[Bella’s intro: Recently, a retired Navy veteran, Roger Morris, wrote to say that while he believed there was some singlism in the Navy, he also thought there were advantages to being a Navy single. I asked if he would elaborate on his perspective and share his wisdom with “All Things Single (and More)” readers and he very kindly agreed. In fact, he has so much to say that I’m presenting his essay in two parts. This is the first. Many thanks to you, Roger Morris, for the time you took to do this important research and writing. By the way, readers, see all that red on the map image accompanying this post? It shows all the places Roger Morris has been!]

Conversations with a Navy Single

Guest Post by Roger Morris


I have never married nor fathered children.  I am also a 23-year Navy veteran who recently read Singled Out but who has discussed and counseled many Sailors on the single military life countless times during his active duty career.  I thought it would be interesting to add my own perspective in the form of many of those conversations.


      “Come in, Seaman Jones.  You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, sir!  I just read Singled Out.”

“Good book!  Loved the research in it!”

“So you’re familiar with the section called ‘The Command Team Wears Wedding Bands’?”

“Sure.  And you’ve probably heard some of the same complaints, too.”

“So there is Singlism in the Navy then, right?

“Of course there is.  The Navy’s unfair to everyone in one way or another.  The military is a life of sacrifice.”

“Still, what I really want to know is this: do I have to ‘get married or get out’, sir?”

“What are you?  Stupid?”  (By the way, this is the verbatim reply of a senior enlisted Sailor the first time I overheard a single junior Sailor ask this type of question.  I personally never called any Sailor “stupid”.  Misguided, thoughtless or uniformed at times, but never stupid.)

“But, sir!  What about Singled Out?  Married Sailors get more pay and…”

“Just a minute!  Dr. DePaulo merely advises this: ‘Service members draw their own conclusions as to what these statistics mean.’  So let’s analyze that and draw our own conclusions.  Have you ever known anyone who enlisted to become wealthy?”

“Of course not, sir!”

“And you’d be a fool if you did.  Could you support a dependent on a junior enlisted salary?”

“Well, no, but married Sailors get…”

“Hold on a sec and think about it.  Everything in the military is decided almost solely on the basis of military effectiveness and efficiency.  For right now, if the Navy didn’t provide wages that could sustain a family, then every Sailor who got married, had a child or became sole support of a family member would have to be discharged from the Navy for ‘hardship’.  We’ve put a lot of time, effort and money in every Sailor’s training, and all that would be lost if every Sailor with a dependent had to be discharged.  In addition, every Sailor who didn’t like his orders could simply get married to get out.  Readiness would suffer, and it just wouldn’t work.”

“Well, it’s still not fair, sir!  Married Sailors still get more pay than Single Sailors.”

“Really?  Unfortunately, I’ve known Sailors with dependents who had to go on food stamps.  I’ve never known a Sailor without dependents who had to go on food stamps, and I’ve been in for 23 years.  Is that fair?”

“I guess not, but they get more money.”  (See Here)

“Maybe their dependents do, but who gets the best pay, benefits and housing in the Navy: senior enlisted or junior enlisted?”

“Well, the senior enlisted do, of course.”

“Really.  Now who gets more pay?  A married E-4 with dependents or a single E-7 without dependents?”

“Well, a single E-7 without dependents, of course, but that’s not really a fair comparison.  Single Sailors without dependents still have to work harder because they have to live on the ship or in the barracks, and they get called up for special details all the time.”

“That’s right.  And because of that, they get seen more by their superiors, get more training from their superiors on those details, get more commendations for those special details and training, and advance faster than married Sailors.”

“Is that true, sir?”

“A few years back, an official OASD study for the CBO reported that ‘although married soldiers get promoted to E-4 in a similar time frame as those who are single, promotion to the more competitive enlisted grades (E-5 to E-9) typically occurs at a faster rate for single soldiers. Further, single soldiers report having fewer problems responding to No-Notice alerts and to No-Notice unit deployments’.”  (See Here.)

“It’s still not fair.”

“Not fair to the married Sailors, maybe, but the Navy is unfair to everyone in some ways.  Maybe single Sailors just have more incentive to advance than married Sailors do.  Maybe while you’re focusing on your advancement, married Sailors have less off-duty time for training and special details.”

“But you still admit they get more pay, sir!”

“I’ll admit married Sailors get more gross pay, better benefits and better housing per paygrade, or maybe their spouses do.  Single Sailors get more net pay per paygrade, and since they advance faster, single Sailors get more pay over the course of a 20-year career than married Sailors.”

“Wait, sir!  Got one more from the book!  A married Sailor can build up equity in a house.”

“A single Sailor can, too.  I own 2 properties myself and rent them out.  Single Sailors who get promoted faster than married Sailors can also afford to buy property if they wish.”

“What if the single Sailor gets reassigned, though?”

“Same for a married Sailor who’s reassigned.”

“But a married Sailor’s tour is 3 years, not 2.”

“And to build equity in a house, anyone generally should keep the house for at least 5 years before selling it.  If the single Sailor gets reassigned, he or she can rent or sublet for the price of the mortgage and insurance, building equity without any real cost.  The married Sailor either has to rent out one house and still pay for living quarters for his dependents, or he has to be separated from his family and live onboard the ship or in government barracks while sending that ‘extra pay’ back to his dependents.”

About the Author:

Roger Morris joined the U.S. Navy to see the world.  After 23 years, 184 countries and 34 states, he retired to southern Illinois where he lives alone and enjoys being boring.

Stay tuned for Part 2, to be posted in the next few days.

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