A Chief's Perspective
ETRC Michael Johns, Comms/ESM Instructor at Naval Submarine Training Center Pacific Detachment Guam
ETRC Michael Johns was stationed in Groton, Connecticut when he received orders to Guam. Johns and his wife, Megan, were hoping for an overseas assignment, so when his detailer suggested Guam, “I rogered up for it,” Johns said. The adventurous couple loves to travel and was excited about the idea of Guam. Megan researched the island, learned how accessible international travel would be throughout Asia and said “yes”. With that, the decision was made. “I said to myself, “I’m going to live in Guam for three years…let’s see what happens!”, Johns said.
Now, more than two years later, Johns recalls both the challenges and benefits of his time on Guam.
“The process prior to the move was painful”, he admits. This was largely due to complications when trying to ship Johns’ vehicle from Connecticut to Guam, which resulted in the couple foregoing shipping altogether and selling the vehicle instead. According to Johns, the issues were caused by the vehicle processing center itself, and said that particular center has since been shut down, “so that won’t be an issue for anyone else”. He did offer a tip for personnel shipping vehicles from the mainland: “The Navy doesn’t cover a rental car back to your home or airport after you ship, but they do cover taxi fees”.
Another helpful tip Johns offered when transitioning to Guam is to obtain a list of TLA approved hotels. “This is the most important list”, he said. If personnel stay at a hotel that is not on that list, they will pay out of pocket for the stay and will not be reimbursed.
Initially, the couple lived in on-base housing, but has since moved into town. Johns raved about his three-story townhouse, two car garage and picturesque balcony that he locked in by utilizing his Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA). Personnel in Guam are authorized OHA vice BAH, which may be an adjustment for those who are accustomed to receiving BAH while stationed at CONUS locations. For more information about OHA, its components and current rates please visit (link to OHA page). OHA may be new to many, but Johns encouraged personnel to “Ask the right questions and take ownership of being here. You’ll figure out how to make the best of it”, he said. Living in town has been good for the pair and has allowed them to integrate with the local community. When asked about his experience with the locals over the past two years, Johns reported no problems at all and offered quintessential words of wisdom: “Just be friendly and be a good person”.
Professionally, Johns has no doubt that his time in Guam has positively impacted his career. “I made Chief, and it absolutely had something to do with being in Guam, coupled with being an instructor” he said. “Selection boards absolutely look at location,” he explained. “If Guam is considered “not an easy job”, the fact that you volunteered to come out here and are fulfilling that job will help”.
In addition to a embracing his challenging role at CSS-15, Johns said he has learned to live without some of the “creature comforts” of mainland life. This can include adapting to local cell phone and Internet service, enduring intermittent power outages on island and working with the significant time difference between Guam and the mainland – the biggest challenges on island, according to Johns. He quickly follows with, “but you’ll learn to live with it and you’ll get used to it”. For sports fans, he explained a newfound level of dedication many will discover when trying to watch their favorite games or shows on TV, given the time difference.
When asked if he would pursue another tour in Guam, Johns said he would. “I don’t think it would be the worst thing to come back to Guam”, he said before describing the hiking, diving, snorkeling, and beaches with “better sand than Hawaii”. He also pointed out that Guam is significantly less crowded than Hawaii – a major selling point for the pair. Johns’ offered lasting words of advice for those who will likely serve on Guam in the future: “Keep an open mind and be friendly. A smile and a wave go a long way”.