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Naval aviation requires a variety of officers and enlisted sailors to keep the Navy's planes and helicopters in the air. Sea duty is part of all aviation jobs in the Navy. At sea, fighters fly from aircraft carriers, but helicopters may operate from other types of naval vessels. In 2007, the Navy moved to a 5/3 rotation for sea duty, meaning that for every eight years in the Navy, personnel will serve five years of sea duty and three years of shore duty. However, this is not five consecutive years aboard ship.
About Sea Deployments
During the time aviation personnel are assigned to sea duty, they will normally go to sea every month for up to two weeks for training purposes. Ships normally leave home port every 18 to 24 months, visiting ports around the world. However, personnel normally serve no more than six months while deployed, leaving the ship at a port of call and then returning home. During wartime or emergencies, the Navy can extend the deployment. Aviation personnel normally serve no sea duty during the time they are attached to shore duty.
Time Between Deployments
The policy of the U.S. Navy is to allow personnel returning from deployment to have at least as much time at home as they spent on deployment before they must go to sea again. Even a single day spent at sea counts as time deployed. For example, if a pilot spends six months aboard an aircraft carrier, he must have six months of shore duty before his next deployment. An aviation mechanic who spends two weeks at sea for training must have two weeks at home before sailing again. A military emergency, such as a declaration of war or a crisis in an existing operation, can shorten the time sailors spend at home between deployments.
Voluntary Extensions to Deployments
Aviation personnel can voluntarily extend sea duty, and if they are in a high-demand occupation, the Navy may offer financial incentives. For example, aviation ordnancemen and aviation boatswain's mates with ranks of E-5 or above may be eligible for up to $18,000 for extending their deployments or waiving their shore duty. The Navy uses a formula to calculate the bonuses, based on how much the volunteer is eligible to earn in sea pay and the number of months of extra sea duty he agrees to serve.
Pay for Sea Duty
The Navy bases monthly sea pay on the cumulative number of years of sea duty personnel have served and their rank. In the Navy, a pay grade of E-1 denotes a seaman recruit, an E-2 is a seaman apprentice and an E-3 is a seaman. Enlisted pay grades of E-4 and above represented different levels of petty officers. With less than one year of sea duty accumulated, sailors with pay grades of E-3 and below received $50 per month in sea pay, according to the 2013 Department of Defense pay table. With at least one year of sea duty, E-2s and E-3s received $60 per month, and after two years, the monthly payout was $75 for an E-2 and $100 for an E-3. Petty officers received at least $70 per month and as much as $620, depending on rank and accumulated years of sea duty. Officer ranks in the Navy begin with ensigns, with a pay grade of O-1. An O-2 is a lieutenant junior grade, an O-3 is a lieutenant, an O-4 is a lieutenant commander, an O-5 is a commander and an O-6 is a captain. The Navy does not offer sea pay for officers of higher grades.