Getting out at 20 or staying in until 30 isn't just about the money. There's also quality of life while your in. When I hit my 20 year point, I'll be finishing up shore duty, so to stay in for 30, I'm looking at two more sea tours, and at least two deployments and at least three moves. That's just not something I'm really interested in. While I plan on staying in nuclear power when I get out, and know I'll have obscenely long hours while I qualify or get my license, I will still get to come home every night and live in one place for that time. That removes a lot of stress from my life and more than makes up for the difference in retirement pay.
I was the only TERA nuke in 1997 out of 16 who applied--got out with 18 years and 3 months. I did it for my family. It was quite the ordeal in itself.
Although the 3393 NEC was specified on the TERA message as an authorized NEC, the detailer told me he would not approve my request. When I asked why, he shot me over to the community manager because he outranked me. I think he had been in D.C. too long; he tried to pull a good one out of his back end: "How can I on one hand go to Congress and justify maintaining large reenlistment bonuses because manning is so poor while the other hand approves an early retirement? No way Senior Chief, ain't gonna happen on my watch."
I asked him if he was a nuke, and whether he realized that he was talking to a nuke ETCS, not communcations or radar ET--just to make sure. He was puzzled why I asked, but said he was and did. "I have two problems with that train of thought. First, as you probably know with the number of years I have in, my last reenlistment did not merit a bonus, and therefore you can tell Congress that the first three zones did the job if they ask about my early retirement; otherwise, someone in my position does not fit into your scenario. Second, my NEC is the senior NEC for surface nukes, not 3383, which someone besides you seems to know is becoming top heavy with E-8s and E-9s on the carriers because of the decommissioning of the CGNs; otherwise, it would not be on the TERA message. I know of two frocked E-8s still waiting to be paid after two years. I also know the detailer plans to send me to the George Washington, which is 125% manned, and is not projected to less than 100% for the next three years. If you are not responsible for placing the 3393 NEC on the message, I will find out who is and ask him or her why you are summarily disapproving TERA requests, which may be interpreted as usurping his or her authority in Washingtonese--I'm just sayin'."
So, I don't even get my full 50%, I get 45% of my base pay, which was not as attractive in 1997 dollars for an E-8. But I didn't have to worry about being Red Cross emergency evacuated from the ship because my kid hanged himself from the tree in the front yard like one of my fellow Seniors from my last ship did. At least I have myself to blame for all the problems at home now, being the head and all--AND PRESENT.
Oh, the mystery of it all it...obvious why I never got a personal medal higher in ranking than a Good Conduct (i.e., no NAM or better) not so obvious how I made E-8 in 11 1/2.