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Submarine Officer's Basic Course (SOBC)

My husband was picked up STA-21. I've written several blog posts about our STA-21 journey and going through the officer pipeline: power school and prototype in South Carolina. It is surreal to me to be writing this post about the last piece of his STA-21 journey, going to SOBC in Connecticut. It doesn't seem that long ago that we received the news that he was picked up STA-21. It was such a whirlwind leaving Hawaii to move to North Carolina for him to get his degree in mechanical engineering; all too soon he graduated college and we were off to South Carolina going through the officer pipeline.It is crazy to me that in a few short weeks we will be back to the fleet. When we left the fleet for the STA-21 program, I felt we had all the time in the world. I tried to remind myself along the way that the time would slip away from us, but it is one thing to know it and another to live it.

But I digress. Right now my hubby is at SOBC (Submarine Officer's Basic Course). This is an unaccompanied school in Connecticut. Unaccompanied means that the Navy does not move the family up while the service member attends this school. The school is about 9 weeks long. It seems the service members can attend SOBC at various points while they are going through the officer pipeline: before power school, in between power school and prototype, or after prototype. It also seemed that the most common time to attend SOBC was in between power school and prototype or after completing prototype. My hubby attended SOBC after graduating prototype. While we were in South Carolina, it seemed most spouses chose out of the following options while their service member was at SOBC:
  • If the service member went to SOBC in between power school and prototype (attending prototype in South Carolina, not moving from South Carolina to upstate New York), they stayed put in South Carolina.
  • If the service member went to SOBC before power school and prototype or after completing power school and prototype, they would pack up their house (or leave their HHG in storage for a bit) and go with their spouse on their own dime to SOBC. As far as I know, this means staying in the Chalet (a Navy hotel on base) for a couple months with their spouse.
  • If the service member went to SOBC after completing power school and prototype, moving to the next duty station on orders.
  • If the service member went to SOBC after completing power school and prototype, packing up their house, putting their HHG in storage, and moving back home with their family while the service member is at SOBC.
I also noticed that it seemed that a lot of the families without children had more flexibility when it came to living arrangements during SOBC. For instance, it is much easier to live in a hotel room with your spouse for 2 months when you do not also have lots of little kids to contend with. They also had a better ability to travel during those times, visiting their spouse for a week or two in SOBC or packing up their house, putting their HHG in storage, and living half of the time with family back home and half of the time with their spouse at SOBC.

As for the day to day life while at SOBC, I recommend reading A (Very) Unofficial Submarine Officer Pipeline Rundown's blog post "Submarine Officer Basic School (SOBC) Rundown." After prototype, we packed out our house and I went to live with my family while he went to SOBC. I have not been to Connecticut and do not know what life is like there or about life in the Chalet. Here are our reasons for moving in with family while he is at SOBC:
  • A lot of the people we knew had already moved/were moving soon from South Carolina. Because we had gone to South Carolina for him to complete power school and prototype, when he finished those schools his classmates also left for SOBC or to go to the boat. That meant that I was saying good-bye to a lot of the friends that I had made.
  • We have 4 children and the idea of living in the Chalet (a hotel room) with a 6-year old, twin 4-year olds, and a baby for 9 weeks just didn't sound very appealing.
  • We have orders to the west coast and our family is on the east coast. We don't know when we will fly back to visit, especially since we also don't know the boat schedule (or how boat life will be). It seemed like a good idea to spend some time with family before moving so far away.
  • A small bonus to this would mean that our HHG will definitely be at our next duty station when we arrive after SOBC.
Those were our reasons for moving in with family while my hubby went to SOBC. However, I have heard from several spouses how they always move together, even with kids, even if it means staying the Chalet for months, even if they have to pay for themselves to be there. I've heard from other spouses that they always stay in their home for as long as possible, even if they are living there alone. As with all things, I think it is important to make the best decision for your family. This was the best decision for us.

The other nice thing, for us, was that my family lives a heck of a lot closer to Connecticut than where we were living in South Carolina. This meant that my hubby was able to make a couple weekend trips to come visit me and the children. Unlike power school and prototype, SOBC is a Monday through Friday affair and the service members have weekends off. This facilitated the weekend visits. We took advantage of that and visited friends stationed nearby.

The bad thing about that was that we were not there to enjoy that schedule with him. He got out early most days while at SOBC and had the weekends off. It has been heartbreaking at times dealing with life with 4 children while Daddy is away. The SOBC schedule has been a breath of fresh air compared to the schedules we've been contending with the past couple years. I wish that we were closer to enjoy it as a family. The weekends have been nice and he went out of his way to drive and see us often. Because we are not together, we did make a conscious effort to enjoy this time as best we could. When he wasn't visiting us, he would go to Boston or New York City with his friends at SOBC. I took advantage of living with family and have been going out in the evenings and to visit friends over the weekends-- often without any kids in tow! (That is huge for a Navy wife accustomed to living far away from family or with a trusted baby-sitter.) Even with all those fun things on our calendar, I sorely wish that we were together and could be using this free time to be together doing nothing since I know that boat life is going to be challenging. I've felt frustrated getting early afternoon phone calls that he's out of school and I just wish, wish, wish that we were doing life together right now, taking advantage of that schedule. A family we went through prototype with is also at SOBC, but they have orders to a boat in Connecticut so they PCS'd to Connecticut after completing prototype. I am envious that they have their house set up there and get to enjoy the SOBC schedule. This time apart has been a little hard on me knowing what we have ahead.

Sometimes I had serious doubts as to whether or not we made the right decision not going with him. With all the changes, this time was pretty hard on our kids-- packing up our things in South Carolina, moving in with family, Daddy being away, and this "move to Washington" hanging over them. I have rolled around our options often in my head. Would it have been better to have stayed in our house in South Carolina? No. We wouldn't have family nearby and Daddy wouldn't be able to come for weekends and our friends were all moving away. Would it have been better to have gone to the Chalet in Connecticut? No. I can't imagine how my sanity would have survived sharing a one room hotel room for 2 months with our 4 boys. We can't move ahead to our next duty station; we are in the process of building a house there. This was our best option, being surrounded by the support of our family and having this time with them. Yes, this has all been hard on the kids, but I think that this was the best option for us, even with the challenges.

There is a graduation at the end of SOBC, but I will not be attending. It is the same time as kindergarten graduation and so we are tied up here.

How was your experience going through SOBC? Did you go the Chalet with your military member or live apart? Did your spouse attend SOBC before prototype or after?


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