|After decades of experiencing
inadequate housing, and years of shallow promises for improved
conditions, single sailors now can see a ray of hope on the
horizon. Better residential options will soon be available
-- at least for some of them.
Unmarried men and women in the Navy
have historically suffered from two distinct types of housing
problems. One type affects single sailors assigned to a
ship and the other affects all other unmarried rank-and-file
While at sea, all sailors
-- whether married or single -- have to live within severely
cramped quarters. This can extend for months at a time.
When the ship returns to its
base, the married sailors run off to their apartments and enjoy
a bit of normal living. But the single sailors are
required to continue living on ship even when it is docked at
home for several weeks or months.
This problem affects more than
18,000 single sailors, Master Chief Petty Officer Terry D. Scott
told Congress four years ago. Due to high housing costs in
most Navy home ports, these unmarried sailors "can expect to
spend years living in these conditions," Scott said.
Housing bias also affects naval
personnel who are not assigned to a ship. Single sailors
live in crowded barracks, with a lack of privacy and other
amenities, while married sailors get a housing allowance which
enables them to rent apartments or houses off base.
The problem is that the "basic
allowance for housing (BAH) for single sailors does not cover
the minimum costs associated with living on the local economy,"
another senior naval officer told Congress in 2001.
cause most unmarried sailors to either marry or leave the
service," according to Carlton Meyer, editor of G2mil.com, a
website run by former military officers.
In a story entitled
"Quartered on Ship," Carlton asks readers to "Imagine how an E-5
with three years service feels about the new married E-2s on his
ship who graduated from high school a few months ago and live in
Navy paid apartments while he remains confined to his bunk."
Thousands of teenage sailors get
married each year as a way to get better housing. Many of
these "marriages" are nothing but sham arrangements with an
opposite-sex friend. A considerable number of sailors who
don't want to play the "marriage" game simply leave the Navy
when their first term of duty is up.
Aware of these problems, the Navy
has had plans on the drawing board for several years to remedy
the situation. The ray of hope for single sailors shines
from San Diego where, earlier this year, a ceremony was held to
celebrate the breaking of ground on a $320 million project which
is scheduled for completion in 2009.
Pacific Beacon, the Navy's first
large-scale housing privatization for single sailors,
four, 18-story towers of 941 units each, housing 1,800 single
sailors and have room for 1,500 parking spaces. Each unit will
have dual master suites, a living room, kitchen, balcony and
Norfolk, Virginia, may be the
next naval base to break ground on a housing complex similar to
the one under construction in San Diego.
About 23,000 unmarried sailors
are stationed in the Norfolk area. Many of these sailors
are assigned to ships, where they each have about 20 square feet
of living space.
In the San Diego project, and
probably the Norfolk one as well, single sailors will live in a
two-person 960 square-foot apartment.
Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, is
currently the only U.S. Navy port where both single and married
sailors have been guaranteed housing off ship for the past few
When Petty Officer Jay Del Pezzo,
then 26, was interviewed by the Honolulu Star Bulletin a few
years ago, he compared his experience at Pearl Harbor with what
single sailors face in other ports.
The Pearl Harbor housing
complexes are "like being away in college," Del Pezzo said. This
was much better than fighting with 60 shipmates over what to
watch on television.
It started in Hawaii, next will
be San Diego, then Norfolk. Let's hope that someday soon
single sailors everywhere will have decent housing, just like
their married buddies do now.
Unmarried America 2007
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and