The Origin Story

May 16, 2012.

This was the day that I left the familiarity of the United States to report to Japan for my newest set of three-year orders. What makes this particular transfer stand out more than all the others that I'd undertaken over the course of the previous eight years was that this was to be my first overseas duty station. That isn't to say that I'd never been overseas: I'd been to Spain, Dubai, Seychelles, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, among other lovely locales (some lovelier than others), but this was the first time that I would be permanently (ish) assigned to an overseas area, and I had no idea what to expect.

Per typical Navy routine, I'd been assigned a sponsor to assist with the transition. Everything seemed to be going pretty well from the outset: He made contact shortly after I'd received my orders, and answered all the questions that I threw at him. He gave me his personal e-mail address as well as his local work and personal phone number to give him a call if I ever wanted to have a chat. In hindsight, what I should have been paying to was the information that he wasn't giving me. I'd told him that I was married, he didn't offer any insight on that. I'd told him that I had pets coming with me. He didn't even react to that in the slightest (my wife had taken the lead on this matter, however).

Substantially longer story short, both the trip to—and subsequent arrival in—Japan were incredibly jarring. After leaving the airport, I was left with a local national that my wife had scheduled to pick me up, and after dropping the dogs off at the base kennel, I was unceremoniously dumped at the Navy Lodge where I would find that there was no room for me to stay. Nor were there any other on-base options, and my sponsor didn't even consider for an instant inviting me to stay with him while we got the situation sorted out.

Between my wife and I, we were thousands of dollars in debt with loans that we had to take out up front to get settled in Japan.

Lessons Learned

I was quick to blame Japan for the problems that I'd faced, and it took me a good long while to refocus that energy at the main problem. And it wasn't just my sponsor, either: The Sponsor program in the United States Navy is one of the foundational concepts of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy's Brilliant on the Basics program, and it's the one program that's most overlooked (I'm not even kidding; check out this video that's used as a training aid by the Fleet & Family Support Center).

In addition to computers, I've heavily enjoyed writing for the vast majority of my life, so I was also quick to write up a transition guide for anybody facing the same type of transition that I'd gone through. I also ended up sponsoring two new individuals making the jump: One an E-4 right out of their secondary training school, and the other an E-6. Despite a somewhat bumpy arrival experience with the latter individual, I like to think that I did a substantially better job than the one I'd received, and that's one of the other tenets the Navy practices:

"Always leave it better than you found it."