DOD transfer delays leave some families in limbo

To limit spread of COVID-19, the Department of Defense extended travel restrictions for military personnel until June 30, a decision that puts the lives of some Navy personnel in limbo.

New restrictions include a moratorium on permanent changes of station.

During his March virtual town hall, Capt. Matt Arny, commanding officer for Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, said 140 permanent changes of station are on hold.

Petty Officer First Class Melissa Johnson’s transfer is among those delayed.

Johnson said she was eager to trade the gray Washington skies for California sun.

Johnson had received orders to report to Naval Base San Diego. There, her 18-month-old daughter, Lia, would be closer to family.

“I just want her to be able to get in the car and go 20 minutes and visit relatives,” Johnson said.

Before the restrictions of movement were put into place, Johnson and her husband, who is also in the Navy, submitted their 30-day notice to vacate their homes. Fortunately, they were able to rescind the notice and cancel the shipping of their household goods.

But they had sold their daughter’s crib.

Johnson said she and her husband fought hard to be stationed in the same location.

“It was initially hard with being pregnant and not knowing for certain if I was going to be stationed with my husband,” she said.

“And then, finally, getting orders together and then being like, ‘you’re delayed.’”

Because of the virus, Johnson said she’s been keeping Lia indoors, and her daughter is getting stir crazy.

“She has a small vocabulary, and I see it in her actions that she is eager to go outside,” Johnson said.

During a recent doctor’s appointment for her daughter, Johnson said another little girl was coming out of the office.

Johnson said Lia immediately began to run over to other girl.

“I felt terrible,” Johnson said. “I had to say ‘stop, we can’t play you can’t go over there and say hello.’”

Johnson said she’s worried that her husband’s orders may be changed because he must attend school for six months before reporting to duty aboard the USS Tulsa.

“If the school is canceled, they have to reclass all of the students,” she said, and her husband may be unable to report to the ship on time.

Johnson said travel restrictions also affect opportunities for promotion.

The Navy Advancement exams for her next rank take place in January, she explained. “If I get to the next command in July that’s only six months to prepare for the next exam versus getting a full year.”