Six Tips to Surviving the First Underway

*For the safety of my sailor and his boat, there are no dates, locations or names posted. The article has been written and posted after his underway was long done and over.  OPSEC for the win.

I have been very fortunate in the fact that, for the first two years of this adventure, I have been able to speak to my sailor on the daily minus bootcamp of course. I actually forgot what it was like to not speak to him for more than 24 hours. After he graduated from all of his schooling, he came home for a month of leave, left for his first duty station and shortly after came the first underway. For those of you that don’t know, underways are like mini deployments that only last maybe a month or two at most.

This was like bootcamp all over again. And it sucked. He said his goodbyes over text to me and that was it. So began the first underway.

1. The first few days are the absolute worst…and then it gets better

I wanted to cry the entire first two days. I sat in my room, bored and lonely. I spent a lot of time with my mom and at work to keep myself from constantly checking my phone for texts. I didn’t know how I was about to survive four weeks of this. And then all of a sudden, boom, it got better. My life went back to being how it was before he left minus the fact that I couldn’t talk to him everyday. Once you get through the first few days, life gets better and things start looking up. Promise.

2. Keep your phone on you always and be patient

I got through maybe the first week of this underway and still hadn’t recieved any emails from him yet. I was sitting in my bed at 10 pm one night when my phone rang. I sighed, thinking maybe someone from work was calling or it was a spam call and then I saw his name.

Jesus himself might as well had been on my caller ID because I sat there stupidly thinking “What the hell? How is he calling me?” and just staring at the phone. I quickly snapped out of that and picked up right before the last ring and there was his voice as perfect as ever.

Safe to say, my phone is now attached at my hip.

Also, keep in mind that underways and deployments work differently from bootcamp. There is no set time schedule to when they are able to contact you and it differs based on where they are, what kind of craft they are on and what their schedule is like. Be patient.

3. Be prepared for him to distance himself from you

Taylor pulled away from me before he left. His goodbye text was brief and not sappy or overly loving what so ever. His emails are very short and to the point as was his phone call. He told me before he left that he would “miss me when he could” which stung a bit. I guess my face gave away my emotions because he replied back,

“It’s not that I won’t miss you or miss you any less. It’s just that I’ll be working really hard on really hard stuff. I need to concentrate on that first.”

Have you ever heard the stereotype that military people are emotionless and hard to break? This is where it comes from. They have a job to do and that job is made 100 times harder if you are drooling over someone back home or if you are an emotional basket case. I had to realize that they are busy and communication is not on their terms anymore. Instead, it is all on the military and has very little to do with you.  It’s a harsh reality of this life but a necessary one that I have to learn and relearn over and over.

4. If they are first timers on the crew, they will get the bottom of the barrel

This isn’t meant to scare you. Your SO will still be fed and taken care of, they are just the last to get computer or phone time, the last to get whatever is left of dessert, etc. It’s kind of like when you first start a job and the person that’s been their longer gets first pick of their schedule or first dibs on breaks, etc. before you, the newbie. Keep this in mind when they don’t email back or call for a few days and know that this gets better too. They can’t be the newbie forever, right?

5. Don’t ask when they are coming back and be careful what you send

Everything you and your SO send to each other goes through the eyes of other people first before it ever gets to you or them. There is always a middle man in between. So, with that being said, pay attention to what you ask and send.  OPSEC applies to your emails too: No dates, no locations, no names. If you feel uneasy about asking a certain question, don’t ask and save it for later. As a rule of thumb, I ask nothing other than how he is. I don’t send anything promiscuous. Save your questions and sexual urges for when they come home.

Also, do not reply to emails! When you get an email, read it, then open a fresh new email to reply. It will take less time to send across the airways if it’s one single email rather than an email with 20 replies attached to it.

6. Do NOT stress them out

My emails are usually very short. I email him once every other day, sometimes once day, and they are either funny stories or reassuring words. Nothing else. I’ve had a lot go wrong in my life during this first underway but I told practically none of it to Taylor because he has his own stress to deal with I’m sure. Unloading all of my stress on him is the last thing I want to do so instead I wrote down what I need to tell him after he comes back and kept the positivity on full blast.

The first underway was a stressful one, especially the first few days. I had no idea what to expect or when he was coming back. My email was always open and my phone always on loud just in case. Keep your head held high, stay busy, stay positive and you will be able to handle underways with grace.

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