the boat is an experience you will never forget, and never regret the long wait when you see your sailor walk off that boat!
My son’s boat hasn’t had a Tiger Cruise (riding on the boat) in the 4 years he’s been aboard, nor have they had tours allowed at homecoming. However, they have had Family Days (spend time aboard) sometimes on a major holiday, so those on duty can spend it with their families. NO ONE gets a tour of the nuclear engineering area.
So, regardless of what you’re told on NavyForMoms, your Ombudsman is ALWAYS the person with the “final answer” for what will or will not occur on your submarine!